MUSIC SHOWCASE: Catherine and Mark David McKinnis produce it.
You have a free, front-row seat to check out unique up-and-coming acts without leaving the confines of your living room La-Z Boy. You don’t even have to miss “Saturday Night Live.” “SpotlightON” is a cutting-edge musical showcase that airs every Saturday at midnight on KATV, Channel 7.
Designed to bring attention to local, regional and national artists that some mainstream media might miss, it’s perfect for folks who want to see acts and interviews from sought-out artists without having to deal with the smoky and often crowded bar scene, and it comes across as a solid, professionally presented program that could air from the studios of MTV and VH1.
The locally produced program is the brainchild of Mark David and Catherine McKinnis of Little Rock. The couple, who have been married for 11 years, produced a similar show three years ago on the local WB affiliate, KWBA, Channel 42, then moved to KARK, Channel 4, for three months. They moved to the NBC affiliate WFMB in Nashville, Tenn., last year, finding good viewer support during a three-month period. KATV signed up a year ago.
“We were testing markets to get ratings. You have to get advertisers and you’ve got to have the ratings numbers to get that,” Catherine McKinnis said. “We’re picking up a following being on a whole year [at KATV].”
Working on a shoestring budget, a small group of friends and family make up the multitasking crew, helping alleviate the financial load that such an endeavor could bring if outside workers were used. Catherine McKinnis, for example, interviews the talent, researches the artists and sometimes operates the camera. Mark McKinnis, son of fishing legend Jerry McKinnis and a former regional touring musician himself, edits and produces in his home studio that he jokingly calls the “The Compound.” It has a real, studio-quality stage and a baby grand piano with a few stringed instruments strewn around, along with what looks like a mini version of the “Superman III” computer (they use Macintosh equipment to edit).
It is small, to be sure, but has grown from what Mark laughingly says “was basically a tiny one-room studio, lined with mattresses, a four-track and a Commodore 64.” Other folks fill in as grips, gaffers, etc., and the show is self-sufficient in terms of the McKinnises getting their own advertising dollars to support the production.
“Mark wears many, many hats in this project, as do I, but he wears a lot more of them,” Catherine McKinnis said.
In order to feature some acts that have been strolling through town on their way to Memphis or Dallas, the McKinnises have been partnering with club owner Chris King of Sticky Fingerz, who has been able to book the acts as they travel through Little Rock. King also doubles as the on-air announcer.
The McKinnises say their goal is to syndicate in the show into Northwest Arkansas, Memphis and Nashville, perhaps expanding beyond the region. “We want to go slowly on that,” Catherine McKinnis said.
Some of the 120 artists featured this past year were: Nellie McKay, Spottiswoode and His Enemies, 56 hope road, the Holmes Brothers, the Black Diamond Heavies, Ian Moore, Asylum Street Spankers, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Jim Bianco and Patrice Pike, and local artists such as Stephen Rock, Amy Garland, Crow Johnson, Runaway Planet, Jeff Coleman, the (now defunct) Poeboy Society, FreeVerse, Sara Thomas, Lucious Spiller and Starroy.
This week’s show, on Saturday, July 23, will feature a montage of local and regional artists, including Colonel Bruce Hampton and the Codetalkers. Mark McKinnis was still working on the final edit at press time, but other acts are anticipated.
The show’s website is www.spotlighton.tv.