May 26 2015 07:52 PM

The 'artist documentary network' hopes viewers are willing to pay to watch expertly crafted art docs

The Artist Odyssey shoots a doc
Photo by Chris Fessenden

The Artist Odyssey (TAO) founder Chris Fessenden is more than aware that, when it comes to video these days, a lot of people expect to get it for free. So no one is going to pay $5 a month to watch videos of artists and musicians taking the viewer through their artistic process, right? Um, right?

"This is the way television is going," says Fessenden, when asked why people should subscribe to TAO, an "artist documentary network" that aims to produce 60 short- and long-form films a year when it launches in November. "The subscription model has been proven. People will pay if it's premium content, it's high-quality and it's ad-free."

In a way, Fessenden, who has a background in video production, is banking on an it-takes-a-village sense of community to get the $25,000 Kickstarter funding for the initial 20 TAO docs, but it helps that he's recruited a Who's Who of local arts and music names to either serve as consultants or work directly on the video content. Husband-and-wife team Barbarella and David Fokos previously worked on the Art Pulse TV series and will serve as executive producers on TAO.

"Chris had been working on this for two years before we came on board," says Barbarella Fokos. "When he approached us with the idea, we were very eager to get involved."

The docs on TAO will be customizable so that subscribers can stream particular parts of the video that are of interest. There will also be an artist residency program at the TAO studio in Encinitas, as well as an arts curriculum to be introduced into classrooms with the help of an educational advisory board. And while the initial docs will have more of a local focus, Fessenden says the team has a global vision.

"It's global, but with a specific local impact," he says. "We already have a director in San Francisco and we're in talks with teams in New York and Austin. This is very much going to be a global program. We're going to shoot overseas and deliver content there as well."

Fokos adds, "But wherever it goes, it begins here first."

Email or follow Seth on Twitter at @combsseth.


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