When Jennifer Katz graduated from NYU Film School, the furthest thing from her mind was plumbing - or plumbing contractors. In fact, she wrote and directed a comedy feature film titled “101 Ways (the things a girl will do to keep her Volvo),” which played on Showtime from 2001-2003.
She was working on new scripts and trying to get another movie off the ground when, in 2001, she was visiting her friends Kathryn and Dan Levine in Detroit and stumbled across plumbing contractor Levine & Sons.
“My work has always been character-oriented, and Dan had been telling me for years how I couldn’t meet better characters than the guys at his family’s plumbing company,” Katz recalls.
She borrowed Levine’s home video camera, tagged along with him at the company and shot some footage.
“Dan was right; there were some great characters at the shop, but none were better than the family themselves,” she says. “Tom, Jimmy and Dan (Paul, the oldest brother, is harder to get on camera) had such charisma, and the way they discussed plumbing fascinated me. They opened my world up to a different way of looking at plumbing (especially Tom, the father) and showed it for what it was - something truly integral in our lives, yet completely undervalued and taken for granted by society.”
Katz, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., then thought she would make a documentary about the Levine family. But in 2003, with the reality TV craze sinking in, she decided to pitch the idea as a reality show. She returned to Detroit with a small crew and better equipment. After shooting for a week, she learned how to edit and cut a trailer for a show called “Flush.”
True Entertainment, a reality TV production company, optioned it and shopped the show as “Pipe Dreams.” It looked like HGTV was going to sign on but in the end passed on the project.
“The option ended and I thought maybe it wasn’t meant to be, maybe I should consider going back to the documentary idea about the Levines,” Katz says. “Or I thought maybe I should just move on and start focusing on movie-making again.”
Then, in the fall of 2005, a friend sent her a link to his vlog. Video podcasting was just beginning its popularity. So, Katz rolled up her sleeves and learned how to put together a vlog. She started cutting the first episode out of the 20+ hours of footage she had brought back from the shoot of Levine & Sons in 2003.
She posted Episode No. 1, “It Ain’t Easy Being a Plumber," in April 2006 and Flush TV (www.flushtv.com) was officially born. As Katz says, “Plumbing. It’s just human nature.”
Nuts & BoltsFor each 5-7 minute episode, Katz spends about 20 hours editing the shot footage. Because she has a full-time job, she’s only been able to upload new episodes about once a month. But that may soon change; she’s just redesigned the Web site, and hopes to acquire sponsorships so she can hire an editor. Then episodes could be posted biweekly.
Season 1 (10 episodes) covered the realities of running a plumbing company, the story behind the Levine & Sons logo, what you shouldn’t flush down the toilet, and ending last May with discovery of a second break-in.
Season 2 debuted last December with an ode to the Toto Washlet by Hodding Carter, author of “Flushed: How the Plumber Saved Civilization.” Katz notes that Season 2’s episodes will feature Plumbing Trivia segments starring Carter - 1-2 minute segments at the end of each episode featuring fun trivia from his book.
Some upcoming episodes for Season 2 will feature the plumber who helped remove a python from a Brooklyn woman’s toilet, and an episode on a professor at NYU who teaches a class called “The Urban Toilet.”
With the capabilities of the new site, Katz anticipates branching out to profile other plumbers, plumbing companies and plumbing stories. At the moment, though, she’ll stay close to home, so if you do business in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut and want to be “almost famous,” give her a call - 917/207-9215, firstname.lastname@example.org.