Astoria resident highlights local musicians in YouTube sessions

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Photo courtesy of Jenny Gnirke

Jenny Gnirke is surrounded by musicians on her Astoria block. She even lives with one.

Gnirke, who moved back to Astoria in May after living in Jackson Heights for two years, is taking a DIY approach to showcasing the talented artists who live in her neighborhood.

Every week, she uses an iPhone and an 8mm camera app to record one song by one of the musicians, who can currently be spotted playing shows at local venues like The Strand Smokehouse and Irish Whiskey Bar. She’s captured artists such as her boyfriend, Cole Quest, who happens to be Woody Guthrie’s grandson; husband-and-wife duo The Locksmiths; and country singer J.D. Patch.

“I was really interested in the idea of filming on the iPhone and the idea that nowadays you can really just shoot a short film or any kind of project with just your phone,” Gnirke said. “You don’t need an expensive camera and you don’t need all this extensive gear, and a lot of the musicians we know can play acoustic or like the idea of just playing raw.”

Gnirke works in television production and his been a story producer on MTV docu-reality series such as “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant.” She currently works as a story producer at Atlas Media Corps for the Travel Channel show “Hotel Impossible.”

She describes the 8mm app as a “nostalgic Instagram for video,” and was interested in using it after viewing the documentary “Searching for Sugar Man.” When director Malik Bendjelloul ran out of money, he used the 8mm app to shoot a few remaining scenes for his film. “Searching for Sugar Man” later won an Oscar for best documentary in 2013.

Each session is filmed in her living room, where the backdrop includes several of Quest’s instruments. Gnirke only films one take “unless something critical goes wrong.” She then asks the musician a few questions about his or her influences and features one answer in the video as well.

Most of the musicians are friends of Gnirke and Quest, but she is hoping to reach out to other musicians in the area. Her main goal with the project is to foster a sense of community and encourage people to see live music.

“I don’t really have this goal of making money off of it. The amazing thing about Astoria since moving back and just in general the years that I lived there, it’s kind of like a little community outside of the city,” Gnirke said. “I really wanted to be part of that in some way and encourage people outside of our community to say, ‘Hey, there’s these amazing musicians who write their own songs, sing their own songs, write and create with these amazing cover songs. Book them, see them, be interested.”