By Tobias Havard
Deep down a series of hallways, and a flight or two of stairs, is a quaint production space nestled away unassumingly. You wouldn’t think much of it if you walked by; a scratched up brown wooden door with a keypad lock, and a single sheet of paper pinned to the front, an ad from January. The first round of knocks goes unanswered. But by the time the door is pounded again, Zach DiPalermo, a studio production major, opens.
“Oh shit were you knocking? My bad,” he said. He opens the door in a blueish, grayish flannel long sleeve shirt, Carhartt utility pants, and who would have guessed it… we’re wearing the same off-white Reebok Club C 85 shoes. It’s surprisingly quiet, for a studio.
Inside, sparse warm lighting covers what’s referred to as the “living room.” Tapestry and banners line the walls; there are fake plants, couches, a glass table, and even an old boxed TV sits between two love seats. String lights create a border around the control room where the only sound in all of Purchase TV can be heard. DiPalermo puts down the pink guitar that was laying on one of the couches, he had grabbed it and started impromptu shredding before I had even put my bag down, and runs into the control room to turn down the volume. Playing over the speaker is music from a Purchase band and “friends of PTV” as DiPalermo puts it, On Pink.
Purchase TV was once far more “renowned, appreciated, and respected,” says DiPalermo. PTV was founded in the early 2000s by a group of students including musician and alum Dan Deacon.
“They used to have a cable network, channel 69, and they would air student projects. I think Purchase was definitely a lot weirder then, there were odd projects and cool, unique performances. Over time it kind of died down, people graduated, not as much money was put into PTV and it wasn’t until like fall of 2021 that we basically got it back in working order. It took a long time to get it running again,” said DiPalermo.
It might be past its prime, but PTV is handled with care and by those who truly appreciate it. And considering the inconsistency in its existence, PTV is incredibly well archived. There are obviously lapses but sitting down in the control room DiPalermo, the only ‘monitor’ at PTV on this quiet Tuesday, showed me a stack of VHS tapes including footage of a performance from 2006. He’s also able to quickly bring up digital archives, footage of a student in 2005 performing what was called, “The Rocco Show”, and trailers from a show called “Brick TV” that aired on cable channel 69 for three seasons.
After showing off the extensive catalog of past productions, the only other person to come into the studio entered, Benjamin Lipkin, a cinema studies and media studies major as well as studio manager at PTV. There aren’t many people who work for PTV but they have a steady rotation of staff occupying the studio to maintain its accessibility.
“At present, the other positions at PTV are public relations manager, Kevin Mead, and programming manager, Joshua Moore. Since coming back from COVID, the lines between those roles have been especially fluid as we all worked together to get the studio up and running,” said Lipkin.
The space has adapted over time and now PTV offers a wide variety of services to students. DiPalermo said, “we’re used mostly as a photo studio essentially. People come and take photos,” but the range of things PTV can help students with doesn’t end there. He said, “there are writing workshops where people come and write screenplays. Filming videos that can go online, shooting photos, anything to do with music, filming a music video, there’s so much here. And if someone asked me, I would say I could produce your new hit single.”
Lipkin added, “We also offer an internship where students get two credits for five hours of work a week. It’s partially fulfilled by independent productions for PTV, and by helping out around.”
“PTV is a catch-all resource for students in need of video production facilities, equipment and expertise. We’re transitioning to a more nuanced hub for video production and live-streaming at Purchase. And PTV also assists with filming events on campus like Purchase Late Night,” explained Kevin Mead, a new media major junior and both production intern and newly the head of PR.
A key ingredient to the essence of PTV is student collaboration and the ability for the space to be used by students to create their art. DiPalermo said PTV is extremely accessible and that there are always monitors around so students can feel free to just walk in.
Mead later told me, “PTV is nothing without student collaboration. If you come to us with an idea and are willing to put the work in, it will happen. Likewise, if you want to learn more about video production, we can more than likely introduce you to people making projects on campus and train you to assist them.” He continued, “We have regular time and resource constraints just like any group of college students, but we try to make PTV as collaborative and open as possible. Personally, my favorite part of PTV is being able to activate people; make them feel as though video can become a part of their practice as an artist or a creative. Video making is often an empowering exercise."
The impact of PTV isn’t just felt by the students who get to use the place for their work, it also holds significance for those who work there. Many of PTV’s interns and “employees” have gotten a myriad of experience in the production of new media by working in the space and lending a helping hand to the projects that come through.
“My specialization is sound in anthropology, the anthropology of sound. I’ve used this space a lot to observe sound and how it reacts within the space. Like how the space reacts to the sound, what elements and forces change the sound, the change of soundscape and how that affects people, I could go on for a while. And I’m a musician, so there’s that,” said DiPalermo.
When asked how working at PTV has helped him, Mead said, “my concentration within new media is video art and internet art, so helping PTV figure out its role on new media platforms like Twitch is right in my wheelhouse. Community television is a great breeding ground for experimentation and collaboration. I’ve also been able to help on video projects with dancers, film majors and others that I would have never met without being a part of PTV.”
The importance of PTV can be measured not only by the amount of work students are able to do there, but also by the way the space has lingered in the hearts of those who have come through and the lasting relationships built within the walls of this studio that sits below the Hub.
“It’s a great space to meet people. Great place to go through archives and learn about Purchase. This place is like a teleporting machine to the 2010s and so much hasn’t been altered. It’s really nice to also observe all the art that's made and happens here. There’s another TV studio in humanities that’s more up-to-date and it’s not used a bunch but it looks and feels like it was built by professionals. This place feels like it was a space made for and by students. Definitely going to miss it, it’s really important to me. Damn you got me all sad and shit,” DiPalermo said laughing as light reflected off his clear glasses, “this place was so important to the way I learned about music and the way I made it as well.”
Despite the fact that PTV is back up and running, it’s far from its glory day in the early 2000s but its members are working hard to steer the service back in that direction. DiPalermo told me bringing back staples like Music Tuesdays will help revitalize the culture of PTV.
Mead said, “It’s hard to say where PTV will be by the time I graduate. Personally, I think television is a nostalgic format. I will sometimes explain to people that PTV could be more aptly called “Purchase Studios”. I’d love to incorporate more forms of media making into PTV, and develop its ability to program content and curate student works. Twitch is an exciting possibility, as are Instagram and TikTok. PTV also has tons of videos in its archives dating back to the early 2000s, and we’d like to thoroughly catalog that content and perhaps showcase it somehow. But really, PTV will continue to be whatever students want it to be. It’s a service for them.”
More information about PTV and upcoming events can be found on their Instagram page, @purchtv69, and you can contact them by firstname.lastname@example.org