After seeing a video that the students at East Grand Rapids High School (MI) produced, we reached out to Pamela Steers, Teacher of Television Production, Film Studies and Film Making.
SVN: Tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
PS: I have a Communications degree, but with an emphasis in Theater. I have been involved with drama in the community and high schools for over 30 years. 8 years ago the television production teacher left and I had to take over the program, as I was the only one in the building with a communications degree. I had done some commercial work and taken mass media in college and taught public speaking for years. I struggled for a bit learning the technical side of broadcasting, as I had been trained during my college years on VHS!
SVN: How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
PS: Our TV studio was put together with some technical bond money years ago. It is getting outdated and our computer editing stations, camcorders and switcher need to be updated. There is a small communications budget given to the class by the school, but it is only enough to supply DVDs, tapes and maybe replace a camera or mic a year.
PS: We have a bond issue coming up in May that will hopefully fund new equipment and a new studio. If not, we have a school foundation who we can write a grant for and they may be able to assist in funding some new computers and cameras, but not enough to update everything needed. Budget cuts and State Funding is a big issue in getting any school monies for tv and film classes.
SVN: Did you have equipment available?
PS: We have 6 computer editing stations with Adobe Premier Pro CS3 and 9 computer editing stations with Adobe Premier Pro CS4. We have 10 Cannon ZR960s and 2 Cannon GLX 2s. 3 tripods and one dolly. 1 lighting kit with 2 lights, various hand held mics and one small shotgun mic.
SVN: How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes?
PS: How is it broken down? Is it a multi-year program?
Television Production II – is a year long class that does a 9 minute daily announcement program. There are typically between 15 and 20 students who are in the application only class. They must meet the prerequisite of TV I or Film Making.
Television Production I - is a semester log class that is the basic introductory class that covers camera and editing basics, various projects and television history. This is the prerequisite for TV II and the announcements. There are two of these offered a year with typically 20 student in each class.
Film Studies – is a semester class that analyzes and views American films and looks at the American film history and industry. There is a short unit where all student pre-produce, film and edit a short 2 minute film to include a hands on element. This class attendance varies year by year due to interest- typical class has 30 students and can be offered 3 – 5 times a year.
Film Making- is a semester class. Students must have had TV I or Film Studies as a prerequisite. The make one major film in a group and one individual film. Class size varies and from 15 – 25. This is typically run every other year.
SVN: Can you tell us a little more about the sessions What types of projects?
PS: TV II – Produces a daily live show each morning that is 9 minutes called Primetime Pioneers. We follow a structure of
Pledge of Allegiance – Pre-recorded
Intro – Pre-recorded
Anchors into – Live
Daily Trivia Question- pre-recorded that dayNews – live each day
Weather- pre-recorded that day
Corner Spotlight- live –each day this can be quests, interviews or an introduction to a special feature that a reporter has pre-recorded
Trivia Answer – Pre-recorded.
There are weekly segments students work on that we air:
This Week in History
This Week in Entertainment
SVN: How many kids to do the morning news broadcast?
PS: Currently 18 Do you also do a weekly broadcast? No –Daily 9 minute live show Special events coverage? No – we don’t have the time with doing a daily show. We do a few all school assemblies and each student is in charge of filming one outside of the hour class time event during each semester.
SVN: Do your students capture other school events? Sports? Assemblies? Board meetings? Musical Performances?
PS: See above- sports very randomly, no board meetings, two school assemblies per yet. No to musicals as they are copyrighted and videotaping is not allowed.
SVN: 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? Students will out a job inventory each semester and list their order of preference for “jobs” There are then 3 rotations per semesters where they change jobs. Each rotation is about 5 weeks. So, they learn different job positions during each 5 weeks: talent and scriptwriting, reporting, special features, camera, sound, technical director, daily segments, weekly segments, etc.
SVN: Do students audition for on-air positions?
PS: No –we just rotate in those who are interested in giving it a try.
SVN: Do they write the content?
PS: Yes. Students write the script each day
SVN: How long does the show run?
PS: 9 minutes
SVN: Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?
PS: Yes on the local cable access channel.
SVN: Where do you post programming? YouTube? Vimeo? SVN-TV? Other?
PS: We also have a You Tube channel and try to upload the announcements periodically – we don’t have time to upload daily as it takes almost 45 minutes to upload and the class ends when the announcement end- so logistically is a problem.
SVN: Have any quick start tips!
PS: If just starting out- I suggest really researching cameras and supporting editing software and be sure everything is compatible, easy for students to download/capture and edit and send a final product. This has been our biggest struggle as technology changes so quickly.