Originally published in the November-December 2013 edition of Produced By. Photos by Marion MacKenzie Pyle.
It was a warm and humid September day. Temperatures hovered somewhere inthe 90s with a hot sun beating down from blue skies unencumbered by clouds. The California Institute of Technology’s Spanish-style courtyard in Pasadena, normally home to a bustling community of math, science and engineering braniacs, was this Saturday host to a different but equally passionate tribe: a community of green believers gathered to celebrate the launch of a new Web television network called evõx (pronounced “evokes”.
“Evõx provides online entertainment that inspires positive changes in the way people live and work,” enthused Xav Dubois, CEO of evõx Television. “We offer a suite of programs that are uplifting and convey healthy lifestyles destined to inspire a globally conscious consumer and provide a marketplace of products to help them make more sustainable choices.”
Those choices are captured in streamed HD programs that focus on health and wellness, global and social issues, food, wine, travel,community projects, and fair trade. Created by established producers as well as independent content creators,program genres include reality, comedy and drama, as well as talk shows, documentaries and cooking shows. Currently, programs vary in length and production quality.
“Our goal is that content will soon come from evõx community members themselves,” explained Dubois. “But, just as our retail vendors must align with our mission, the programs must also offer ways to help people find a better quality of life.” Dubois said that though the network’s current viewership is at 850,000, a new partnership with Samsung will expand those numbers to 33 million. Eventually, he envisions evõx will reach an audience of 87 million worldwide.
Saturday’s Caltech launch rolled out the green carpet (what else?) under a row of graceful arches, but, unfortunately, in full blast of the scorching afternoon sun. Here, a steady stream of celebrities, evõx partners and supporters entered to the whir of clicking cameras and stood, smiling bravely in the heat, to give interviews to reporters from more than a dozen media outlets. Then, stepping into the larger outdoor space, courtyard booths enticed participants with green drinks, vegan food, waterwise plants, free yoga classes, and other environmentally-friendly products.
Besides the network itself, the event also celebrated the debut of evõx’s flagship reality series, On Begley Street, starring Ed Begley, Jr., his wife Rachelle and their 14-year- o l d daughter Hayden. Each episode chronicles the family’s trials and triumphs as they attempt to build the “greenest and most sustainable house in North America.”
“They’re good TV,” smiled producer/director and Broadway and television thespian Raphael Sbarge (currently appearing in Once Upon a Time). “The house is an example of what people can do. Not everyone can afford a LEED house, of course, but they can take aspects. Without seeming like you’re being forced to eat your vegetables, they make you laugh and you learn something.”
Begley, Jr., known to television viewers as an actor in shows like St. Elsewhere, Arrested Development and Six Feet Under, is also equally well known as a tireless champion for the environment.
“In 2010, Rachelle had finally worn me down and I agreed that we would move to a newer, bigger house,” said Begley. “Except we found so much termite damage, we had to tear it down. So, we did the sustainable thing, recycled 96% of all the parts, and then found a piece of land where we are now building the greenest house in the country from the ground up. It will have 12-inch insulated walls, solar power, and of course, a sustainable garden with fruit trees and homegrown vegetables.”
Sbarge’s Make It Happen Productions financed the first nine episodes of On Begley Street, which captured deconstructionof the old house. The team has also shot thousands of hours of new footage of the current build.
Each 10-minute episode is shaped in post and captures the stresses, strains and humorous bickering of the three Begleys as they face the hurdles and frustrations of various phases of construction. The house is scheduled for completion in 2014.
“The house is going to have 10,000 gallons of underground water storage,” said Hayden. “I call it a little submarine. [The construction] gets a little hectic at times, but it’s for a good cause—to influence people, especially those of my generation. We’re going to have to take on this world.”
Love of family and the goal of preserving our natural resources for children are important themes for both Begley and Sbarge, who have been friends for years. Besides their collaboration with the series, Ed and Rachelle sit on the board of Sbarge’s own nonprofit called Green Wish. For those who know Begley, it’s part of a natural evolution.
“Ed’s my hero,” beamed KNBC weathercaster Fritz Coleman, a guest at the evõx launch. “Years ago, he was considered weird and fringe, but today, all that’s changed and now with the show — it’s so entertaining and funny… I’m proud to call him my friend.”
Enthusiasm for helping build a more eco-friendly world was palpable among the guests all afternoon. Then, around 4 p.m., from a small stage and screen at the end of the courtyard, a brief program included a lively trailer for On Begley Street and the beautifully melodic strains of the Makepeace Brothers duo (reminiscent of a young Simon and Garfunkel). To conclude the affair, Dubois articulated his passion and ideals for his new green network.
“I stand on the shoulders of amazing people,” said Dubois. “And I believe the time is right for this convergence of technology, entertainment and sustainability. We’re part of this change momentum and as we invest in the spiritual, emotional and physical quality of people’s lives, I believe we can change the world.”
–MARION MacKENZIE PYLE