Rather than the standard morning broadcast, CEC video team members are wholly responsible for the studio production of a weekly cable show called The Link
After recognizing by his own admission, “that I didn’t have an eye for fashion photography,” Central Educational Center’s (CEC) Video Production Director Michael Britt spent the next thirty years in commercial film and television production before turning to teaching.
“Since I knew how to type from a stint in the Air Force as an Administrative Specialist, back in 1979 the Baptist Home Mission Board (an organization that promoted Southern Baptist’s missionary work all over the United States) let me ‘play’ and I got wonderful hands-on, on-the-job training in film-making, and television production,” Britt said.
“My jobs included editorial assisting, audio production, assistant camera work, gaffering and gripping, and lighting,” and all the jobs that are necessary for beginning a career in film and television. That experience led to a freelance career creating marketing and training materials for Atlanta-based corporations such as Coca-Cola and the Home Depot and eventually to a twelve-year stint at Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) as an Executive Producer of shows such as Georgia Business, Georgia Outdoors, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Awards and numerous documentaries.
“While at GPB, I was nominated for four Emmy awards, garnered two TELLY Awards, a Green Eye Shade Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and produced a nationally syndicated show on the world-famous Georgia Aquarium, but then I heard about this unique challenge to expand CEC’s video production program and I just couldn’t turn it down,” Britt said.
CEC’s video program had been operational for ten years by the time Britt arrived in 2009, but his vast real-world broadcast experience proved a turning point for the program.
“Mike Britt’s arrival was a game-changer for Broadcast Video at Central Educational Center (CEC). Mike’s background, perspective, skill and network were essential for the CEC to become a true TV studio production-oriented program,” Mark Whitlock, CEO of the Central Educational Center said.
“With Mike Britt, CEC was able to solidify the incredibly valuable relationship with NuLink and understand the necessary changes needed in our facility, equipment and curriculum in order to become a true TV studio production-oriented program,” Whitlock said. “Having Mike meant that our stakeholders (local business, local school district, regional technical college) were comfortable with the significant changes that we planned and they knew that we could execute and implement that change with absolute confidence that one of the industry’s best would lead and teach.”
“Our team members are real-world competitive at much younger ages and they demonstrate what can happen when education opens its doors to the industry’s best,” Whitlock said. “How often does a school get to say that a member of the Emmy Silver Circle teaches their young people each and every day?”
“Funding for our program is closely linked to local business partners such as Nu-Link Digital and other local business entities. We’ve also rigorously applied for federal, state and local grants to expand our equipment list,” Britt said.
“Since we received a state Career Academy Grant four years ago, we have renovated our classroom space into two 33’ x 55’ studios with lighting grids, a lighting dimming system that we share with our business partner. We have more than 40 lighting units ranging from large 2K fresnels, fluorescents, open face units down to newer LED units.”
On the production side, CEC boasts four Sony DXC D-35WS cameras, on triax with CCU’s connected to a Tricaster 300HD with a 60” monitor in the control room. A six channel audio snake runs from the studio to the audio control room where it connects to a 16-channel mixer for audio monitoring. Upcoming improvements include using four donated Leitch Frame Syncs to convert composite signals to digital and adding a new Soundcraft audio board.
For ENG and EFP production, CEC students use any of six Panasonic AG-HMC 70 Cameras, complete with tripods with fluid heads, shotgun microphones on boom poles, external 4 channel mixers, and other production tools. A Nikon D700 with a complete array of fixed focal length and zoom lenses and an Atomos Ninja complete the higher end “film style” equipment list.
Video Production I, II and III classes are offered each semester and average 20-24 team members from 8th grade through 12th grade. “We also provide Work-Based Learning internships for team members who have completed the three-tiered program and they are often producing marketing videos for the Coweta County School system as part of their job responsibilities.”
Classes are 85 minutes and include very intensive hands-on learning experiences. “My intention is that all students be capable of being hired as a production assistant at a television station or film production company once they are finished,” Britt said.
Rather than the standard morning broadcast, CEC video team members are wholly responsible for the studio production of a weekly cable show called The Link. Team members responsibilities include: writing, producing, episode planning, audio recording, camera operation, lighting, floor direction, and as they progress, creative directing and editing as well as on air positions.
The Link is 30-minute, weekly cooperative production between CEC and Nu-Link Digital, which broadcasts on local cable and reaches 30,000 potential viewers. “Guests are determined by our mutual business partners, so team members have the opportunity to work with local professionals on a weekly basis,” Britt said.
“We do audition for our on-camera talent position which is called ‘Community Calendar,’ Britt said. “What I look for in personalities, beyond the ability to look good, sound good and read a teleprompter, is their ability to think on their feet which is critical in live broadcasts.”
Britt looks to identify what sets a team member’s eyes to gleaming when determining job responsibilities. “Some team members just need to get thrown in at the deep end like I was to figure out where their passions lie.”
Throughout the semester, team members are creating recruiting videos for the Coweta County School System (CCSS), public service announcements and feature reports for The Link. Team members submit videos for the High School Production Awards, sponsored by the Southeast Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) and CEC team members have won eight different awards or recognitions in the past two years. Beginning in 2012, CCSS seniors Amber Rogers (Newnan HS) and Leah Galiott (Northgate HS) won an Outstanding Achievement in General Assignment Excellence award for a feature on Coweta County’s famous “Barbie Beach” that appeared on The Link.
Britt believes, “It’s absolutely essential that team members have access to equipment that is found in the business because the best tools are the easiest to use.” He encourages programs that are just starting out to, “look to local TV broadcast stations as well as television production companies” for resources. “They can sometimes be a source for obtaining equipment and they can also possibly provide learning or internship opportunities for students.”
“For us, our business partnerships are absolutely the key. Without having The Link as a curriculum resource, we wouldn’t be able to make our team members readily employable or give them easily transferable job skills,” Britt said.
Though team members realize they have the opportunity to study film in college, just as many capitalize on CEC’s work-based learning internship opportunities, leading them to full-time or contracting jobs with Nu-Link, Georgia Public Broadcasting and many of the local film production companies.
CEC re-organizes the way that business and education collaborate. It was the first of Georgia’s now-29 College and Career Academies that intentionally creates joint ventures among local businesses, local school districts, and regional technical colleges across the state. It operates under the premise that today’s economy demands a more highly-skilled, workforce at an earlier age.
“We can’t wait for students to graduate from university,” Whitlock said. “They have to be able to produce value-added work earlier than that and Britt’s cooperative venture between NuLink and CEC is the ideal example of re-creating a workplace within a school so that students produce real television.”
“Mike Britt’s students produce value immediately for the Coweta community and do that on a weekly basis, all while in the 8th-12th grades. Their work is much more efficient and much more effective for all stakeholders in the local community. It is amazing to watch these young people work.”