CHARLESTON –- Attorney General Darrell McGraw's YouTube video promoting his Consumer Protection Division will have its official release on April 15.
A reception marking the official release of "Who Ya Gonna Call?" will be held from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. April 15 at one of the Charleston locations used for the video shoot. That is Bruno's Restaurant & Bar, near the Clay Center at 222 Leon Sullivan Way.
The reception will feature screenings of the video plus a live performance of the "Who Ya Gonna Call?" song by the Carpenter Ants. Music by the Bark-O Loungers rounds out the evening from 9 p.m. to midnight. Admission is free and open to the public.
McGraw's video, which has been online a few weeks already, has drawn the ire of his critics. The executive director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse and the chairman of the state Republican Party have decried the video.
The executive director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, however, said he's offended by the video.
Clearly, the Attorney General's office is finding new and creative ways to waste state funds," WV CALA's Richie Heath said. "Darrell McGraw's latest video junket might be funny if it wasn't such a sad waste of taxpayer money. With McGraw up for re-election in 2012, it looks like West Virginians will once again be bombarded with state-funded advertisements promoting McGraw's political campaign.
"It's a shame that state lawmakers have abandoned their power of the purse and allowed Attorney General McGraw to get away with such wasteful self-promotion. Our state funds could certainly be better used elsewhere."
The video, which can be found on Facebook, has the look and feel of a 1970s cop drama and seems like a music video. The video is posted by Charleston-area band The Carpenter Ants, which does the music for the video.
"In this Internet era of web videos, getting the attention of West Virginia consumers can mean delivering one's message in a humorous YouTube-style short," McGraw's office said in a press release. "That's just what Attorney General Darrell McGraw's Consumer Protection Division has done with its new music video, "Who Ya Gonna Call?" -– an effort to extend the outreach of the department's consumer education and services to the state's web-savvy consumers."
McGraw's office calls the "Who Ya Gonna Call?" video an "entertaining spoof of 1970s cop shows and chase scenes wrapped around a song recorded by one of the area's most popular music groups, Charleston-based roots-rockers the Carpenter Ants."
The video's storyline includes a debt collection, a loan shark and a good guy named "The Badge." He chases the collector around Charleston.
"Debt, debt, got me on my knees," the band sings in the video. "Darrell McGraw, can you help me please? My future sure looks bleak; without some help I will surely sink into a sea of bankruptcy."
"Makes no difference if they're big or small, General McGraw, he can whoop 'em all ... just like the tobacco companies. He's looking out for you and me."
In the press release, McGraw's office said the video is alerting a new audience to the services provided by the AG's office.
"We're aiming for a demographic -– college students, online video enthusiasts, regular Internet users -– that might not know about our consumer protection services, toll-free 800 number, or that our mediation assistance is free," Chief Deputy Attorney General Fran Hughes said in the statement. "A lot of young people who are in a financial crisis just don't know where they can turn."
The "Who Ya Gonna Call?" video was produced in-house for the Consumer Protection Division by Tristram Lozaw, Director of Communications, using the services of two filmmakers from the area -- Bob Wilkinson and Stephen Schmidt. The filmmakers also performed roles as The Collector and The Badge, respectively.
In the video, "special officer The Badge chases Daddy Bigbucks' lackie The Collector through the mean streets, fire escapes and watering holes of West Virginia –- 1970s style –- while touching on various issues for which consumers can call 1-800-368-8808, the toll-free Consumer Protection Hotline of the Attorney General's Office."
McGraw himself appears in the video to offer some advice to "The Badge."
"Book 'em, Darrell," "The Badge" says as he enters McGraw's office.
"You know, the way I see it, son, the Attorney General's Office doesn't run around like a bunch of clowns," McGraw tells him.
Along with Wilkinson and Schmidt, the video's cast includes Bill Kimmons as Daddy Bigbucks, Antonie Zorio, Sherry Hobbs and Becky Kimmons. Mallory's Airport in South Charleston, Bruno's, the Kanawha riverfront and various buildings in downtown Charleston are among the settings as the video unfolds.
Wilkinson is a documentary filmmaker whose award-winning "Shades of Gray," a profile of Mothman myth-maker and UFO investigator Gray Barker, is now in international distribution. His other films include "Adopt-A-Jesus" and "John Browns Body." Wilkinson is currently working on his fourth documentary feature, "Romeo Must Hang."
Also an painter, Schmidt's film and video credits run from feature films ("We Are Marshall") to music videos (50 Cent, Iggy Pop) and network television productions for the History Channel, Comedy Central, ABC, and others. Locally, Schmidt has worked with Mountain Stage, the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame and commercials for "everything from hospitals to the West Virginia Lottery."