Rochester Innovators Series: Tyler Aug
Tyler Aug sees Rochester through a unique lens.
With an energy and style all his own, Tyler tells the story of his hometown with a level of originality only made possible by his true appreciation of the city’s culture. His work is at once both authentic and imaginative, and serves as some of the most important documentation of the grassroots arts and music scene emerging in Rochester.
“I am never bored,” says Tyler, a John Marshall grad who studied film at both RCTC and the University of Minnesota. “I don’t know why anyone even made up that word.”
Tyler is the creative force behind the Rochester Experience, an independently-run web platform that produces a range of content, from music videos to micro documentaries. His videos consistently reach thousands of online viewers each week, helping keep his growing network in the know about new small businesses, upcoming concerts and other community events.
“A lot of people don’t have cable now,” says Tyler. “They’re not going to catch the news at night. So this is my way of telling the Rochester story; my version of what’s going on in this town.”
We recently flipped the camera around on Tyler and gave him the opportunity to share his story. Minor edits to the interview were made for flow and clarity.
Let’s go way back. What first got you into film?
When I was in sixth grade, my grandfather died and left a video camera ... So having a camera around was always a thing. I was doing science projects on video, book reports on video; just finding any excuse to incorporate video into class presentations.
Then I got to [John Marshall] and started the television production class. It blew my mind. I did it all four years ... I also created a television production club, which was just me after school. They gave me permission and a key to come in and I’d spend hours and hours after school. I wouldn’t go home until 9 most nights, just editing video there in the dark.
After college, you moved back to Rochester. How did you get into covering local arts?
Well, I ran into this dude one night, who was like, ‘hey, you know that Creative Salon down the block? This guy’s throwing this big art show and he wants a promotion. I said I was going to do it, but I’ll be out of town.’ And that was the first time I took on formal business of any kind.
That was also the first time I started bumping around the [art] crowd. And this guy showed up with the camera, and now there’s evidence of what’s going on here. That was a huge pleasure; for the first to now see a whole new demographic of viewers on YouTube.
Tyler's first arts promo in Rochester
From there, you helped start the Local Experiment -- which later turned into the Rochester Experience. What keeps you creating new material?
There are so many natural highs that come from doing this. Because you are literally creating an excuse to step into a person’s life and engage them … When we first started doing this, the amount of people we met in a year … It’s about creating that friendship and how you work out that awkwardness. It’s funny how it forces you into this situation where you’re both vulnerable.
So I’m addicted to this now. I can’t stop. Just hearing people’s stories … plus, there are a lot of new businesses trickling into town and shows going on. I want to show: This is Rochester ... And it seems like you could run out of content around here, but you really can’t. There are just an endless amount of creators and entrepreneurs.
What are some observations you have made while out covering the town?
Once you get to know what everyone’s doing in this town in their own micro way, you realize how beautiful the web is. I don’t think enough people know how much they can actually get involved; that there’s not this overshadowing corporate thing in this town, where we’re scurrying away from it as the light changes in the shadows. We need to believe that we can be present here, and that we don’t need permission to do that.
But we’ve got some good people here, plus some new people showing up and being like, ‘why is nobody doing this?’ Again, nobody is asking for it, but why don’t we try it and see if it sticks?
Video by Tyler / Rochester Experience
That’s something that has changed. A couple years ago, Kathy’s was the only one with music. Now everyone has music. It’s stronger. It means that musicians are hooking up with businesses, that artists are hooking up with businesses, that more people are reaching out to one another. That digital web is more present than ever. That social cohesion has changed, and it’s going to be very important to this town’s future.
In addition to arts and music, you also do work for local nonprofits, political campaigns, and even this website. What’s it like to see your work making an impact in the community?
My own body language has changed … I mean, sometimes I can be a weirdo … But I have really changed the way I articulate myself to people. And not that anyone asked for it, but I feel like I’m doing something good, and that just gives you confidence in yourself.
So it’s changed my whole life. You realize how much work things really take, but if you want them they can totally be achieved. It just takes some insanity. It really does … and It’s cool when people recognize it and they’re like, ‘this guy’s going to follow through. Let’s work with him.’ And you gain that reputation.
Rochester Innovators is a nine-part series being published in partnership with Destination Medical Center.
Cover photo by William Forsman