Q&A with Jim Simmons 

Series Producer at W

Series Producer at WFYI-Public Television, Jim Simmons picks story ideas for the award-winning Across Indiana, and assigns producers to develop each segment that makes up the weekly half-hour program. New shows air Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m., mid-October to June, after which you’ll see re-runs. Sometimes he goes out himself “to shoot” a story, but mostly he’s in the studio editing and writing the connecting text Michael Atwood brings into our homes. You’ll also see Jim Simmons’ name on special projects at WFYI. You’ll hear his voice on WFYI’s arts PSAs, “Indy in the Spotlight,” and Jim in person on the stages of area, community theatres.

Q: What are you reading now?

A: Under the Banner of Heaven. It’s about how fanatical obsession with religion can be used to justify the murder of a woman and her young child. I had read the reviews, saw the book in an airport and picked it up.

Q: What do you like about the Indianapolis arts scene?

A: The people in the trenches. I think there are a lot of talented people. The talent level is astounding.

Q: What don’t you like?

A: Two things, I guess. I have a minor peeve about a banana republic mentality that exists in some of the smaller mom’n’pop arts groups. They’re very closed shops when it comes to who gets cast and who does what and I think it keeps the groups from becoming all they should. My biggest complaint, though, is about the city’s push for cultural tourism. They’ll spend tens of thousands of dollars for signage for an arts district and not a dime for the groups in that district. I often get the impression they don’t really know the Indianapolis arts community well and how to use their clout and cash to promote it and that’s a shame.

Q: What inspires you? A: Seeing someone’s “wheels” work. For me, I love to go into the post-production suite and find out if all the things that I thought would work in a show will actually work. I feel the same when I view anyone’s work — reading someone’s script or watching someone’s show — even watching a well-executed game plan at a football game. I love it when I sense an intent and an intelligence behind something and I see that it’s all working … that the thing I’m seeing has a nice buzz to it.

Q: Drug of choice?

A: Walking my dogs on the Monon. No matter what mood I’m in, Chaplin and Darby can make me laugh. And Box Office MoJo.

Q: Who’s your favorite politician?

A: I am a huge Bill Clinton fan. He’s extremely intelligent, and the most inclusive president. He tried to be everybody’s president. When he makes a speech he is crystal clear.

Q: What’s the hardest thing about what you do?

A: I don’t have a full-time team at WFYI. I’ll have three different camera people on one story; taking all the little pieces and making sure it looks like one piece is the challenge.

Q: What’s your favorite TV commercial at the moment?

A: The two kids on the beach. Boy touches girl. Mother tells boy, “Don’t touch your sister.” He waves his finger around the girl’s face, “I’m not touching.” I don’t know anyone who knows the product they’re selling, but it’s really amusing.

Q: Three people you’d invite to dinner?

A: Abe Lincoln, Marlon Brando, Rita Kohn, but only if Rita brings the lasagna. I hope Lincoln likes lasagna.

Q: Can love be pornographic?

A: Love should have its pornographic moments — that you look back later with your partner, smile and say, “I can’t believe we did that.”

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