Countryside High School

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CMC00The world has changed. Communications are evolving every day. CMM, the Center for new Media is a convergence program consisting of Countryside’s UPC-TV, The Paw Print Newspaper and Online  

UPC Television, (Upper Pinellas County) began in 1987 and has since grown to produce an award-winning daily 10-minute news show. Special projects have included a nationally broadcast Devils Ray Game, commercial videos, and numerous competition pieces.

The most involved students have the opportunity to participate in field trips toCMC02 major competitions and conventions around the nation.

The experience UPC offers is a good as if not better than many college programs. Countryside also offers strong academic programs with many advanced placement options, and has a history of high college placement scores.

UPC-TV is one of the most award-winning programs in the nation with over 500 awards to date. They have been awarded Best in the Nation, Best in the Southeast U.S., and Best in Florida. They have also won several 1st place awards in international competitions. UPC is recognized by all the major journalism associations and student TV production networks as one of the very best.

CMC03We had an opportunity to talk with Carl Zimmerman about this outstanding program.



SVN: Carl, tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?

CZ: Prior to moving to Clearwater Florida, from the mid 70’s to the mid 80’s, I worked as an advertising copywriter/account executive in New York. When I got to Florida I taught high school English for two years and then was asked to start a TV production program to replace the mass media classes we had. Their motive was to prevent the equipment from being transferred to another school. After looking over what we had, I could have saved them the trouble. It was all ancient junk; tube cameras that barely provided a picture, a switcher that needed genlock, but nothing to generate it, and a single JVC vhs editing system that had horrible sync problems with every edit. I threw most of it out and bought a new camcorder with my own money. The $50,000 they said would come, never did. I had a full schedule of classes with about 35 kids per class, a studio, control room, and no classroom. But, I felt like I was in heaven
We won All Florida gold in state competition with our very first show and never looked back.

SVN: How did you obtain initial funding for your program?CMC05

CZ: As mentioned, we had no funding the first 10 to 15 years, but we fundraised, hauled things out of the county dump, and invented our own version of teleprompters, IFB’s, and an intercom system.

SVN: How do you fund the class now?

CZ: For the last seven years or so, we have been properly funded with about $30,000 per year.

Did you have equipment available?

CZ: We want for nothing now other than to update yearly.

How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes?

CZ: It varies each year, but usually under 30 per class How is it broken down? TV 1 is separate, TV 2 and 3 are combined and do all different types of videos, and TV 4 through 12 are combined and do the daily live show.

Is it a multi-year program?

CZ: Kids can take it every year and some take it for two classes simultanesly.

Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes?

CZ: We have gone through all the scheduling types. The last three have been a 4 x 4 with each class 1:40 long. We are now returning to a 7 period day to save money with each class 47 minutes long. The live show class won’t have a problem, but my new film production class will be very limited.

How many students? What types of projects?

We do all types of projects but are moving into an emphasis on movie making and screenplay writing.

How many kids to do the morning news broadcast?CMC07

It takes about 14 kids to do the show, but we can do it with 7.

Do you also do a weekly broadcast? No.

Special events coverage?

If we want to. We often do the school plays, strictly as a service for them and also do all the national board certification taping for teachers.

What jobs do the kids do?

They do everything. I am only a coach.

Do the kids rotate through on-air talent and crew positions or are they “hired” for a specific task?

Every student rotates through every position in the beginning of the year, but then we settle into two or three kids rotating on a particular position. I choose the executive producers and the GM, but in all honesty, they rise to the occasion long before I give them the job.

Do students audition for on-air positions?

CZ: We actually have to recruit kids to be anchors, most don’t want to. However, they all have to try out so I can avoid a crisis when they are live. I need to know they can actually read and see the teleprompter.

Do they write the content?

Yes. They research the days national and local news and choose what to report, and then write up their own copy to read. Sports and weather are handles the same way.

How long does the show run? 8 minutes

Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV?

CZ: Every live show we do is uploaded to SchoolTube within 15 minutes of airing. It is later linked from our website to SchoolTube. You can watch every show we produced this year. We also are uploading our old shows from previous years and hope to one day have everything going back to 1987.

Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?

CZ: Our show streams on our districts intranet, but can only be viewed outside through our site or School tube.

Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?

CZ: I don’t have it written down, but it would change every year. The best advice I can give anybody is don’t get hung up on equipment. Build a nice set, learn how to tell a good news story, shoot on whatever digital camera you can get, try to use a handheld mic or lav, edit on whatever editing software you have and be the best. Believe it.

Every school nowadays has digital camcorders and computers. You can be the best with just that.

SVN: Have any quick start tips!

CZ: Don’t wait for tomorrow.