On Saturday, January 21, 2017–the day after the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump–hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the nation’s capital for the Women’s March on Washington D.C., as millions more participated in satellite marches nationwide. For those who couldn’t make it out to participate in person, the Women’s March on Washington was streamed live online free of charge.
While you were surely aware of the March on Saturday, you may be surprised to hear that the official live stream of the demonstration was filmed and produced by Pete Shapiro, concert promoter extraordinaire and the man behind LOCKN’ Festival, Brooklyn Bowl, Relix, the Grateful Dead‘s 50th Anniversary Fare Thee Well shows, and more.
In a new interview with HeadCount, Shapiro talks about his experience producing the live coverage of the massive event. Among other things, Shapiro goes into detail about how he got involved and how he leveraged his experience producing and streaming large scale events like 2015’s Fare Thee Well to help successfully capture the historic demonstration.
As buzz grew in the days leading up to the event, the stream production rapidly grew in scale. Shapiro explains, “We put together a team to film it, [with] seven cameras. We started and it was going to be five Jumbotrons, then 6, 7. Finally we got to 9. Which is a lot of Jumbotrons, but we could have even used more. They went all the way down Independence [Ave.], we helped place them.”
Continues Shapiro, “It was so important, we were worried, and we were right, that the internet would crash. And even if we got wifi to send the feed to the media tent, that sh*t would go crazy if there are 500,000 people. Which is what happened…Then we got a call beforehand that said we have to watch out, there are going to be people trying to hack into the stream, don’t let that happen. So we went satellite truck to protect it, and we didn’t give out the satellite code to anyone because we were nervous. And the stream went smooth. It was a little nerve-wracking, the order of the show kept changing, behind the stage you couldn’t actually get to the entrance it was so crazy.”
Because the inauguration was the day before, the building and installation of the stream’s physical infrastructure was not allowed to start until 12:01 a.m on the day of the March. Says Shapiro, “Usually for events like this, the builds start way before. This was next level.”
Despite the various obstacles and the unexpectedly staggering attendance numbers, the March was a huge success, and the live stream was seen by millions of people–thanks in large part to the expert guidance of Shapiro himself. “I’m really glad that when I saw an opportunity to help,” he says, “I just dove in and spent a lot of time in the last three weeks helping to make this happen. To do whatever I could. I took the lessons I learned in the past. When there are big events they are usually sh*tshows. This was a sh*tshow, it was an awesome and incredible sh*tshow. And I’ve got experience in sh*tshows, being in a bunch of sh*tshows. That’s funny. Maybe use an asterisk when writing out sh*tshow…So a thing I’ve learnt about how to deal with sh*tshows, is it’s better when you’ve dealt with that before, and I’m pretty good at dealing with sh*tshows. That’s a skill set.”
You can read Pete Shapiro’s full interview with HeadCount communications director Aaron Ghitelman here.