‘Illadates’ stars make romance a little easier

Mark Schoneveld and Audrey Smith are just like most newlyweds – young and in love. But most married couples don’t have a captive audience watching each of their dates. Schoneveld, 31, and Smith, 24, a

Mark Schoneveld and Audrey Smith are just like most newlyweds – young and in love. But most married couples don’t have a captive audience watching each of their dates.

Schoneveld, 31, and Smith, 24, a Temple film and media arts student, are well known for their Illadates Web series, which they describe as “a video blog about cool, cheap dates in Philadelphia.”

Schoneveld and Smith’s relationship has been both creative and romantic since they met more than two-and-a-half years ago.

“We met on the very first night I moved to Philly. I was living in Colorado, being a ski bum, and needed a change of scenery, so Philly seemed right,” Schoneveld said. “[Audrey] is a Western girl herself, having grown up at the foot of the mountains in Utah, so we clicked right away.”

Schoneveld, a self-described online video expert and veteran blogger, took a road trip across America with Audrey in the winter of 2006. He posted daily videos of the journey online, and wanted to do something similar in Philadelphia upon his return. He pitched the idea to Eric Smith, who manages uwishunu.com, the authoritative Philly culture blog.

“Mark and Audrey were really the perfect couple for our Web series. They really showed off their love for Philadelphia in all the places they went,” Eric Smith said. “Along with being knowledgeable on all the different neighborhoods, they’re also passionate about the people, the artists and the musicians that work and live in Philadelphia.”

Thus, Illadates was born. Schoneveld and Smith signed a 24-episode contract to star in, edit and post videos of their dates on www.uwishunu.com.

“It was a real fun gig,” Schoneveld said. “But we couldn’t support ourselves with the money [that uwishunu paid us]. We both had other jobs.”

Illadates teaches viewers how to impress their dates with all of the hippest, cheapest spots for couples in the city.
For affordable exotic cuisine, one can eat Vietnamese pho noodles in beef broth for $5 or less on Washington Avenue, which is also near the bargain-priced Mummer’s Museum, Schoneveld said.

Smith suggested visiting Kelly Drive, the Wissahickon hiking trails and Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown for free, scenic dates.
Couples looking for adventure can traverse through the 19th century-era halls of the Eastern State Penitentiary in Fairmount or rock out on a custom axe at DiPinto Guitars in Fishtown.

Schoneveld and Smith were surprised to find so many great dates in Philadelphia, but they were even more shocked that many of their Illadates viewers had never heard of those areas before.

“It was interesting [to see] how Philly is so divided up by neighborhood,” Schoneveld said. “South Philly kids don’t know all the great spots up in Fishtown, like West Philly people don’t really have a hand in the Art Museum.”

Schoneveld’s and Smith’s popularity is directly linked to the growth of Web-based communities. Anyone can instantly broadcast his or her content to a global audience through RSS, or “really simple syndication,” Schoneveld said, but getting a fan base doesn’t happen overnight.

“[With] blogging, the No. 1 thing to do is to get into it,” Schoneveld said. “Just start and participate. You can’t just blog and expect everyone to read or watch what you put online, you have to be part of a community.”

Schoneveld and Smith are moving forward with community as their focus. Smith, said that she is working with her husband on a video blog about the trend in do-it-yourself music called YVYNYL.

“We wanted to make something that would incorporate the two things we are most interested in – music and film – because there are so many exciting changes going on in the music industry right now,” Smith said.

The blogosphere is also changing daily.

“There’s a lot of controversy in this area because Internet video has the potential to become more like television, and of course not everyone wants that to happen,” Smith said. “Our main focus right now is on the quality of the show, not how it will pay us. But we would like it to reach a big audience, and it would be great if it paid our bills.”

Jimmy Viola can be reached at jimmy.viola@temple.edu.

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