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Communicating through visuals

"The High Bar" drinks in Tacoma

Tacoma’s Jason Ganwich, right, brings his skills to TV’s "The High Bar." Courtesy Kristin Giordano

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Lights, camera ... what's that humming noise? 

Tacoma-based producer Jason Ganwich frowns in the direction of a noisy cooler chilling beer at the Tempest Lounge at Ninth and MLK Jr., location of a recent shoot of the artistically challenging and thought-provoking series, The High Bar. An effort to stop the humming cuts out half the lights illuminating host, Warren Etheredge, and guest, lesbian Pulp Fiction icon Ann Bannon. She chuckles good-naturedly as Etheredge sips gin through a cocktail straw.

As the lights, re-patched now, shine and the humming is killed, Ganwich swipes the straws from Etheredge's cocktail.  The camera is unkind to grown men who sip their drinks through dainty little straws.

It's tireless attention to details like this, in combination with a working knowledge of how to shoot a low- to no-budget program that boasts the look, and line-up, of a big budget venture, that propelled Ganwich from crew to executive producer in just two seasons of working on The High Bar.  And with Ganwich on board, the Tacoma network of dedicated and hungry film and television professionals is getting some deserved time behind the camera of a program that's going places.

The High Bar, which shot at Seattle's SCAN TV in its early days, has since moved to on-location interviews for its second season, with a new look and feel.

"This is a talk show, and with a talk show, content is number one," says Etheredge. "But Jason doesn't take this as license to ignore the importance of communication through visuals."

Ganwich's background in photography (Full disclosure: he's shot many Weekly Volcano covers through the years, including this week's) might have something to do with this. The mission on his photography website states that he strives to capture the "inner character of a subject" in a snapshot. With Ganwich behind the camera, and Etheredge asking the questions, the show's guests, which include artists such as Jodie Foster, Gary Oldman, Morgan Spurlock, Miranda July, and so on, have nowhere to hide.

"I feel like I'm working with a true collaborator," says Etheredge. "His emotional dedication to the show is on par with mine."

Beginning in February, The High Bar will be, among other stations, broadcast from Tacoma's KBTC. Fitting as, since Ganwich's involvement, The High Bar has twice shot on location in Tacoma and utilized Tacoma-based professionals like make-up artists Athena Hitson and Kari Baumann, gaffer Austen Hoogen and, under the guidance of instructor Brian Parker, an array of eager and talented interns from Tacoma's Bates Technical College's Digital Media Department. While the majority of the episodes shoot in Seattle, Tacoma is quickly charming the production.

Says Etheredge, "There is something about shooting in Tacoma. Everyone is excited and accommodating."

The admiration is not one-sided.  Says Ganwich, "Warren is smart, lacks pretention and is edgy but approachable. He's daring with his questions. I think his guests and the viewers respect that."

As the shoot at the Tempest reaches the half-hour point, Ganwich signals silently to Etheredge to wrap it up. It's an almost impossible request; Etheredge and crew alike are engrossed as Ann Bannon talks about what it was like to live a double life as a housewife and a lesbian in mid-century America.

In response to Etheredge's question as to whether she felt with her first novel Odd Girl Out that she was writing for herself, Bannon says, "I knew there was some audience out there. I had no idea how massive the audience was that I was reaching."

Perhaps one day, Etheredge and Ganwich will be saying the same thing about their days shooting The High Bar.

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