Tag Archive | "Bill Collage"

Poor Ticket Sales Nix MTK Concert

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They had the music, they had the food, and they had the fashion, but what the organizers of the MTK: Music to Know Festival didn’t have was the crowds.

Just a week before the festival was set to debut, the stage nestled among greenery cradling an unused portion of a runway at the East Hampton Airport, festival organizers on Saturday pulled the plug on the event, citing poor ticket sales.

“It is with heavy, heavy heart that we regret to inform you that the inaugural MTK: Music To Know Festival in East Hampton will not take place,” said festival promoters in a release. “Despite our unique vision and arranging a world-class line-up, ticket sales were not adequate to allow the event to continue. We wanted to let everyone know now before engaging more deeply.”

“Along with our ticket holders, vendors, sponsors, business associates, colleagues and friends in the community, we too are filled with deep disappointment,” continued the release. “We pledge to endure during this difficult time with the same integrity and professionalism displayed throughout the creation of this event.”

The MTK: Music to Know Festival was conceived by hotelier and businessman Chris Jones and screenwriter Bill Collage, both Sag Harbor residents.

It aimed to bring up-and-coming, as well as celebrated indie-music artists, to the East End for a two-day festival that would also feature beer and wine gardens, high-end and local cuisine, an area for children, and special access to artists in the VIP area. One artist rumored heavily among industry sources to be set to perform an acoustic set at MTK was the actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who has earned critical and popular praise for her vocals in the film “Country Strong” and on the television show “Glee”

On Tuesday, Jones said that in order for the festival to go on, 5,500 tickets of the 9,500 tickets up for sale needed to be sold. Tickets were priced at $195 for a two-day pass, and two-day VIP passes for $695. One-day passes were also later offered as an option for festival attendees.

As of Saturday, Jones said the festival only sold 2,500 tickets. While it was possible that more tickets would have sold in the coming week, Jones said that was a possibility he unfortunately could not count on.

“The bottom line is when you run an event, you have a certain amount of losses you can take, and then you have to make a decision,” he said, adding Saturday was the last day the organization could make final decisions regarding expenditures.

The event was plagued from the beginning, when it was first proposed at an Amagansett venue, by a handful of critics locally who questioned the town’s decision to grant Collage and Jones a commercial mass gathering permit in the first place. Comments appeared to wane after the festival was moved to the East Hampton Airport, and particularly after a promised $100,000 was set aside in an escrow account for a number of local charities including The Retreat, Phoenix House, Project MOST, all East Hampton based food pantries, and the East Hampton Day Care Learning Center, to name a few.

Those charities will not receive that funding now, confirmed Jones.

“That is the most disappointing part,” he said. “It was contingent on the event taking place and you can’t really say anything more than that except it is really, really disappointing.”

As to what led to the lackluster sales, Jones said he could not say.

“One thing I will stand behind is the bands,” he said. “We really feel from the bottom of our hearts that we had an amazing lineup. As to what happened thereafter, who knows, but the lineup I will stand behind.”

In addition to a roster of acts including celebrated indie-rock bands like Vampire Weekend, Bright Eyes, and Dawes, folk artists M. Ward, British songstress Ellie Goulding, Brooklyn duo Matt & Kim and Fitz & the Tantrums, Collage and Jones also booked Suddyn, a rock band with roots in Montauk.

“Being born and raised in MTK, I was looking forward to being part of this incredible festival, I would like to humbly express my gratitude to Chris Jones and Bill Collage for their extraordinary efforts to make this seemingly impossible dream a reality,” band leader Alan Steil posted on the group’s Facebook page. “It is important to note that the loss of this festival was beyond the control of these two men and everyone else involved in the process. Again, we’d like to thank them for the opportunity and we were proud to be a part of it every step of the way.”

Since Saturday, Jones said he has been focused entirely on making things right as quickly as possible, in particular for ticket holders, who as of Tuesday night were still without information on how they could gain refunds.

“The Company is working very hard in making arrangements for a mechanism to provide ALL ticket holders with refunds,” read a message on musictoknow.com. “Purchasers of tickets have done so through various interfaces, we will provide clear direction for each of these on this website as soon as possible, but no later than Friday, August 12, 2011.”

“Since this happened I have spent all of the hours I am awake focusing on how to sort this situation out to benefit as many people as we can,” said Jones on Tuesday. “I am not interested in what has gone on. I am trying to make everything right moving forward. I am really focused on trying to do the best thing we can for everyone.”

Bob Kennedy

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By Kathryn Menu

The man hired to produce Chris Jones and Bill Collage’s MTK: Music to Know Festival this summer talks about why the East Hampton Airport is a good fit for the festival, helicopters and all, and how parlaying a youth spent attending concerts into a career as a festival producer for events hosting thousands all began at a small theatre in Connecticut.

By Kathryn G. Menu

Now that the location of the MTK Music To Know Festival has been set for the East Hampton Airport, as a festival producer what is appealing about the site?

I think one of the most appealing things about the site for me is the way we have it set up. It has natural boundaries, the site is surrounded by trees, which makes it visually very appealing. In terms of location, especially considering the traffic concerns people had with the previous site in Amagansett, there are a number of ways into the venue, keeping traffic off the main streets and making it a little easier for everyone to get in and out of the site.

I would imagine one of the drawbacks to hosting a music festival at the airport would involve air traffic, specifically how to preserve sound quality with aircraft and helicopters landing nearby. How are you dealing with that?

The plan we have in place has the stage set as far away from the active runways as possible and we are bringing in delay speakers that sit halfway down the concert field, which will not make the music louder off the property, but will make it louder at the back of the concert field.

In a perfect world, there would not be planes landing at a concert, but all of our sound professionals agree it will have a pretty low impact.

I heard a rumor that you got into this business by basically walking into an executive’s office and demanding a job. Separate fact from fiction — how did you find yourself in this field?

Demanding might be a strong word. Insisting might be better. It happened during my mid-20s awakening. I went to school for broadcast journalism and then I realized it was not my calling. It was really innocent how I became what I became. I woke up one day and I thought, I spend so much of my money on concerts, how can I make that my job? I went to The Globe Theatre in Connecticut, a theatre with about an 1,100 capacity, and I basically walked in and said, ‘I work here now.’ They all looked at me like I was crazy, but they gave me a desk and not a job, but an internship and that developed into a job when the person I was interning for left. Shortly after that, I developed the Gathering of the Vibes Music and Arts Festival, which I co-founded with Ken Hays in 1996. And that was the beginning of my festival career.

One of the criticisms laid out by some residents concerned about the festival was a lack of experience in festival production on the part of festival founders. As the architect of the festival, what is your experience in this field?

I co-founded the Gathering of the Vibes, a music and art festival in July that now does about 20,000 people per day. I am also a founding producer of the Green Apple Festival, which at its beginnings was a festival that happened on Earth Day simultaneously in eight cities. We did festivals with 15,000 to 50,000 people in parks across the country, including Golden Gate, Central Park, Santa Monica Pier, parks in Dallas, Miami and more. I have also worked, not as a producer, but as staff at festivals like the All Good Music Festival, the Rothbury Festival in Michigan, Bonnaroo. So I have 16 plus years of festival experience, including being at the helm of a number of festivals.

The centerpiece of the Green Apple festival was Earth Day at the Mall in Washington D.C., which featured Sting, John Legend, Bob Weir from the Grateful Dead, Toots and the Maytals, Joss Stone. John Dindas, who is the production manager for MTK was actually at the helm of Earth Day at the National Mall and the same day I was producing Earth Day in Morocco in Rabat with Seal performing. I was actually hired by the Moroccan government, indirectly by the King of Morocco, to produce a free Earth Day concert in their capital. It wasn’t the worst gig in the world.

Do you find your musical preferences direct you toward working with specific artists or events?

Yes and no. I grew up as a Dead Head throughout high school and college and went through that phase where all I wanted to listen to is them. But I think now I have a very rich and diverse taste in music so I have the luxury of liking everything I work on. It’s harder to be passionate about a project if you don’t love the music, but I don’t know I ever encountered that.

What drew you to work on the MTK Music Festival?

We were introduced by mutual friends and I met with Chris and Bill for lunch in the city one day, and they were just great guys with a great vision. I meet a lot of people who have it in their heads that they are going to do a festival and most of the time people have no understanding about how much it takes in terms of dedication and the ability to execute a vision. From the first time I met them they really got that. They both bring really different things to the table. Bill, as a screenwriter, has a little of that Hollywood mentality, where everything is grandiose and Chris, as the guy who has hotels all over the world, he is very much about the nuts and bolts. With a pencil and a napkin he could draw out his entire vision of what the concert field looks like, from where the tents are to the parking. He is very tactile and can express his ideas.

The East End has not hosted a multi-band music festival of this scale in several years. Outside of the economy, what makes this part of the country ripe for a successful festival?

I think it’s a very culturally rich area and I think as Bill and Chris said at the announcement about the lineup, there are a lot of tastemakers and a lot of people who are usually the first to know about things that live out there.

To me, it was an appealing, beautiful place and an underutilized area full of people willing to give things a chance. Also, to a certain extend, the Hamptons are so far away from the rest of the world it becomes difficult for people to get these experiences. To go to a festival in Boston or Washington D.C., it’s a haul, and a lot of people miss out on those experiences. It is a hungry market of really receptive people interested in art and music.

How have festivals evolved during your career? Are we seeing an emphasis on more intimate events and festivals? Is music still the focus, or have festivals become something bigger than that?

I actually think that it is a little of both in terms of size. When I first started out there were not a lot of music festivals. Gathering of the Vibes was certainly the biggest in the Northeast, at least when we first started, and over time I think, as has happened in a lot of businesses, it became very chic to be as big as you could be, which at the Vibes we were never interested in. That bred Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits and Coachella and to that extent a lot of it is being as big as possible, but as a result you have seen a trend towards smaller, more intimate festivals a la MTK or the Wilco Solid Sound Festival in Massachusetts, which is geared towards their fans. Instead of trying to do a 100,000-person event, the idea is to make it 7,000 people and make it the coolest experience they have ever had. That is the same idea with MTK — take a small group of people and give them a life changing experience.

For more information on the MTK Music to Know Festival presented by Bing, visit www.musictoknow.com.

FAA Approves Music to Know Music Festival at the East Hampton Airport as Producers Announce Talent

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Just a day after Sag Harbor residents Chris Jones and Bill Collage announced the musical lineup for this summer’s MTK: Music to Know Music Festival, they received word from the Federal Aviation Administration that the festival was approved to take place at the East Hampton Airport. That was the final hurdle producers had to jump to ensure the music festival they have been planning for over a year will go on.

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“We are all systems go,” said Jones on Tuesday afternoon, just minutes after receiving confirmation from the FAA.

Having already received a commercial mass gathering permit from East Hampton Town to move the festival from an Amagansett farm to the East Hampton Airport, FAA approval was the last step before Jones could be assured the concert would go on.

“Now the fun part begins,” he said.

The fun part actually began on Monday night at Townline BBQ in Sagaponack, where Jones and Collage, surrounded by over two dozen supporters, announced the musical lineup for the two-day music festival, slated for August 13 and 14.


Vampire Weekend, an American indie rock band out of New York City, will headline the festival on Saturday night. According to Collage, the band has turned down a number of major festivals and choosing to come to the MTK Music Festival is a testament both to what the festival hopes to accomplish, and also the market on the East End of Long Island.

“We are pleased to say on Saturday night to headline we have one of the brightest and the best new bands emerging for one of their only U.S. gigs,” said Jones.

“It’s a testament, not just to us, but really to this market,” added Collage. “They specifically wanted to work here, with us. They wanted to be a part of the Hamptons in the summer because of the people that are here. We couldn’t be more thrilled and we see them as a perfect fit for what we think is Music To Know right now.”

The second headlining act, which will close the festival, is the Nebraska-based indie rock band Bright Eyes led by Conor Oberst.


Oberst, touted as “the new Dylan” in 2005 after the release of “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning,” and the rest of Bright Eyes recently performed as headliners at the popular Coachella Music and Art Festival. They also sold out two shows to acclaim in March at Radio City Music Hall in New York City and are opening for Coldplay at Lollapalooza in Chicago the weekend before MTK Music Festival opens.

“Frankly, they are just incredible,” said Jones on Monday night.

Vampire Weekend and Bright Eyes will be joined by 16 other acts over the course of the weekend, including The Limousines, a San Jose, California-based electro-pop band, who Jones said sound like “a combination of Peter Gabriel meets Depeche Mode.” They are known primarily for their song “Internet Killed the Video Star.”

Francis and The Lights, a New York City-based soul and electronic band led by Francis Farewell Starlite is also slated to perform, as is Portland folk musician M. Ward, whose 2009 album “Hold Time” featured guest performances by Lucinda Williams and Zooey Deschanel. The New Zealand electronic ensemble The Naked and Famous are also on the roster, as is indie rock band We Are Scientists.


Tom Tom Club, led by Chris Franz and Tina Weymouth of the Talking Heads, will also perform in the festival, as will the California based folk-rock group Dawes, and the indie-rock, chamber-pop group Ra Ra Riot, a New York based band that incorporates a small string section into their music. Chromeo, a two-member electro-funk group, Canadian pop group Young Empires, Nicos Gun, Brooklyn-duo Matt & Kim, the folk-inspired Tame Impala and the Motown-inspired Fitz & The Tantrums are also slated to perform.

“The Cold War Kids are a real exclamation point in our lineup,” said Jones on Monday night of the indie rock band out of Long Beach, California.

Lastly, MTK Music Festival will feature SUDDYN, a rock band boasting a piano-ballad based sound with influences felt from groups like Radiohead, U2, the Beatles and Muse. The group found acclaim across the pond in Ireland a few years back, scoring three hit singles and quickly becoming one of the most popular unsigned acts in the country.

SUDDYN - Helen Olds Photography

What makes that band’s appearance at MTK Music Festival poignant, noted Jones, is that it originally formed in Montauk, where two of its members — vocalist and piano player Alan Steil and his brother Jarrett, also a vocalist and guitar player — grew up, attending high school mere miles from the concert site.

“We are trying to expose them through the festival,” said Jones on Monday night.

On Tuesday, Jarrett said not only was the band, which is rounded out by drummer Brendan Connolly, honored to be playing the festival, but also appreciated what it brings to the table in terms of talent.

“Usually we have a great classic like Billy Joel or Paul Simon out there,” he said in a phone interview from Los Angeles where the band has recently relocated. “But this is a festival of up-and-coming artists and we are really proud to be a part of that.”

The MTK Music Festival will sell 9,500 tickets in total for the two-day music festival, which in addition to music will feature local cuisine, wine and beer, retail booths and an area designed for children.

The cost for the festival is $195 for general admission to the two-days. However, locals will have a chance for a reduced price $175 ticket through May 23. Those tickets are available at Sylvester & Co. in Sag Harbor, Indian Wells Tavern in Amagansett, Khanh Sports in East Hampton Village, and 668 Gig Shack in Montauk.

According to Jones, VIP tickets, which are on sale for $645, already had begun to sell quickly on the first day of sales.

In addition to access to a VIP tent, with a special viewing deck of the stage, preferred parking at the site, and a unique menu of food and spirits, VIP access will also include small performances by guest artists that have yet to be announced as well as fashion shows.

“And we will reveal more of what we have up our sleeve as we get closer to August,” said Jones.

For information, videos and music visit http://www.musictoknow.com.

Bill Collage

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By Kathryn G. Menu

The Hollywood screenwriter and Sag Harbor resident talks about Music to Know, a two-day music festival planned for August 12 and 13 that Collage is organizing with fellow Sag Harbor resident and Sole East Resort owner Chris Jones. The festival was approved for a mass gathering permit by the East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday and will boast two stages and a number of bands for an estimated 9,500 concertgoers at the Principi Farm on Montauk Highway in Amagansett.

Where did the concept for this festival develop and how did you come to be a part of it?

This past summer Chris Jones did a five concert series at his hotel Sole East. So we were hanging out, our kids go to elementary school together, and after the summer was over and everyone left we started thinking, “that was really fun and could we do it in a way where more people in the community could get involved and we could give money to charity?” Chris started exploring the process and available pieces of property where it would be feasible and not disruptive because from the first minute we wanted to approach this as people who live here full-time, and we don’t want to walk into the IGA and be considered bad guys who created all this noise and traffic. So the goal has been how can we do this in the most responsible way where the most people benefit, and that was the genesis of it.

We are both very fortunate in that we have full-time jobs and we are not doing this because we need the money. In your 40s you are compelled to give back, so that was the start of it.

How did you come to decide that the Principi property was the right space?

We looked at a bunch of properties in Montauk first. We knew there was this cool idea to call it “MTK: Music to Know” and we knew there were open properties there so we checked them out and hired some people who have worked with the police and the fire department. In vetting those there were too many issues. Then that piece of property was introduced to us through John Kowalenko and his Ladles of Love concert because that was so successful last summer and went off without a hitch.

By comparison, this is a 22-acre piece of property. We are asking for 9,500 people and for instance the Newport Jazz Festival hosts 50,000 on 20-acres. We are looking to have a low impact.

Speaking of Newport Jazz Festival, when you were researching this festival, were there other music festivals you hoped this could emulate?

Not exactly. We see ourselves as more of a boutique festival. I am fortunate enough to be friends with the guy who founded Austin City Limits and that is 80,000. We are talking about 9,500. This is a market that can sustain that. We are used to the fireworks show where 30,000 go, we are used to the Hampton Classic, to Super Saturday, so a small event like this where it is done professionally has a greater chance of success. So many of these things fail. We want to partner with the Town of East Hampton, do this responsibly and hopefully it is sustainable.

Meaning it would become an annual event?

That would be great.

You have said this could be an economic benefit for the area. How will it benefit the community from an economic perspective?

From now until it happens we figure, and this is a conservative figure, 700 people will have to get hired. Some of those people will have to come from other places, but a very large number of them will have to be hired locally, from selling lumber, banging nails, all of the construction, the barricades, the parking layout, and then there is an entire retail and food and beverage component. Then there are also the people we will need to work the back of the house, the electric, the water. It goes on and on and on. The opportunity to hire that many people feels really good for the soul.

How will local businesses like The Art of Eating, John Kowalenko’s catering business and other food vendors and retailers be able to get involved in this?

John is a key production component to this. He will be doing all our catering and additional responsibilities. One of the things we are looking to do is load in as many local restaurants and chefs and retailers as we can, where we give them booth space where they can sell. There might be some out of town people, if Bobby Flay wants to set up a grill we can do that. We will have a beer garden and wine terrace, but for the most part it will be about getting local restaurants we all know involved and that would lead to further familiarity in the off-season. Or if an established restaurateur wants to try a new brand this is a way to introduce it to 9,500 people.

The site plan is set up where we have all this availability for restaurants and lifestyle sales. The charities will also have booth space because it is great to write a check, but it is equally important to get people to know the work these charities are doing and sign up themselves and see how they can be a part of their ongoing mission instead of just knowing a portion of the ticket is going to help these organizations.

The music will be the reason to go, but once you get there we want people to experience a lot of other things about this region that they might not be familiar with.

You have offered a charitable donation connected to the festival. Are there any specific charities you have in mind?

With the charitable donation, we are viewing that money as being a part of our costs and we have told the town board this, because with a music festival there is no guarantee we will make money. We are guaranteeing $100,000 as a donation and how that is allocated we have yet to figure out.

We are open to suggestions on what charities benefit, however, we are already guaranteeing the food pantries a donation. Surfrider is another organization that has come up that we are excited about, and beyond that there is a lot of money we would like to allocate to a lot places, and it doesn’t just have to be a charity. It could be creating a scholarship. There are a lot of people with a lot of different needs.

There has been talk of a television show connected to the festival. What’s the story there?

This would be an annual event, but we wanted to think about what we could do in the off-season. We thought there is an opportunity here to develop an American Bandstand type of show called Music to Know where every week you would have a countdown of new and interesting bands that is driven online with a partner we may already have in place. Introduce a band a week and have it as a syndicated show. That could be produced locally. It does not have to be produced in the city or anywhere else. There are a lot of great places that are underutilized and a lot of talented people in film and television that would rather do something out here than somewhere else. It is about building business here. Those are real jobs that are full time jobs and creating something really neat. In so much of this, as exciting as it is to talk about job creation and charity, it is also important to remember that we live in an area so filled with culture; and music seems to be a piece not fully realized, so this is another way to build something great.

How will your career as a screenwriter aid in this project?

I am very fortunate to have incredible representation in the William Morris Endeavor Entertainment. They have a giant music department and I have a ton of friends in the music industry, from people in bands to promoters and people who run their own festivals. Those friends have always been people I enjoyed socially and now we can build something together, so that is great.

Give me a dream team lineup for the first year?

Billy Joel, topping the bill.

Anyone else?

Well, Paul Simon and Paul McCartney live pretty close by too.

Rethinking Moses: Local Scribe Crafts New Vision of Bible for the Big Screen

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By Marianna Levine

Living in Sag Harbor was a conscious choice for writer Bill Collage. Although he writes for mainstream Hollywood, he preferred to stay on the East Coast, being an Easterner himself, rather than move to LA for work. And Sag Harbor does seem like an appropriate choice for him considering the last screenplay he wrote was an adaptation of “Moby Dick”.

But Collage is clearly not a man afraid of a challenging project. His newest, with his LA-based partner Adam Cooper, takes him far from our native shores and deposits him in an ancient and oft traveled desert. Collage has recently committed himself to writing a new adaptation of the story of Moses and the Exodus for 20th Century Fox.

Both Moby Dick and Cooper and Collage’s re-visioning of this Biblical classic are part of Collage’s sincere desire “to choose responsible things to work on, such as these classic stories.” But Collage also mentions that working on a Biblical project was something he sought out as a believer.

 “I’m Greek Orthodox, but I’m religious in general.,” he said. “Prayer is common in my house, and I don’t shy away from calling myself religious.”

For most people the image that instantly comes to mind when thinking of Moses and the movies is Charlton Heston in Cecile B. DeMille’s now somewhat dated movie “The Ten Commandments.” Although DeMille’s parting of the Red Sea was a feat of contemporary movie effects back then, Collage is excited about what can be done visually with the story now. But that wasn’t his only interest in writing a new treatment of this tale.

What seems to most invigorate Collage about his current project is his newly found understanding of Moses as a character, and his wish to portray a more complex version of Moses the man. He thinks modern audiences are ready and willing to accept a “complicated, flawed protagonists” and that probably wasn’t the case when “The Ten Commandments” was filmed back in the mid-1950s when the United States was in the middle of the Cold War. And Collage points out the politics of a time period can often inform consciously or not a writer’s choices during an adaptation.

Collage explains, “Moses is an unusually difficult character. We want our heroes to be noble and flawless, but Moses was a man not a god, and sometimes it’s hard to understand the choices he made as a man and a leader.”

Although Collage researched his text extensively, he soon realized that he had several questions about Moses and his actions that he wanted to discuss with an expert. That’s when he decided to turn to local Rabbi Leon Morris of Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor. Collage chose Rabbi Morris because he liked the idea of speaking with someone locally.

 “He was able to generously give me so much of his time and there’s something about meeting with someone in person who lives around the corner that’s special.” Collage explains.

Rabbi Morris enjoyed being part of Cooper and Collage’s project. He explained that Collage sought him out in person but also emailed and called him with questions that Rabbi Morris found so interesting and complex that often he had to look up ancient Rabbinical commentaries on certain Biblical passages to answer Collages’s questions thoroughly.

 “He is approaching this project with such integrity, responsibility, and respect. He wants it to be legitimately connected to the Bible and not just an entertaining film,” Rabbi Morris articulated.

Collage got his first break back in 1995 when he was working for Fox 5 in New York City. At that time, the director Ron Howard asked to film a portion of his film “Ransom” with Mel Gibson at Fox 5. Collage was the person who granted him permission to do so, but also suggested he could do a more realistic re-write of the scenes being filmed.

Howard took a look at Collage’s re-write, and the rest, as they say, is history. Since then Collage has been involved in numerous projects such as the movies “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Accepted.” The latter is about a high school student who invents a college that accepts him after not getting into to any real institutions of higher education.

Collage chose to base himself in Sag Harbor after several years of living and working in New York City. There are numerous things he enjoys about living here as opposed to the City or LA. Although he does have to commute to LA every once in awhile, and he admits it is a long way to travel for work.

Collage declares one of the reasons he likes it here is that, “it’s a very artistic community and a very supportive one. There’s a real competitiveness in LA, but here other people seem to be rooting for you.”

He also explains that as a writer he values “the lack of distractions here. I enjoy being involved in a community and interacting with a lot of people on a personal level. I’m very blessed to know a variety of people here, and for a writer knowing people is like putting gas in a car.”