‘Connections’ adds personal flair to Channel 21

Natalie Rees, left, together with producer Sid Lee, are the creators of Federal Way’s newest television show, “Connections.” The show is produced quarterly and airs daily on Channel 21, the city’s local government access station. - Courtesy photo
Natalie Rees, left, together with producer Sid Lee, are the creators of Federal Way’s newest television show, “Connections.” The show is produced quarterly and airs daily on Channel 21, the city’s local government access station.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Federal Way’s government access television channel is making a big twist to its production.

For more than three years, the city’s local programming has mostly concentrated on airing government-related events such as Federal Way City Council and school board meetings.

Federal Way has updated its TV channel 21 for Comcast subscribers by creating a new and hip quarterly magazine show called “Connections.”

“Connections” is a modernized version of the show “City Update.” In 30 minutes, host Natalie Rees informs Federal Way residents about everything that is going on around the city.

Rees’s background in theater and creative writing earned her a spot in the past on the city’s TV channel as a host for “City Update.”

She now serves as a communication specialist for the city, splitting time between the local television station and the communications and government affairs office.

“We used to do a lot of stories about the government and that was fine, but we wanted to find a better way to connect with our citizens on a more personal level,” Rees said.

The city’s TV channel rotates its schedule daily. Although it still airs city council and school board meetings daily, “Connections” also runs two to three times throughout the day.

“Connections” is produced quarterly. On the current show, Rees visits Federal Way locations like the Weyerhaeuser Aquatic Center, McGrath’s Fish House and the Federal Way Community Center.

“We want to focus on the things that make Federal Way special,” Rees said.

Throughout her tour of these places, Rees spoke to people like the manager of the Aquatic Center, Mike Dunwiddie, to active members of the community center, and to some of the people having lunch at McGrath’s Fish House.

“This show has its own purpose and that is to give you something interesting to watch, and the chance to see people that you know, businesses that you know, and places that you know,” Rees said.

Another important purpose of “Connections” is to promote Federal Way’s economic development by showing people that they can eat, shop and do what they typically do without leaving the city, Rees said.

The city’s local channel has also upgraded its picture quality and flexibility of its schedule. Some of the shows debuting this month range from workout programs to car shows to fine art productions.

“All this has happened since Linda Farmer joined our team,” commented Rees about the city’s spokeswoman.

Linda Farmer said that when she arrived in August 2007, she discovered that Rees was writing “City Update” on her own time, and that every other city she had worked for in the past hired staff for these types of tasks.

“Natalie was doing this as a volunteer, and now she’s getting paid for it,” Farmer said. “She’s just a natural.”

Natalie works under the direction of Sid Lee, the producer of “Connections.”

“He is a great film-maker and editor, who makes everybody sound good with very little equipment and help,” Rees said.

Under Lee’s production, “City Update” earned a Telly Award for excellence in cable programing in 2007, and is hoping to win again this year with “Connections.”

“‘Connections’ is a very professionally produced program. We’re creating a network quality show, so when flipping through TV stations, people won’t be able to see a difference from what is shown on the other channels,” Farmer said.

“We want people to learn and be entertained at the same time. That is not something you think about when you think about government stations,” she said. “We want people to be excited about Federal Way.”

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