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Looking to be part of reality TV

If a pawn shop can draw legions of fans, why not a hobby store? Schaefer's is trying for prime time.

By Tim Kidwell
Published: February 11, 2011
RealityTV2
A four-man crew shoots the "sizzle reel" for a potential reality TV show featuring Schaefer's Hobby Shop. Photo courtesy Art Schaefer.
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Art Schaefer, owner of Schaefer’s Hobby Shop in St. Louis, Mo., was surprised to find an e-mail from a television production company in his inbox last September. In it, a producer for Intuitive Entertainment, Justin Lacob, introduced himself and said that the company was interested in filming a TV show about a family-owned hobby shop steeped in tradition. They had searched the Internet for likely stores, saw Schaefer’s YouTube videos and thought his store would be a good candidate.     
      
Intuitive Entertainment has a number of hit shows to its name, most notably Millionaire Matchmaker, which airs on Bravo, and Pit Boss on Animal Planet.
Schaefer was in.

“They wanted to set up a Skype interview, which I didn’t even know what that was back then,” Schaefer said, since he’d never used the service before.   

He and his wife, Sherri, set up the computer for the Skype conference in her office and talked with representatives from Intuitive for more than an hour. They interviewed Art and Sherri, the Schaefers’ sons, Adam (19) and Andrew (16), Art’s nieces and mother-in-law, and the store’s department managers. 
  
Intuitive Entertainment wanted all the details, from what it was like to work with family to customer conflicts to product issues. After reviewing the interview, Intuitive decided that they’d visit Schaefer’s Hobby Shop and film some footage for a sizzle reel — a 4- to 6-minute promotional piece that can be shopped to networks.

For two days in January, a four-man crew that included Justin Lacob, a cameraman, an audio tech and production assistant, recorded business at Schaefer’s as it happened.

“It took a few hours to get acclimated to having the cameras and the microphone on the boom around,” Art said. Early on, interaction in front of the camera was stilted and some employees were sick to their stomach. Things became more natural as they got used to being in front of the camera. By the second day, employees were looking for the cameras when they thought they had a customer they thought would be interesting.

As for the customers, Schaefer says that some practically ran from the cameras, while others showed up for the chance to get filmed.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a reality TV series without drama. The show would feature the family members and other employees, and tell the story of what it takes to keep a business going, from internal struggles to meeting customers to the fun of the hobbies themselves.

“They [the crew] had all of these questions about working with the family, conflict in the company, where you see the industry going in the future,” Art said. They made particular note of an article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek (November 2010) that named hobby shops as one of the country’s dying industries and featured Schaefer’s as a rugged survivor.

Schaefer thinks a hobby-shop reality TV show would be good for his store and the entire industry.

“I think more than 90% of Americans don’t even know what a hobby shop is,” he said. “I think a show like this would expose people to what a hobby store is, what kind of cool stuff we have, how it’s for kids and how it’s for everybody.”

Currently, Intuitive Entertainment is assembling the sizzle reel and will start pitching the show in the next few weeks.
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