PBS Show The Daytripper defines “vacation”
What do you do with a law degree? You make videos. At least that’s what Chet Garner, founder of the PBS show The Daytripper did.
Chet had recently graduated first in his class from Baylor University’s Law School when he landed a dream job at a large international law firm in Austin. Every lawyer wants this kind of job, he thought. So he dug in and spent hundreds of billable hours helping clients with trademark and copyright issues. But it didn’t take long for Chet to start daydreaming about his childhood passion: making videos.
Chet was born holding a video camera in his right hand. After school, folks could find Chet and his young band of filmmakers staging elaborate attack scenes in the movies they created, such as Attack of the Killer Space Noodles from Mars, Parts 1–3. However, as many of us do when the responsibilities of adulthood hit us, Chet put his movie dreams on hold for a sensible job that fulfilled his law school degree. But his interest in movie making continued to roust him. “I didn’t want to protect other people’s intellectual property [through trademarks and copyrights]. I wanted to make my own intellectual property,” he said. So while he worked as a lawyer, he burned the candle at the other end, dreaming up video ideas and developing concepts. As a Christian, Chet said he knew that God would guide his ideas and his success.
More Than Two Weeks
One of his ideas turned out to be the seed of an unexpected harvest. At the office, Chet began noticing people’s concept of vacationing. They worked hard all day, dragged themselves home at night, sat around all weekend, and then headed back to work on Monday. “If they took a vacation at all, it was to Spain or Alaska or a cruise. They did something grandiose. They put all their chips into this one great vacation and then complained the rest of the year that they didn’t get enough adventure in their lives. I think it’s what we all do—think of those two weeks a year as our vacation.”
But Chet had a different take on vacations. He wanted to show people that there are so many beautiful and majestic places to visit just outside Austin. “You can have life-changing adventures every weekend just by getting in your car,” he said. That’s when the idea of The Daytripper started germinating. “I wanted to show them the wonderful things to see just right outside the city.”
He pitched his idea to KLRU, Austin’s PBS station, in 2008 through their greenlight committee, and the decision makers liked it. That was the easy part. The hard part was finding sponsors to fund his brainchild. He had saved up some money of his own, but it wasn’t nearly enough for twelve episodes. So, while still at the law firm, he raised funds during his off hours for his project by contacting potential sponsors. Sometimes he worked into the night at the law firm in order to get in his billable hours. Chet found that raising enough money for twelve shows was nearly impossible. People would say, “You want how much? You don’t even have a show yet.” So Chet had to ratchet down his expectations and his budget by reducing the number of shows in the first season. “We raised $12,000 for our first five episodes,” he said. “If you ask anyone around, they’ll say you can’t even make one episode on less than $75,000.” His pilot show featured Waco, followed by Bastrop, Burnet, Fredericksburg, and a combined episode featuring Luling and Shiner. Within six months, he rebranded The Austin Daytripper to The Daytripper. The show is now televised statewide and has won two Emmy Awards. PBS has been the most shocked at his success. “They ask me, ‘Chet, how are you doing this?’”
A Rag-Tag Crew
Now in the show’s third season, Chet acknowledges God’s many blessings, including his wife and high school sweetheart, Laura, who has supported him from the very beginning. She was Chet’s original field producer, which helped to keep salary expenses down. “I just stood by his side and did what needed to be done,” Laura said. Chet’s original crew included his wife, his college classmate, Nathan Locklear, and Nathan’s friend, Richie, who is still on the crew. He credits this rag-tag team—who initially worked on a promise instead of a paycheck—for his success. “Richie Lozano is our producer, cameraman, and editor, and we work together every day. We brainstorm future episodes. He’s an awesome sounding board.” Their audio technician is Kellie Baldwin, who started out as an intern, and Mary Adolph, who is their field producer. Lindsay DeMoss is associate editor and Austin Powell is the music supervisor. One of the newest members of the The Daytripper crew is Andrew Ramsammy. His official role is executive producer, but on a small crew like this, that means that he does “everything,” Chet says.
Having completed the filming of the Waco episode and obtained his first sponsor, Chet left the law firm in June 2009 to pursue his dream. The Austin Daytripper premiered in October. “We shot a bunch of episodes and [first] came out with The Austin Daytripper.” The show featured many venues that are an easy drive from Austin. “It became a state-wide celebration of day trips . . . as opposed to day trips just from Austin,” Chet said. When asked where he’ll shoot next, his answer is a quick “No Texas town is safe.” So watch out Georgetown, we could be next, especially since Chet and his family recently relocated here from east Austin. He’s also opened an office on the Square. “We came to Georgetown because of things like the Square, the Red Poppy Festival, and the school district.”
“I have no idea where this will be in the next thirty, forty, or fifty years—if this will be the place I ride out and I become The Geriatric Daytripper and I’ll only go places on a Rascal and only eat things you don’t have to chew.” Chet doesn’t know how long The Daytripper will last, but he’s not worried. “Having a law degree is a pretty good safety net.”
For information on air times, visit thedaytripper.com.