Cambridge High School, located in Fulton County, opened in 2012 and draws its students from Alpharetta and Milton.
The wetlands running through the school’s campus required the creation of a bridge, which is as symbolic as it is physical. Just as the bridge unites a sprawling campus, it also represents the bridging of not only our students but also the cities of Alpharetta and Milton. It also gave rise to Cambridge’s award-winning Friday morning show, The Bridge. At Cambridge, a rigorous academic reputation is embraced in a culture of “WE” and not “ME.” The Bridge has powered Cambridge High School Friday mornings since day one and video broadcasting teacher, Marc Schneider, has been there from the start.
Marc Schneider brings a level of unparalled passion and excitement to everything he does. There are amazing stories on the horizon in Bear country. Marc Schneider’s goal is to unite the people, the pictures, and the pace of Bear Country through the Cambridge Bears Network, while fueling a superior film and video production program at Cambridge High School.
Tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
My path to the teaching in the classroom was a long, long, long and winding road. Like most 18-year-old college freshman, I arrived on campus (at my first of many stops) “undeclared” in a major. I offered the prospect of majoring in journalism at dinner the night I was dropped off at my dorm, but was soon directed by my parents to majoring in Finance because my cousin earned his degree in Finance that spring. My mom also thought I’d look good wearing a suit to work. My parents also thought I would spend the rest of my life painting houses over the summer to subsidize poor pay in a unstable field. Then “Dr. Schneider” was the next phase, and so was the Biology major. Then it was back to Business, where I thought I found a home (some years, wasted credits, and transfers later) in the Accounting major at Florida State University.
I realized early on that my head was elsewhere in Tallahassee. What FSU had at the time (and still does) was a great film school. I used to sit on a bench outside of it looking in and penning scripts, while my Cost Accounting book sat in my bookbag. My wife ended up getting her degree from FSU in Accounting, so she is the closest I’ve come to that profession. Upon graduation she was hired by (now defunct) Bellsouth Entertainment in Atlanta. I transferred to Georgia State University where I would seize my passion and graduate magna cum laude in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Film and Video production.
During my last year at GSU, I was a runner with Turner Sports with “Inside the NBA” on TNT/TBS. I did more with Starbucks orders and dinner runs wrangling up Spaghetti Bolognese than anything concerning production, but it was a start. At the conclusion of the basketball season, I got my foot in the door at CNN, where I worked in Technical Operations at Headline News for the next 5 years. I then got the bug to teach and coach football.
I knew nothing about education and breaking into the teaching field. I enrolled in graduate classes in physical education at The University of Georgia because I thought being a PE teacher was the easiest way into education. Like I stated, I knew nothing about education. I was hired as the physical activites teacher for 400 two to four year olds at a local preschool. Yes, I started my career in education teaching preschool. I spent all my energy on the high-spirited and innocent, and I would commute on humbling fumes 3 hours a day back and forth to Athens. That schedule just about killed me. Then a football coaching job came up, and I shelved the graduate degree to focus on my sanity, my then 2 and 4 year old sons, my teaching, and the 24/7 job that is football coaching. Somehwere in that mess, I somehow remained a husband. My wife is a saint. It was 2006, and it was around this time that I heard a new high school was being built in Milton. Four years later, the new high school in Milton was taking shape at the corner of Bethany Bend and Cogburn Road, and I would get hired to join Bill Curry’s inaugural football staff at Georgia State University. I went back to GSU, this time for football. I would spend the next two years there as a wide receivers and recruiting assistant.
In December of 2011, the new high school in Milton was set to open in the fall of 2012. It had no name, but it named a principal. I reached out to Dr. Ed Spurka and expressed my interest in joining his team of educators. I was hired in April as the video broadcasting teacher. The Cambridge Bears Network was born. I went back to GSU for a third and last time to enroll at the New Teachers Institute under the instruction of Dr. Janet Burns, the 2015 ACTE Postsecondary Teacher of the Year. I received my teaching certification through NTI. It was a long and winding road that went full circle for me some 25 years later. I am teaching and coaching what I love, and haven’t worn a suit to work a single day in my life. I’ve never painted a house either. Hope makes it possible, and the passion got me through it.
How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
Fulton County started my program up in 2012 as a new school. The class is funded now with federal monies. We do not fundraise for the program at Cambridge. We hold a annual film festival, The Hayleywood Film Festival for CURE Childhood Cancer. All the proceeds from that event are donated to CURE.
Did you have equipment available?
Yes, we have a variety of audio and video equipment, tripods, mics, stabilizers and tripods. We have 9 IMACs with Fincal Cut Pro X.
How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes?
I have approximately 120-140 students each year.
How is it broken down?
I have two level 1s, two level 2s, and one level 3. All the AVTF I classes are full 32 students, Level 2s and 3s have 25 students.
Is it a multi-year program?
Yes. The AVTF program at Cambridge High School offers the entire 3 year pathway. (AVTF I, AVTF II, AVTF III).
Can you tell us a little more about the sessions:
How long are the classes?
Monday and Wednesday classes are 55 minutes. Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday classes are 50 minutes.
What types of projects?
We do a mix of television and film production work. Students begin the program producing simple stories and graduate to Human Interest News packages in year one. As they progress through the pathway, they direct documentary shorts and finish with their capstone Student Film project in AVTF 3. Throughout the three years, they are involved in some capacity with working on our weekly monring show, The Bridge.
How many kids to do the morning news broadcast? Do you also do a weekly broadcast?
Our morning show airs once a week on Fridays. My level 3 class produces the morning show. It is rich and comprehensive in production and mimics a Saturday Night Live production format, where rewrites are often taking place within 24 hours of air. The Bridge production is comparable to a circus on a plane trying to land with one wing. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Special events coverage? Do your students capture other school events? Sports? Assemblies? Board meetings? Musical Performances?
We try to cover as much as we can at Cambridge High School, ranging from atheltic events like football games, to academic announcements and performing arts events. I also produce a behind the scenes graduation video with the assitance of some select underclassmen each year.
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?
The Bridge morning show is housed within The Cambridge Bears Network (CBN), and I like to run the network like a true “company.” This is where I hit the employability and work ethic component that is a part of any CTE pathway. I give every student exposure to all areas of the industry early in the pathway, and the opprtunity to play to their strenghts as they move through it. If a student wants to learn how to be a producer or director, I give them that oppportunity. If they want to write, be in front of the camera, or be a grip behind te scenes, they get that chance too. At the end of the day, it takes a village to pull of any production. Eveyone knows their role. When it’s crunch time, they are expected to execute to the best of their ability.
Do students audition for on-air positions?
I do not hold open auditions for on-air positions. I observe my students closely and evaluate them daily for roles. They are
essentially “recruited” for on-air positions. When we started the program, I recruited a drama student, Billy Melfi, who wasn’t in my program. He was the first “anchor” for The Bridge. Upon his graduation, I had only one student, then rising sophomore Caroline Hearn, pegged to replace him. Caroline has anchored The Bridge since 2014. She has grown to be an excellent on-air personality with incredible range, from news delivery and the interview to sketch comedy. Her 2016 “Excellence in Talent” Student Production Award presented by the Southeast Emmys is an acheivement that I’m very proud, both for Caroline and the program. When Caroline graduates in 2017, she will be replaced after an award-winning three year run. I already have students on a short list to fill her shoes.
Do they write the content?
All students are writers first in the program. They remain writers throughout. They all write content. Next to breathing, it is the most important thing we do.
How long does the show run?
The Bridge airs throughout our school weekly on Fridays at 8:20am. The ideal run time for our production wheel is 18 minutes. Sometimes we can squeeze out 15 minutes, but we are typically held to 10 minutes, so we do not interfere too much with teacher’s intructional time in 1st period.
Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV?
We do not submit programming to StudicaSkills or School Tube. We compete annually in SkillsUSA, and we submit to the Student Production Awards sponsored by the Southeast Emmy Chapter.
Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site? Where do you post programming? YouTube? Vimeo? SchoolTube? SVN-TV? Other?
Our broadcast is uploaded weeking to our YouTube Channel at CambridgeBVP and hyperlinked to our website at tvbears.com
Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?
Our equipment is modest and very basic. We have 7 Panasonic HMC80 field cameras that we use for news productions. We have 5 Canon T3is. I purchased a Black Magic Cinema Camera last fall, and that has given us some quality photography. We have a couple sony camcorders laying around. We also use our iphones quite a bit.
Have any quick start tips!
I’m about as unorthodox as they come, so my startup tip may sound more simpleminded than simple. You will never have enough time or money in the television and film business, so when the two come crashing into the time sensitive and fiscally barren world of education, your lust for either or both will distract you from the students who yearn your leadership and want to hold your attention far more than a RED (Digital Cinema Camera). Don’t worry too much about the lastest tech innovation or fundrasing. At the end of the day, technology fails you, and there is always money laying around. Ok, maybe not, but I’ve seen too many industry professionals and educators get caught up in the rat race. You lose footing when that happens. When I teach the camera unit and intoduce the “imaging device” I redirect them to what I call the “imagining device,” specifially their brain. That is, their ability to critically think about shot composition shot assembly. People tend to make more of this great art than what it really is, and it’s only two things: the shot and the edit. Both are only possible through the competence or error of human servitude. I am reminded of one of my favorite films of all time, The Shawshank Redemption, when Warden Norton says to Andy, “Salvation lies within.” For me and my students, “Innovation lies within.” You surely cannot purchase it from a catalogue with federal funds. Innovation is intrinsic. Entrench yourself and your students in the ability to be proactive creative thinkers; it’s critical to telling a tell story. That’s what I call critical thinking! Story is the single most important element of the business; you better hang your hat on it. That’s all your audience ever wants- a good wholesome story. Here’s your quick start: Sell your story first, and the program will follow. I tell my students often, “I need you more than you need me. I can do this without you, but it won’t be nearly as fun.” Be passionate about that conviction everyday.