The Frederick County Career and Technology Center is one of the top programs in Maryland. Since this article was crafted, Frederick County won 1st in at the Maryland State SkillsUSA competition in TV Production and Broadcast News Production. In the TV Production contest, they took 1, 2, and 3. They will go to Kansas City to represent Maryland. (see article on SkilllsUSA also in this issue)
We had a few minutes to talk with Adam Frank about his students, program and facility.
SVN: Adam, tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
AF: I graduated from Frostburg State University with a B.S. in Mass Communications with a concentration in video production. After college I began working at a post production house outside of Washington DC, doing work for companies such as IBM, GE, Oracle, and the FDA. After about 5 years there I took a job with a City Government as a producer. After many years there I help start a County Government Channel in Frederick, MD. While there I help out by serving on an advisory committee for the Frederick County Career and Technology Centers TV/Multimedia program. 4 years ago the opportunity to teach this program came up and I jump on it. Since then, I have received my Masters Degree in Administration and have really enjoyed teaching the students in the center.
SVN: How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
AF: When I started, the program had a lot of equipment and a studio. I have been upgrading and changing equipment as I find money. I apply for many grants and students compete in many contests in order to get extra money for new materials. Frederick County Public Schools has been very generous to us, finding money for the things we need.
SVN: Did you have equipment available?
AF: At first we received many computers the public, old computers that we fixed up to work. Now with help from the school system, I have 14 Mac Pro systems with Final Cut Pro suite and 2 Macbook pro laptops with Final Cut Express. Since I started, I converted all the Cannon cameras over to Panasonic DVX 100’s and JVC HD1’s.
SVN: How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes? How is it broken down? Is it a multi-year program?
AF: My program is a 2year program. Students spend ½ day (2 blocks) with me every day. I have 1st year students in the afternoon and 2nd year students are in the morning. Each class has 18 students and they become tech ed completers by the time the 2nd year is finished. Students from the 9 high schools come over and apply to be in the program. Students go through a shadowing or interviewing process and then are selected through pre-determined criteria to be in the class.
SVN: Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?
AF: Each class is 2 hours and 10 minutes long. They first part of the class is instructional time and the second half of the class is a lab based activity. During the first year, students learn all the nuts and bolts of video production. Units include shooting (cameras), editing, audio, lighting, directing, news production, and field work. Students in the first year go through numerous projects, each one focusing on different skills. These projects include a silent movie, a horror movie, music videos, how to videos, PSA’s, commercials, trailers, and a mini movie. I know that I am forgetting things, but that a start. Students receive new project about every 2 weeks. In the second year, students take the skills they have learned in the first year and start to apply them to real world situations. Students may be asked by members or companies in the community to complete projects or assignments. During the second year, students also build a video portfolio that they use to pursue post-secondary opportunities. By the end of 2 years in the program, students are well prepared to move on to post-secondary opportunities or directly into the workforce. I have several articulations with colleges that provide students up to 12 credits for completion of my program
SVN: How many kids to do the morning news broadcast? Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?
AF: I do not do a daily or weekly broadcast. I do broadcast only when specifically asked to. I do train a new production team that does simulated news broadcasting about twice a week. We also do projects with other classes in our building that simulate students being news reporters. An example is the Law Enforcement class is doing a crash scenario, and my students will approach the situation as a news team trying to get the story. We then will create a news broadcast and use the story they got. Both classes then critique the production to see if the Law enforcement students correctly handled the scene, and they news student properly got the story. Students really enjoy doing these scenarios.
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?
AF: In the first year, students are rotated through all the positions of a new cast. Each student has an opportunity to do all the jobs. During the second year, students are picked or try out for the positions they want to do.
SVN: Do students audition for on-air positions?
AF: During the second year, students kind of try out to see who works best. I have not had an overwhelming response for on air talent; most of my students like to be behind the camera. So having 2 or 3 on air talent is about all it usually get.
SVN: Do they write the content?
AF: Yes, all work is students created. This goes for all our productions as well. All movies, commercials, PSA’s, and other projects are all created by the students.
SVN: How long does the show run?
AF: Depends. In our cases we control the time. It all depends on the content.
SVN: Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV?
AF: My students have submitted many projects to contest over the past several years. All my students are members of SkillsUSA. We compete in 2 contests each year at the SkillsUSA competitions, Television Production and Broadcast News Production. Contest start on a local level, move to a regional level, then to a state level. The winner at the State level then goes on to represent the State at the National level. My program has been State winners in Video Production 9 years in a row and has represented Maryland at the National level. In the past 4 year, we have place 2nd twice and top 10 3 of the 4 years. In 2006, we missed 1st place by one point. In Broadcast News, we have represented Maryland 3 of the last 4 years. We placed top 10 in 2 of those years and 2nd in the nation once.
My students also compete in the Student Television Network competitions, the Shortie Awards, State Farm Project Ignition, and many contests on SchoolTube. Recently student in the program competed in a local film festival that they did very well in. Because of this experience the second year class is hosting a film festival for high school and middle school students in Frederick County.
SVN: Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?
AF: Our news broadcasts are only for internal use. We do create many commercials and PSA’s that are shown on local cable stations. Also all of our work is posted on the internet or SchoolTube.
SVN: Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?
AF: Here is what we are using and we find it works very well:
Mac Pros with Final Cut Pro Suits
I also run Final Cut Express on my laptop
I have a full studio lighting package and several Lowel light kits.
I have a wide variety of studio equipment, tripods, and microphones. Equipment has been pieced together over the years due to funding.
SVN: Have any quick start tips
AF: Television and Video production has change happening all the time. Students need to be taught that they have a great power to influence and persuade the public by using their video skills. Students need to understand the responsibility they have and they must be challenged. I constantly challenge my student to be creative and think outside the “box”. Try to keep the students motivated to try new things and come up with new ideas. I also have students critique and grade each other’s work. Students should be able to talk about share ideas with each other. I try and run a real world experience for the students, especially in the second year of the program. I am trying to prepare them for their post-secondary experiences or entry into to the workforce.