Matt Farah and his cameraman, Tom Morningstar, work in the “Wild West” of what pundits say will become the heart of consumer automotive communications once the territory has been pacified by protocols and is monetized by a successful paradigm. Rather than enthusiasm expressed in print and delimited by publishers, it is entrepreneurial, visual and self-published with comparatively little capital investment and therefore, plenty of competition.
Farah claimed no print credentials and had no on-air experience producing and hosting shows when he was retained to produce the opinionated Garage 419 episodes in Next New Network’s lineup of Internet video shows. His qualifications, like a host of freelance writers before him, began with a life-long enthusiasm for cars (he read his first car magazine at age 7, raced a Go-Kart at age 9, drove a car at age 11 and read and re-read and saved, he says, every issue of Car and Driver and Road & Track published). Other qualifications were verbal fluidity, energy and in his case, unique on-the-job experience. That began when he discovered his study of photography at the University of Pennsylvania would not lead to the income he desired. Instead, he went to work for Gotham Dream Cars, delivering exotic vehicles to their owners. An enthusiast’s “dream job” which led to the recognition that, like thoroughbred horses, these expensive, powerful machines need to run in order to be fully appreciated.
Farah organized a New York motoring club that provided owners of exotic luxury cars willing to pay $1,000 a year with organized, scouted and shepherded tours where they could safely unleash and enjoy their toys. Part of the membership package that attracted 75 members the first year was videotape of the cars on tour. Produced by Farah and shot by Morningstar, they put them on the Internet and that led to the offer from Next New Network.
After selling the club and 18 months of producing and hosting Garage 419, Farah and Morningstar forsook salaried employment and departed New York for L.A. where, as ad agencies have long known, the weather seldom interferes with a “car shoot.”
They now produce the unscripted, edgy www.theSmokingTire.com (and YouTube) episodes. In them they have fun and, “do all the things people want to do with cars,” Farah says. He speaks his mind on camera and, “while viewers like an honest opinion,” he wryly notes, “they get upset when I trash-talk the car they drive – as do manufacturers when a car they lent us gets panned.”
In exchange for the uncertainties of freelance they have ownership of their work and whatever rewards it brings. But, without IT, Ad and Promotion departments to help them. This is by far the most difficult part of their enterprise. Farah says. “It takes patience, lots and lots of patience when you’re dealing with big corporations. We negotiated for six months with two different sponsors before we landed them.” In the meantime, they have to shoot new episodes of TheSmokingTire.com, which means hustling press cars, securing locations and leaping numerous other hurdles standing between concept and completion. Helping them with this is www.Autostream.com an automotive media producers partnership that works to secure sponsors and distribution for the content the partners provide.
Product integration is a promising new revenue source but Farah says it is sometimes difficult to include products in the show without losing credibility or viewers. His advice to anyone thinking about getting into his form of auto journalism is: “Be honest and prolific; go for visual beauty and have plenty of patience – everything takes forever.”