Gregg Hawks invited us to Pulaski County High School in Dublin, Virginia
SVN: Tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
GH: I started and ran Video Works of North Carolina for 15 years before selling the business in 2007. We worked for local, regional and national clients such as A&E’s Biography, E! True Hollywood Stories, Montel Williams, TV Land and Spike TV to name a few. I was Executive Producer of Doctor on Call that aired in 5 states and went into a million households on PBS and segment producer for Simple Living with Wanda Urbanska which was on 85% of PBS stations. I also edited The Outdoor Sportsman for 3 seasons and was a segment producer for Blue Ridge Outdoors on PBS for one season.
In the summer of 2007, I was working way too many hours and thought I needed to do something that gave me an opportunity to stop occasionally and smell the roses, so I decided to sell the business to one of my production assistants. As I began to look for something else to do I was told about the opportunity at Pulaski County High School in Dublin, Virginia. I visited the campus and was impressed by the facility and the people. There was a rich tradition of Career and Technical Education at the high school and I really enjoyed my visit. I applied for the position and was fortunate to land my dream job. I have come to understand that teaching is a calling, not a profession. I have been called.
SVN: How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
GH: While a good amount of studio equipment was in place when I arrived we needed to switch from analogue to digital editing and much of the funding came from Carl Perkins grants which are the life blood of CTE. We also fund raise by selling DVD’s of school productions, events and graduation. We’re just getting into the streaming and are excited by the possibilities to help fund equipment purchases. The school board, Superintendent and my administrators have all been very supportive of the program as it has grown and have helped with grants and funding as well.
SVN: Did you have equipment available?
GH: We have both standard and high definition (4)Sony and (2)Canon camcorders for the students to use. We use Sennheiser boom or lapel mic’s depending on the need and edit with Apple iMovie and Avid editing systems. We also have a fully functional Studio with control room and classroom facilities and are able to wirelessly stream school events. We also have school YouTube and SchoolTube channels that we administer.
SVN: How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes? How is it broken down? Is it a multi-year program?
GH: Generally there are around 35 to 45 students enrolled in Level 1,2, and 3 classes. We are on a block system so level 2 and 3 are either year long or double blocked classes to allow for more production time.
Level 1 students learn the basics of editing images with GIMP, a free open source program that is very similar to Photoshop in many ways and being open source has a tutorial for most anything a student would want to do. We begin editing with Windows Move Maker to learn the basics of adding footage and audio, video effects and transitions and exporting projects because most students have a Windows computer at home. Students then move on to iMovie with it’s more precise editing capabilities. Early in Level 1 we begin to learn camcorder operation, audio techniques, studio operation and location shooting. Students will then begin to create their own PSA’s as they learn the different types of scripts, crew and cast roles and how to use our equipment in field locations to your advantage.
Level two students start by creating their own PSA’s or school based videos for other classes or organizations within the school community. This is either a year long or double block class and students are expected to demonstrate teamwork, professionalism in all situations and show competence in the use of equipment in the field and the studio. Level two students also learn Chroma and Luminance key basics and how to use key effects to enhance the visual aspects of their productions in the studio and as well as on location. Students work independently and in groups and fill out a daily work sheet to reflect on what they have accomplished that day. The work sheet is also a feedback tool and counts as part of their grade. Finally Level 2 students will produce a culminating video that reflects their area of special interest such a studio production, field and location shooting or special effects editing. They must have project proposals, scripts and storyboards approved before beginning the project and it is graded using those components as a guide.
Level 3 students are expected to work independently with teacher supervision. The class structure is similar to that of a working studio or production company. Students propose projects, work on scripts and storyboards, assemble crew and cast, get location permission and perform all the duties of a producer through preproduction, production and post production. Students are also encouraged to help on after school programs and events, although this is not mandatory, we have a core of students that enjoy field production and like to participate very much.
SVN: Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?
GH: Classes are 90 minutes per block, we double block level 2 and 3 classes. Projects range from productions for other classes, PSA’s, News and sportscasts, comedy and dramatic videos.
SVN: How many kids to do the morning news broadcast? Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?
We currently are working on a method of getting morning announcements to all classrooms. Due to the age of the buildings, physical layout and construction and repairs our originally installed system doesn’t work anymore so we are working on delivering the morning news on line.
SVN: Do your students capture other school events? Sports? Assemblies? Board meetings? Musical Performances?
GH: We capture all school events with the exception of board meetings and sports. We are working toward doing sports as well.
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?
GH: Students usually grow into certain positions, while everyone is expected to spend time in front and behind the camera, students develop areas of interest and talent that they specialize in.
SVN: Do students audition for on-air positions?
GH: Sometimes but not always. there are students that naturally migrate to those positions because of comfort in front of the camera and skill at reading teleprompters.
SVN: Do they write the content?
GH: Students are responsible for content, but as in a working studio, the content is reviewed by the teacher.
SVN: How long does the show run?
GH: Running times vary depending on content since we’re not doing it on a regular basis yet.
SVN: Do you submit programming to independent contest?
GH: We have entered several contests such as SkillsUSA and contests run by other entities. Our proudest moment was when we swept the top three spots in a contest about producing Healthy Living PSA’s and won $700.00 for our program.
SVN: Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access?
GH: We can broadcast on our school/district web-site? Any broadcast can be viewed by local public access cable via a local community college channel, Youtube, SchoolTube and our broadcast loop in our commons area. Of course we also are able to produce content for broadcast on local affiliate stations.
SVN: Where do you post programming? YouTube? Vimeo? SchoolTube? SVN-TV? Other?
GH: YouTube, School Tube and hopefully SVN-TV in the near future.
SVN: Have any quick start tips!
• Students live up to expectations, high expectations need to be communicated from the first day and repeated often.
• Students learn best when they are having fun, do what you can to make the process of learning fun. Who doesn’t want to be on TV!
• Always communicate the proper way to do things by modeling it for students as well as telling them. Done often enough, it becomes habit for them as well.
• Celebrate victories and well done projects. Be honest in evaluating work that is not up to standard. Go through the project and explain how it can be improved. Then give the student a chance to do so.
• Be a resource for your entire school system, nothing makes friends faster than favors done. This also provides real world learning opportunities for your students to demonstrate skill and professionalism to peers, teachers and administrators.