Filmmaker and TV personality Boaz Frankel has lived in New York; Washington, DC; and Seattle, but he always seems to find his way back home to Portland.
Growing up in Southwest Portland near Multnomah Village, Frankel attended Portland Jewish Academy and Wilson High School before making his way to the Big Apple to attend NYU’s Tisch School. At NYU, Frankel studied playwriting and screenwriting, but quickly discovered he had a knack for being in front of the camera with his late-night talk show on NYU-TV called On the Cusp. Though it started out as a relatively small and campus-centric endeavor, the show’s popularity grew steadily, and by his senior year Frankel was interviewing high-profile guests like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Rudd.
“On the Cusp was a great learning experience,” says Frankel. “It taught me everything about making a TV show, from interviewing people to booking guests.”
Frankel went on to work for various TV networks in New York, a social networking site in Seattle and the Earth Day Network in Washington, DC, but always kept filmmaking a priority. In 2009 he came up with the idea of a road trip across the U.S. using every mode of transportation except a car. He traveled more than 12,000 miles and used 101 different modes in all – including a camel ride in New Mexico and paragliding in New Hampshire – and documented his journey the entire way. The project garnered a lot of attention from local news crews and was eventually picked up by Halogen TV and became a 10-part series called The Un-Road Trip, which aired in 2010.
“It was great to get the attention from all the local stations, but it was funny to see them all coming out in their big news vans, which kind of went against the whole purpose of my trip,” Frankel says with a laugh.
In 2010, Frankel made his home in Portland once again. Shortly thereafter, Frankel and Phil Ross, co-owner of Metrofiets – a Dutch-style cargo bike company based in Portland – came up with the idea for a portable talk show. The premise of the show features Frankel interviewing people from a desk (think Leno or Letterman) attached to a bike – a concept derived from discussing the irony of the gas-powered news vans that brought reporters to see Frankel during his previous trip. The idea became a reality when Frankel’s friends at Keen Footwear, who also sponsored him during the filming of Un-Road Trip, offered to put up the money to have the bike built. And with that, The Pedal Powered Talk Show was born. Really, what could be more Portland than that?
The bike, which is pedaled by Ross, is built to carry the filming equipment inside the desk and weighs about 100 pounds when full. Since taping began in early 2012, Frankel has interviewed such diverse guests as actor Daniel Baldwin, rockers Blitzen Trapper, graphic novelist Craig Thompson and writer John Raymond. He has filmed in locations across Portland including the Baghdad Theater, the Hotel deLuxe and even OMSI.
“This is just the beginning,” says Frankel. “Hopefully we can get more sponsors and get bigger and bigger, and maybe one day take it cross-country.” Of course, that can’t happen until he gets an electric assist to help Ross move the 100-pound bike.
Adding to the list of Frankel’s quirky endeavors is Meet the Beetle, a documentary he made in 2011 about one of the rarest insects in the world – the Salt Creek tiger beetle, which only lives in Lincoln, NE. He also hosts an online craft show called Extreme Craft Challenge for Meredith publishing house.
He has the distinguished honor of participating in Weiden + Kennedy’s W+K 12 program, a yearlong internship during which participants learn about and participate in the creative advertising industry.
Besides all of this, Frankel volunteers as an advisor for the United Synagogue Youth, an organization that he says played a big part in his life as a kid. He is also the long-distance curator of a kazoo museum in South Carolina. Yes, a kazoo museum! “I started collecting kazoos and didn’t know what to do with them all,” he says. The museum’s first location was in Seattle, but it eventually moved to become part of the Kaboozie Kazoo factory in Beaumont, SC. “If you can hum a tune, you can play the kazoo,” says Frankel of the instruments universality. “It’s also one of the only instruments created in America.”
No matter what Frankel’s up to he does it well and with a big smile. There’s no doubt this Portlander’s star is on the rise.
Catch episodes of The Pedal Powered Talk Show at pedaltalkshow.com.
A recent Portland transplant, Lauren Murphy is a lifestyle writer and editor whose articles have been published in Los Angeles Confidential, Aspen Peak, Hamptons Magazine and The New Jersey Star Ledger. A native of the East Coast, she is enjoying getting to know her new city and writing all about it. She can be reached at email@example.com.