The School Video News Broadcast Center crew keep running into Trent Jones and his students from Springdale Har-Ber High School at almost every event we attend in the Midwest. We finally pinned down Trent and had a chance to talk to him about his excellent program.
SVN: Tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
TJ: I received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville Arkansas. After college I took a job as a photojournalist for the NBC station in Fayetteville Arkansas; I was chief photographer for almost three years until I took the job starting Har-Ber High School’s Television Broadcasting Program
SVN: How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
TJ: We used start up fund, and now we are pretty self sufficient: shooting varieties of choir and band concerts, and we have merchandise that we sell.
SVN: Did you have equipment available?
TJ: We have a pretty good set up: IMAC G5 Final Cut Express HD, Panasonic AG-DV 60s, Azden Wireless Mics, Video Toaster 4
SVN: How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes? How is it broken down? Is it a multi-year program?
TJ: On average I usually have between 115 and 130 every year. Our program is 4 preps/ 1year long classes:
Intro year: Learn the basics of shooting, writing, editing, understanding the media, etc
HBWN (Har-Ber Wildcat News): Daily announcement program that covers the news events of the school and the community
WE TV (Wildcat Entertainment Television): Students produce high quality independent films- they go through the process of treatment, script writing, shooting, acting, lighting, editing, etc
WCSN (Wildcat Sports Network): Weekly sports program that covers all aspects of wildcat sports (sports journalism)
All of our shows air on our local access channe : channel 14
SVN: Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?
TJ: Each class is 50 minutes long: I usually have upwards of 30 in each class:
Intro year: Students will touch on each aspect of media: There projects include Planning, Writing, Shooting, Editing News Packages, Commercials, Short films, etc.
HBWN: Students learn the studio work: cam op, anchor, scriptwriting, directing, floor manager
Field crews: operate as journalists: Have contacts, find stories, cover 60-90sec news packages. Groups of two they have 5 days to finish their story
WE TV: Students break into groups of 5-8: Students operate as specific roles in film production: Director, DP, editor, actor, etc. Students have upwards of a month to create/adapt a story, turn it into a treatment- pitch it to the movie executive (me), once approved, adapt into a storyboard and script, develop a scheduled shot sheet and begin shooting. Then, of course, they edit their final cuts and turn them in.
WCSN: Very fast paced class with lots of work outside of school: Students operate as sports journalists going to all of our sports activities. Students cut a 60-90 second highlights package weekly. They usually have three days to capture, write, voice, cut and print their stories. Very intense class. The other half of the class does the studio production: opening and closing graphics, top plays of the week and special guests on set, etc. We have been experimenting with hand held cameras in the studio to make this show look fresh. Weekly TRT approx 20 minutes. These students get it done!
SVN: How many kids to do the morning news broadcast? Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?
TJ: We have 20 students who do our daily announcement program: 2 cam ops, 1 anchor, 1 weather, 1 director, 1 asst director/graphics operator. The rest of the team have weekly assignment posts: They go out and cover all the aspects of the school and produce 60-90sec packages: ie: this week in science or construction or agri etc.
We do cover all special events of our district- talk shows, concerts, school dedications, special guests etc.
Our films air once a month and our Sports broadcast is weekly.
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?
TJ: The students are trained in every aspect of news production. Then they are free to rotate if so desired.
SVN: Do students audition for on-air positions?
TJ: I don’t audition them…I let them decide what they would like to try then I train them and tweek them to get better at their respective positions
SVN: Do they write the content?
TJ: I write the scripts for the anchors: but the field crews write all their own material
SVN: How long does the show run?
TJ: Our daily announcement program is 10 minutes
Our films are between 5-20 minutes (usually have 4 new films a month)
Our sports program is between 15-20 minutes
SVN: Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV?
TJ: We participate in several contests: Skills USA, Arkansas Scholastic Press Association, AETN Film Festival, ADE Film Festival, T Tauri Film Festival, and soon to come Student Television Network
SVN: Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?
TJ: Yes, we have a local access channel in the city of Springdale. We are working on getting our webpage more up to speed
SVN: Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?
TJ: I use the Panasonic AG-DV 60 3CCD mini dv cameras: I use them particularly because they have XLR inputs and a viewfinder. Professional cameras don’t have LCD monitors so I don’t want the students getting use to flipping open the LCD monitor…I want their eyes firmly placed inside that viewfinder.
SVN: Have any quick start tips!
TJ: Watch for production value: instead watching the shots ask yourself “where did that camera person have to stand to get those shots” “What questions did the reporters ask to get those soundbytes”
Watch the directors commentary on EVERY movie you rent: Its like having your very own film study class in your living room.
Most importantly: think like a professional. Don’t just watch tv or film…try to figure out how it was made and ask yourself…”could I do that”
Remember you don’t need the best equipment in the world.. your brain, passion, and creativity are the tools that will make you successful. Study your art, be technically sound, always laugh and ALWAYS MEET YOUR DEADLINE!