Bellmore-Merrick Broadcasting (BMB) began in the fall of 2016.
Based at Mepham High School in the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District on Long Island, the founding of BMB was part of a district initiative to build a magnet program at each of the districts’ three high schools. Assistant Principal Marie Netto oversaw the design of the program as an old home and careers classroom was transformed into a state of the art television production studio. Stu Stein, a Social Studies teacher of seventeen years, who began his career with a brief stint in television, was tapped as the teacher in charge of the program, and Matt Russell was brought on as our studio manager/technician.
Our program is a four year major with students from across the district applying for admission during 8th grade. Broadcast Communications I for freshmen uses the history of broadcasting to teach basic production skills. Broadcast Communications II for sophomores is a broadcast journalism course which also gives students skills in operating our studio equipment. During junior year, Broadcast Communications III focuses on narrative storytelling with students recreating scenes from sitcoms and film noir in our studio before creating their own short works. In their senior year, students will have the opportunity to work independently in an editing lab while they seek out internship opportunities in the community.
Tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
I went to school in the early 90’s for Film and TV. After graduating I worked briefly at WNYC-TV and at Comedy Central before moving on, and going back to school to get my teaching degree. When Bellmore-Merrick was looking to begin the Broadcasting program, Ms. Netto and I had a conversation about my background. After a second conversation with Ms. Netto where she was more direct with what the district was looking for I jumped at the opportunity to return to my roots.
How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
Because the program is a district initiative our funding has come each year through the district’s budgeting process. They have made a commitment to ensuring that we have what we need to be successful.
Did you have equipment available?
I was very lucky. I walked in the door to a program that was ready to go. We have 8 JVC handheld camcorders, 3 Panasonic studio camera, a Tricaster Mini and LiveText, a studio floor with a lighting grid and green screen, and 30 brand new Macs running both Adobe Premiere and Avid Media Composer.
How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes? How is it broken down? Is it a multi-year program?
Our program is a four year program. We have 16 Juniors, 16 Sophomores and 25 entering Freshmen. The Freshman class is split into two sections and we anticipate adding a similar number of Freshmen in 2019 and at that point adding a second faculty member to the program.
Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?
Our classes are forty-one minutes long with each class having between 12 and 18 students. Our BCI students recreate a movie scene, create a commercial and a music video to name a few. BCII students focus on package creation and interview skills. They end the year by creating a documentary about a day in the life of part of our school.
BCIII students will continue honing their package skills while also creating their own original narrative content.
How many kids to do the morning news broadcast? Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?
At this point we are doing a weekly morning announcement every Friday that contains a bit of news, an interview segment, sports results and the weather (by far and away our weatherman has been BMB’s breakout star. We even sell t-shirts!). We also cover special events around the district by creating news packages that end up on our YouTube page.
Do your students capture other school events? Sports? Assemblies? Board meetings? Musical Performances?
Our live event coverage has been the big success of our first two years. We realized early on that the kids were not ready yet to create their own content so we brought the kids to the content packing up our entire studio and bringing it down to the auditorium to film a concert or the gym to record a basketball game. Our biggest moment came in year two when we packed up our equipment and travelled across town with a crew of freshmen and sophomores to broadcast a football game on the 10th day of school. Our attitude was that if we waited for our kids to be ready we would never do anything so better to throw them into the deep end and learn to swim together.
Now entering year 3, NDI has changed our world as we no longer need to pack up our studio. As long as we stay in district all we need to do is run our cameras into a network switch and we can keep our control room set up at home while a remote crew records and commentates on the event.
What jobs do the kids do? Do the kids rotate through on-air talent and crew positions or are they “hired” for a specific task?
Our kids do all the jobs. We have student camera operators, student technical directors, directors of photography, A-1’s Sportscasters, sports directors, news directors, graphic designers and so on. The only job we haven’t given over to the students yet is producer but we’re hoping that as a sophomores become juniors that a few will grow into that role too.
Do students audition for on-air positions?
Eventually students will audition for on-air roles but at this point we are so young that all a student needs to do to get on air is to show an inclination and a willingness to go on air.
Do they write the content?
Students write the script for the morning announcements and they do research and create press packs for use by our sportscasters and live event hosts to use while on air.
How long does the show run?
Our weekly morning announcement show runs five minutes. Our live event coverage is open ended and the runtime depends on what we are covering.
Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by STN, SkillsUSA, NATAS or others?
Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?
We post to YouTube YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/BMBCBroadcasting/videos?view_as=subscriber
See Morning Announcements https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-lWR3HBIQA and our Sports Package https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DE6VS_iUx08&t=160s
Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?
Newtek Tricaster Mini (upgrading to a TC1 next year) Newtek 3Play Mini
Newtek LiveText Adobe Premiere Avid Media Compser
Magicue Teleprompter Drone
JVC Camera Panasonic Cameras Minicams
Have any quick start tips!
1. If you have the ability to visit other programs while designing your own, DO IT! A lot was learned in the early days before I came on board by seeing what other people in our area were doing right and what some were doing wrong. All that experience didn’t stop us from making our own mistakes, but they definitely helped us avoid others.
2. Find experts who have been there before that can help you troubleshoot issues when they occur (and they will occur).
3. Most importantly, don’t wait till you’re ready. If you wait till you’re ready you will never be ready. Just jump in and figure it out as you go. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes (just don’t break the equipment.)