Friday, May 7, 2010
CCTV builds momentum, seeks members, producers
In the mid-to-late 1980s, Congress passed a law that allowed communities to negotiate with cable companies to attain up to three local television channels in exchange for franchise fees. The three channels were for local Public Access, Education and Government, or PEG, the idea being to give municipalities input and access to the airwaves. According to CCTV Executive Director Charles Paige, over time, the cable companies began to see less value for themselves in local television, and most now give communities money to support operating expenses rather than providing specific services themselves.
Therefore, Court Booth, now best known as the coordinator of Concord-Carlisle Community Education, put together a non-profit company and a board of directors to manage our area PEG channels in 2004, negotiated with Comcast, and the present CCTV was born.
The studio had always been at Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS), and remains there to this day, along with robotic studios in both Concord and Carlisle (the Clark Room in Town Hall). Booth and his board negotiated contracts with the town to provide the PEG services for each community: training for video photographers and editors, equipment, and three channels to air the shows.
According to the CCTV website, each channel has its own purpose: Public Access Channel 8 “is a local, mass-media forum for free speech and features programming produced or sponsored by CCTV members from the community.” Government Channel 9 “features government programming originating from local, state and federal sources,” and Public Access Channel 10 “features educational programming from Concord and Carlisle School districts.”
The CCTV mission is “to foster community, communication and collaboration by providing citizens that live, work or attend school in Concord or Carlisle with the skills and equipment necessary to produce their own local cable television programs.” The present staff has been working hard to get out into the schools and communities and encourage individual citizens to film their own shows.
Most Carlisleans are familiar with one of CCTV’s most ubiquitous field photographers, Dave Ives, who records events live from Selectmen’s meetings to library programs that are “evergreen” (are archived and rebroadcast without becoming dated) like the Eliot Lillien lecture series. Cindy Nock, Library Director Angela Mollet and Selectman and CCTV Board Member Bill Tice (who, says Paige, is an “avid techie”) have all been active behind the cameras, as have many high school students.
CCTV at CCHS: learning and technology
CCHS has been developing an integral relationship with CCTV in the last five or six years, although in 2004, says Paige, “I didn’t see a teacher or student for the first six months.” Production Manager Matt Geiger adds, “I don’t think anyone knew we were here.” However, since those days, CCTV has worked hard to develop independent study courses with teachers, and the meteorology class now regularly uses the studio’s live chroma-key screen (popularly known as “green screen”) to practice weather forecasting on camera. The future meteorologists of the high school’s Weather Service Club now do forecasts for television and radio about three times a week. Kester Kreuger, the station’s associate production manager, notes that, “we are getting more and more teachers to use video as well, as a teaching tool. This started first in English and language classes, as kids filmed final projects, but now has become more of an interactive learning tool. We hope to develop a full media studies class.”
Kreuger, who chuckles that, “I was brought into class this place up a bit,” asserts that “CCTV has been growing, with more people realizing what a wonderful resource this is. They brought me on to be temporary help, but I will soon become a full-timer. I grew up here and went to CCHS, so I’ve seen it grow over time.” .
CCTV has received a Concord Educational Fund grant for a newsroom system to provide school-related and local news. Classrooms are all equipped with active boards, DVD/VHS players and cable drops that connect each classroom to the cable system, and in the last three years, the studio itself has upgraded its editing and technology system. “Feature films,” says Geiger, “are cut on the same software as we use.” Kreuger adds, “This system really is a great learning tool. Pictures make everything more engaging.”
Lindsay Alaimo, CCTV’s education and outreach coordinator, says that more and more students are coming in to use the technology offered by CCTV. “We just had a troop of Girl Scouts come in to shoot on the green screen; they were making an environmental news program for their Bronze Award. They had shot their videos in the field, written a great script and came in to shoot their script here. We helped them edit their video and showed them how it would play behind them after they filmed themselves in front of the green screen. They learned really fast. They were the best students I have had so far.”
CCTV and the community: education and social networking
Alaimo came to CCTV with a degree in theater and communications. Now in her ninth year in the field, she trains and educates citizens in the use of the CCTV technology and works to get the word out that individuals can produce their own shows on CCTV.
“I also do event planning,” she continued. “Our latest event is a networking, meet and greet publicity event at the Concord Art Association on May 20 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. We’ll have local musicians and caterers. Members and, hopefully, interested new members can reach out to each other and talk about new possibilities. The CCHS art show will be there during the event as well, exhibited on the walls, and the CC weather services club will do a live demo. We’ll be raffling off a flip camera, an iPad and other fun things.” (For more information, contact Alaimo at email@example.com.)
Citizens produce their own shows
Besides high school students and others, she says, “another group that is really taking advantage of our system is senior citizens. Many are filming their own events or coming in and documenting things for the school and town government.”
One of the more active individual producers at CCTV is Carlisle’s Marilyn Cugini, whose new show, Discussing Creativity, has filmed 13 episodes in two months. Cugini approached CCTV initially to help her publicize the Concord Players’ production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and “I was so excited when they told me I could have my own half-hour show, featuring the creative people in our area, publicizing what they do. The interesting part of it is to think about creativity and to help people who are creative to be more so. A dance show, for example, might be shot remotely, but we could do the interview in the studio. Sitting and talking about how to do the shows, scheduling, making sure there is staff to assist, that’s all part of it.”
I have had the opportunity to host a number of episodes for Marilyn, on subjects ranging from a book discussion with a local author to interviews with the director and producers of this year’s seventh grade play at the Carlisle Public School, and the leading actors and directors of the Concord Players’ production of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Upcoming shows will feature local opera and music teachers, the Savoyard Light Opera Company, and many other creative subjects. Discussing Creativity usually airs on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, and Friday mornings. Episodes may also be viewed on the CCTV website, www.concordtv.org (click “Watch Live”). This is also the way to view any of the other shows you may have missed when they aired on television.
A wide variety of programming
CCTV emphasizes a variety of interests in its programming. Alaimo says, “For example, in addition to a show like [Discussing Creativity], [Carlisleans] Paul and Sue Hansen of the Liberty Christian Family Church are airing their weekly church services. We do the Bruce Marshall music show from Main Street Café in Concord. The COAs (Councils on Aging) from both towns do monthly shows. [State Representative] Corey Atkins comes in monthly to do a show, too.”
Cugini says, “These guys make it fun. You can come totally inexperienced and they are calm and considerate, really encouraging. The director’s booth is scary. Lindsay showed it to us in class and I was humbled by the experience.”
Paige laughs, “We try to take care of the scary parts. We want people to concentrate on their content. We have enough equipment to do whatever we need to do with whatever people come up with. We have field production cameras, lights, microphones. Our camera checkout rate is now 50 to 60 times a month, and we’ve logged over 200 hours of training by the staff this year.”
“We do not want to censor anyone or talk someone out of their ideas,” he continues. “In our bylaws, if there is profanity or obscenity or nudity, each producer has to sign off that it is in the program and the airing will contain disclaimers and specific air times. Whoever comes in and produces a show owns the content and is responsible for the content, for getting rights and permissions. CCTV cannot preview things, because we are a free speech, First Amendment organization. Our procedures are clearly written in the bylaws, and they were carefully composed by our board of directors.
Great staff and modern technology make it easy
Paige has decades of experience in television, specifically in broadcast production, programming and promotion, gleaned from all over the country. He says he came back here because he “married a woman from Boston and she wanted to come home. For me, the opportunity here really fit in to where I was at with my life; we have a wonderful community here that is very supportive of CCTV’s mission, a very good board [of directors], and we have been able to attract very good hires. The staff is the reason we’re doing so well.”
Matt Geiger, affectionately referred to by his colleagues as CCTV’s “jack-of-all trades resource guy,” handles “all the technical aspects of the studio and in-house productions, like in-house promotion spots and members’ studio productions. He also manages the CCTV website and the programming of Channel 8. As production manager and technical director, he is on hand for all studio filming and editing, and helps design the look of each show. “Our cameras are going to be upgraded to ‘hi def’ in next few weeks,” he enthuses, “and the new newsroom set will guarantee a new show from kids. We’re working on improving our digital and social media. On our website, you can find links to our Twitter [name: cctvma] and Facebook [facebook.com/cctv] accounts. We also have a Vimeo link on our website. We’re looking at new ways to disseminate local news and information that we will pursue in the near future.”
Paige phrases the dissemination idea as “the cross-pollination of websites and CCTV. We’re looking at ways to improve the distribution of shows and at how to increase audiences through as many means as we can. We want to develop more local programming. About 60% of what is aired is produced locally. Less than 5% is national; the rest is regional. The key is getting people to walk in the doors and see what they can do. We have a core of about 200 active members in our database and between 15 and 20 active producers. We need more membership and activity.”
Opportunities for everyone
The staff talks excitedly about the need for more local shows, produced by local citizens. They say, for example, that there is a desperate need for regular shows on youth sports: “football and basketball, fencing and wrestling, for example. All these should be done next year.” CCTV will be filming Carlisle’s Old Home Day, and “we will be in the parade. Hopefully, we will have a production van.” The ideas start to flow: “We need shows on cooking; child development; boating and sailing (Carlisle’s Bert Williams is working on one); environmental shows; superintendent-of-school shows; middle schoolers’ shows, like news and concerts; shows on wine tastings; more Boy and Girl Scout shows; any ideas are welcome.”
Getting one’s foot in the door is easy, says Paige. “PSA [Public Service Announcement] Day, for example, is an entry ramp for people to get introduced to the studio as part of our mission to serve non-profits. It’s a promotional juggernaut: a way for groups to promote themselves and communicate to the community their mission, all without cost. We have one coming up on May 8.” Geiger adds, “The day lasts as long as the organizations’ signups last. All groups who sign up can download information to jump-start them into writing a PSA, practicing and gathering materials. Then they come into the studio on May 8 at their designated time, we shoot it and edit it, and the organization has a PSA to promote their organization or event.” Paige puts in, “If you can’t shoot a PSA right away, you should at least get onto our bulletin board of events” that is rolled regularly on the PEG channels.
Kreuger does the “wrap” for this article by saying, “We really have some momentum now, but we need more people to come in and let us show them what they can do. This is the future of communication, after all.”
How to become a member
Joining CCTV is easy and inexpensive: Membership is $15 per individual and $50 for a group with four representatives from the group. Membership gives access to the studio and equipment; there is a $25 fee for training sessions (which would cost about $1,000 in the professional world on the software that CCTV uses). There is no rental fee for equipment used for field-shoots; the equipment is on a free-borrowing basis. Visit www.concordtv.org or carlisletv.org for more information. Contact Lindsay Alaimo (see page 10), or stop in and visit the studio at CCHS. ∆
© 2010 The Carlisle Mosquito