Cluj Daze

Wow, what a difference a year makes! I surely would be remiss as a resident of Unicorn City if I didn’t mention what’s going on in this here town.

Just about a year ago, I was inside Crystal Palace with some of the mayor’s minions, who were planning the launch of “Cluj Days”. This was the first time that this festival was being held and they did a rather shitty job of it. To begin with, they refused to “launch” the website until the festival began, did no publicity beforehand and their main concern at the time was a large group of visiting Koreans because the mayor wanted to try and milk these Koreans for money.

Well since then the mayor was arrested (and is still behind bars, bless his arrogant soul) and the new website is far, far better. If you note the balloon logo, they did a great job of “branding” this and sticking it everywhere and this year they did a ton of publicity ahead of time. And there are roughly 10 times the number of events, shows, demonstrations and exhibitions as there were last year.

Another big difference is that Unicorn City now has their own heavyweight media channel, Transilvania Look/L!ve, so this meant that the opening night festivities were televized. It’s a fucking trip listening to the music and roar of the crowd out my window and then switching on the television and seeing it being broadcast live.

As they say in Texas “Hold ‘Em” Poker, it’s clear that the city went “all in” on this festival, especially the opening night. They were saying easily 10,000 people were in the main square last night and I believe it as it was standing room only and that is a big plaza. There were tents and seating and lots of mici being grilled and beer being drunk. There were several musical concerts going on. Earlier in the day I nearly got trampled by some kind of parade of about 500 girls in traditional Romanian folk costumes singing and wending their way through the downtown streets. This festival is definitely taking off and looks to be something visitors will enjoy.

This festival will be ongoing all week so if you’re in the vicinity, definitely stop on by. Again the website (sadly only in Romanian language) has all the information on what’s going on where.

The “highlight” of the opening night’s activities was Cristian Gog, about whom I’ve written before, who encased himself in a “coffin” made out of ice for three hours and then… and then was pulled out, said “thanks for your support” and made a beeline over to the mayor’s office where he filmed a little publicity spot. I have no idea what the point of all of that was except that for three hours every resident of Cluj got to walk by and see this poor bastard entombed in ice and tell their friends, “Hey that’s the guy who won Romana’s Got Talent“.

So before I say anything else, WOW yes Cluj now is hosting a pretty major festival with lots of fun stuff for kids and adults and so far it looks like a lot of fun. So my hat is off to the organizers of this, especially as they timed it perfectly to end on the same day that TIFF begins so basically it’s going to be three weeks of non-stop partying here in Unicorn City.

Now… time to talk about Transilvania Look/L!ve, and I almost hate to do this because nobody likes unpleasantness but it still must be addressed. There’s almost some weird symbiosis going on between TL/L and ProTV because they are opposite twins. TL/L has extremely advanced technology and uses state of the art editing, cameras and lighting (some of their audio was of less than stellar quality last night but that was a rare exception). I saw how they had rigged their dollies last night and it was up to their normal very professional standards. Their editing suite is just amazing (I’ve seen it) and they do a damn good job of using it. ProTV on the other hand uses beat up equipment sometimes, looks like a high school channel in terms of editing and production and quite frankly whoever is lighting their studios needs to have his ass kicked (if the lights get any brighter on Masterchef the contestants’ faces are going to melt).

So on a technique/technical level TL/L and ProTV are poles apart. But when it comes to “heart” or the soul of these two channels, they are again opposite. ProTV is always relaxed, joking, at ease and having a good time. Their shows might sometimes be a little inane or a little silly but there’s always a positive feeling coming across through the screen. And I can tell you from working with these guys and spending time with them (as well as actors on ProTV sets), they are just relaxed, positive people who are enjoying what they are doing.

TL/L on the other hand is heading towards a complete fucking meltdown. As you know, I did a lot of filming of my own on the Easter special I was a (brief) part of. I have since downloaded the broadcast version and I’m mighty tempted to do a little side by side comparison so you can see. What you see on the broadcast is a group of people apparently in high spirits and smiling and having the time of their lives. As soon as the camera (their camera) stops rolling however all you hear is people screaming, cussing and a whole lot of stress. In fact, I met a group of girls that day who had wandered over precisely because they had heard the set director screaming so many cuss words.

There is a real streak of cynicism and stress running through TL/L and I know that not just from my two personal experiences but from talking to a number of people I know who either work there or have been there to participate (as I did) as guests on one of their shows. Everyone there is either stressed as hell trying to turn out a “perfect” product with absolutely no mistakes, missteps or errors or else they’re cynical and false as hell, manufacturing fake charm and glee. It’s quite chilling. Apparently what’s going on is that the owners spent a lot of money starting the channel (which is to be expected) and are whipping everybody in order to “get their return on investment”. They think that if they churn out a lot of slick product that magically they’ll rise to number one and make lots of money and be lauded, etc.

This is a recipe for disaster as nobody I knows outside of Unicorn City itself (which is festooned with TL/L advertisements) has even heard of the fucking channel in the first place. It takes a long time to gain a following and ProTV has been in the game over 20 years. They could put on 2 hours of dogs doing tricks and be just fine because literally everybody and their brother watches ProTV. TL/L on the other hand is a new entity, is only on a handful of cable packages, isn’t on the satellites (I don’t think) and has no over the air broadcast. I know people right here in UC who still get all of their TV the old-fashioned free way with an antenna and that means lots of ProTV and no TL/L.

Secondly, people can always feel it when you’re faking it. And the smiles on the Easter broadcast might look genuine but as someone who was there, I can tell you that they were all fake as hell. And over time that gets sensed by the viewers. Last night I had to watch the smarmy guy who punk’d me back in February do the commentary as Gog was released from the ice. And right to the camera the host lied not just once but twice, stating that Gog was wrapped up in saran (cling) wrap purely to “keep the water off of him”. Total horseshit and you could tell he knew it. And he just kept flashing that cynical TV smile and forcing the crowd to clap over and over for what, from their perspective, was a hell of a lot of nothing.

There is absolutely nobody who wants TL/L to do better than I do for the simple fact that I think it’s absolutely wonderful to break the monopoly of Bucharest over the national media. But TL/L needs to turn its attitude around or it is going to crash and burn and end badly for a lot of people. If you don’t believe me, watch the channel (it’s streamed live on their website if you’re not one of the 10 people who can watch it on your TV) with the sound off. Notice the news anchors/reporters? They look bored out of their fucking mind. Look at the “yuk yuk” hosts in the morning. They all look like they have constipation or stomach cramps. It’s quite obvious nobody is genuinely having a good time even though they are faking like they are. And who at home wants to watch that? No one, that’s who.

Again though, my hat is off to their technical crew because those guys are doing a superb job and could take ProTV to school. Operating those boom cameras is neither cheap nor easy to do well and they did a bang up job. And their editors are also doing extremely well, including like last night when they had to do it on the fly during a live broadcast. Good job, fellas!

So… what are you waiting for? Get your ass over to Cluj!

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