TOP50STL Economic Development Idea of the Week: Sensational St. Louis

Sensational St Louis is a project that I started in January. As I was brainstorming ideas to ignite the St. Louis economy, the thought of developing a thriving film industry came to mind…..but, how? As far as I can tell, there isn’t much of a film industry in the Saint Louis area even though I think the setting in and around the region lends itself well to a variety of projects. My thoughts were that we need a flagship project to put St. Louis on display. So, my idea is to develop a popular television series with the city of St. Louis as the main character.

To gather stories about St. Louis, I am working on a challenge video that will hopefully motivate St. Louisans to share their stories on a site I am working on (sensationalstl.com). In an ideal world, the video will feature famous Saint Louisans like Jon Hamm, Jenna Fischer and John Goodman. Here is the challenge:

“I have a challenge for you, St. Louis. I have a challenge to tell our story; the sensational story behind St. Louis. We know we’ve been a world-class city in the past and we know we can be a world-class city again. But, we have to let the rest of the world know what we already know. Of course we know that we’ve hosted the Olympics and the World’s Fair; we’re home to the St. Louis Cardinals and the Blues, not just the hockey team but the music too. But, I’m challenging you to help tell a deeper story, the good, the bad and especially the sensational. Talk to your family, your friends and neighbors; go to the nursing homes and family reunions. I want to hear the old wives tales and urban legends, rumors behind The Exorcist and the Veiled Prophet. I want to know about gangsters and mobsters, elitists and dirty politics, racism and scandalous stories about cultures clashing together. I want to challenge you to share your stories on sensationalstl.com. We will collect your stories and display them for all to see. We’ll take the best of the best (and the worst of the worst) and turn them into creative projects, like a speaker series, a documentary and eventually a TV show. This is an opportunity for all St. Louisans to tell the story of Sensational Saint Louis.”

I have an amateur version of the video ready to go, but I’d like to make it a little more professional. I also want to encourage my fellow St. Louisans to share in the fun so I’m working on some software that will hopefully allow anyone to film the first sentence of the video (“I have a challenge for you St. Louis”) and send it to the site to be automatically added to rest of the video. I’m doing this to encourage St. Louisans to share the video on social media and to be a part of the project.

I have a general sense of how I want to write the television show, but a lot of it depends on the stories that are collected. I’d like to see the history of St. Louis as told from the perspective of the embellished stereotypes in the area, like mobsters on The Hill, gangsters in North City and the elitist power circles that have kept the city in neutral for decades because it suits them just fine. I’d like to include scandals about the Catholic Church and rumors about prominent families. In my opinion, the more sensational the better. I don’t even care if the stories are true, although I think in many cases truth can be better than fiction.

My challenge is for Saint Louisans to come together to share the story of our city in a sensational way and then share it with the rest of the world. I’d spend four or five seasons embellishing the past and highlighting the sensational in an effort to produce a popular show. Then, when we have everyone’s attention, I’d slam all the cultures together with a pinnacle moment like a natural disaster or a riot and spend some time dissecting where we are right now. I’d rip off the band aid and expose all the wounds that exist, right here, right now. For the final season or two, I’d project what I think Saint Louis can and should aspire to be.

Of course, this doesn’t just have to be a television series we write together. It’s up to us to tell the whole story about our past, speak open and honestly about our present and come together to write the future, a future that should include as its main character, a sensational Saint Louis.

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