The birth of ButterBush TV Public Access program exposes life in Jersey City

Turning the camera on Jersey City, four lifelong friends have developed a hip grass roots cable access program that bears the marks of a professional production spiced up with local appeal.

The producers of ButterBush TV are now working on the eighth episode, focusing on the theme of street basketball. Like each episode, ButterBush TV chooses a topic that runs through the half-hour program and frames it in a variety of ways: man-on-the-street interviews, comic sketches, demonstrations, and interviews with local professionals.

“Every episode we learn something new about producing the show,” said Nyugen Smith, one of the show’s creators. Before February, the only production experience Smith had revolved around web sites. But growing up with his friends around Lincoln Park, Smith recalls brainstorming video concepts regularly.

In January, they decided to take their ideas to the next level and began writing down a formula for a regular television show that focused on Jersey City and the interests of its residents.

Once this concept was developed, the group made a cold call to Comcast, Jersey City’s dominant cable provider. The company airs public access television shows on Channel 51, and Smith said that he was confident that the idea his crew came up with would be an asset to the programming lineup.

Sure enough, Ruben Rodriguez, the head of programming at Comcast, liked what he heard. In on over-the-phone interview, Rodriguez questioned Smith about the group’s experience, time commitment, and ability to produce something on a regular basis. Louis Thybulle does camera work for the show Extra, and Patrick Buesing has worked on independent films. “We all had our area of expertise,” Smith said. The fourth producer is Nyugen’s brother, Donnel, whose knowledge of music and sound has helped produce the original tracks that accompany the video footage.

Satisfying the requirements, Smith said that his friends wrote up a formal proposal and received an official “yes” the very next day.

Smith said that the word “ButterBush” popped into his head one day as he struggled to find a name for the program. His friends liked the sound of it. After defining the word as “what your passion is,” Smith said that they were ready to start the show.

With three and a half weeks to produce the first episode, Smith said long days followed by sleepless nights became the modus operandi.

“We wanted to create an entertaining and informative program,” Smith said.

The first episode became a tribute to Jersey City’s heritage, as ButterBush TV examined the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive’s original name: Jackson Avenue. Interviewing a historian from Staten Island, the episode revealed that Jackson Avenue was named after a family of freed slaves who managed to buy property and become relatively successful merchants at the turn of the 20th century. Like many freed slaves, the family named themselves “Jackson” to honor an army general who supported African-Americans in the military. Following the interview, the ButterBush TV crew went onto MLK Drive and asked random passersby if they knew about Jackson Avenue. Other episodes cover topics such as food, fashion, and sports. Overall, the show successfully creates an interesting fast-paced variety of segments with a unique colloquial flavor.

Smith said that the Comcast provides public access programs with some supplies, but ButterBush TV chooses to use its own equipment. Digital cameras, hand-held booms, and computer editing equipment have become the commonplace tools of this formerly fledgling bunch. “After we shoot the stuff, we spend so much time cutting and editing it,” Smith said. “We’re always trying new things, not always using the standard shot.”

Max J. Etienne, a documentarian and former resident of Jersey City, was interviewed for the upcoming episode on basketball. Etienne said he was very impressed with the production, and saw it as a perfect steppingstone to bigger things.

“It gives you exposure,” Etienne said. “Where else could you get your reel?”

Aside from the career prospects the show holds, Etienne said the program is “upbeat and needed in Jersey City.”

As for the future of ButterBush TV, Smith said that Comcast has given them a positive response. “They love the show,” Smith said. He hopes to use this opportunity to expand the product’s reach, he said. “We definitely want to create a product that’s everywhere,” Smith said. “We want to launch into different avenues.”

ButterBush TV airs on Channel 51 Fridays at 7 p.m. and Mondays at 5 p.m. For more information, visit


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