Pandas & Bees with The Good Stuff

Welcome to These Days, a blog series by PBS Digital Studios. Once in a while, Leslie from PBS Digital Studios asks those in front and behind the cameras of our PBSDS shows “What are you into these days?”

This time around, we have TWO entries from The Good Stuff crew! Here’s their latest video if they’re new to you.

Matt Weber- Producer

My wife recently brought an amazing podcast to my attention. It’s called The Memory Palace, and at its most basic level, it’s a history show where the host talks about notable people and events in history — often obscure enough that you probably didn’t hear about it in school.

But that is really underselling it.

The host, Nick DeMio, makes each episode so immersive and so engaging, it’s like listening to great literature. He really draws you in and makes the historical figures he’s talking about come alive. Their stories become more than just a timeline of events — they are moments full of adventure, heartbreak, tragedy, and even poetry. And the accompanying music is always pitch perfect. Really, you have to listen to it to understand.

So I’d start off with this episode about Ruth Harkness and how she caught the first panda. It’s got everything — a tragic love story, a daring expedition into the jungle, 1920s flappers, and pandas! And it’s all true.

Ryan Wolff- Producer

Today was a bittersweet day for me.

Most days I work as a producer for The Good Stuff, but outside of that I also spend a lot of my time as the Director of Photography for another YouTube webseries called Platoon of Power Squadron, or PoPS, as its often referred to as. It’s sort of an adventure, drama comedy series about four people with super powers who share an apartment together in Chicago. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s great! Check out the series trailer:

When we first started working on the show, we figured that we could shoot and edit a 10-episode season over the course of about a year or so. It is now about seven and a half years later, and we just filmed the last scene for episode 10 — the final episode of the whole series. It took a bit longer than we thought, but that’s low budget indie production for you.

The location for the last scene of the last episode was a difficult one to lock down. Jake, the director of the series and a good friend of mine from highschool, wanted to find a rooftop in the middle of downtown Chicago that we can film on. Despite the high number of rooftops in the city, this is easier said than done. Apparently there are not a lot of people willing to grant that kind of access to a low budget YouTube Super hero show. Fortunately, after months of searching, we found our location — the rooftop of Chicago City Hall, of all places.

The location was amazing — it was right downtown and the view was fantastic, but there was one minor problem. Chicago City Hall apparently has a rooftop garden. I say rooftop garden, but a more accurate description would be an elaborate rooftop prairie with fields of vibrant flowers, rolling hills, and very very tall grasses. It was like a beautiful park in the sky with the most dramatic view of downtown you could imagine.

Also there were bees. Lots of bees.

Apparently, the rooftop of Chicago City Hall also doubles as an extensive honey making operation — a self-contained eco system of flowers and bees. The honey that the bees produced is sold at local farmer’s markets. I haven’t tried the honey yet, but either way I think it’s an excellent use of our tax dollars. And fortunately for us, none of the cast or crew were allergic to bees.

Unfortunately though, as beautiful as this rooftop was, it wasn’t quite the look we were going for. What we wanted was a Dark Knight gritty urban feel, but this had more of whimsical Disney magic wonderland vibe to it. However, we’ve worked with more difficult constraints before, and the city was basically letting us shoot there for free, so we weren’t about to complain.

With the right camera angles and strategic actor placement we were able to frame out the prairie and get the shots we needed. We took one final group Instagram post, quickly packed up the gear before it started to rain, and went to a fancy downtown restaurant for a celebratory mimosa.

I know I’m going to see all these people again, but it’s definitely the end of an era. The past seven and a half years went by way too fast.

That’s it for now! Next time you’ll hear from more PBSDSers on what they’re into these days. Now it’s your turn. What are YOU into these days?

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