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Lights, camera, action!
Students get inside look behind the scenes of television production
Tying into the seemingly never-ending viral moments posted online, Port Chester High School has found a way to tap into that interest. It has created its own YouTube channel, producing programs as a means to engage a larger audience and provide students with some real-world experience in the field of television production.
“Ram Watch” is the brainchild of Bill Lauer, media specialist with Port Chester Public Schools. He has experience creating programming for two district television channels on PCSTV.
“Ram Watch” began four years ago as a way to broadcast events at the high school and now focuses on one-on-one interviews with members of the Class of 2019. The program is called One to One. The most recent edition, out this week, features seniors Maria Fernandez and Eli Taylor-Lemire.
Mr. Lauer, who is the one often behind a camera and at the board editing videotaped events, knew Port Chester High School had the resources, including cameras, a studio, a sound and editing board. He said too that student production is not new at the high school.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity for students to learn an aspect of television production,” Mr. Lauer said as to what got him thinking of inviting students to join him in his work. “With the resources provided by the district I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to expanded different areas of programing such as ‘Ram Watch.’”
Mr. Lauer brought in Assistant Principal Luke Sotherden to assist with some of the logistics, including recruiting students to work behind the scenes and scheduling times to tape video.
When “Ram Watch” first began, it operated as an on-demand video. Mr. Sotherden is hopeful making the switch to broadcasting on YouTube will create a larger audience, especially among the high school students and more.
“We want the audience to be kids, teachers, administrators, taxpayers, parents,” Mr. Sotherden said.
The audience is growing.
“’Ram Watch’ appears on our two cable TV channels, district web site streaming and YouTube, Mr. Lauer said. “YouTube is new for us, so far it seems to be targeting additional audiences which have boosted our views.”
In past years, the school produced three to four episodes of “Ram Watch” but the schedule was challenging. It was difficult to get students together at the same time to operate the cameras, handle the audio and work on post-production editing.
To simplify operations, this year “Ram Watch” is taping interviews with members of the senior class. This option is more manageable on the schedules of busy students. The hope too, Mr. Sotherden said, is this allow more shows throughout the year to be created.
The new format has proven to be a fun and interesting endeavor. Student interviewers ask seniors a variety of questions and they have an opportunity to reflect on their time at PCHS.
What has impressed Mr. Sotherden with this project is the education he has received. He was not familiar with the ins and outs of television production and the many hours it takes just for a few minutes of video content. He has also learned of the many jobs there are in the industry.
“I hope it opens their eyes up,” he said of the students and learning opportunities that are available.
Mr. Lauer said he is impress with how students learn these new skills.
“With today’s technologies, it’s amazing how quickly the students pick up on television production,” he said. “From September to June there is a notable difference the student’s abilities.”
“I’m very pleased with what we have done with ‘Ram Watch,” Mr. Lauer said. “Our goal is to do a better job producing each show and to expand to different genres like “One to One.” The foresight of future programming is something we all look forward to.”
Junior Joseph Decarlo enjoys photography and sometimes submits his work to a local newspaper. He considers the work he does with a video camera as another creative outlet he can enjoy.
“It’s interesting,” Joseph said. “I would like to improve and have it as a hobby.”
Joseph was described by Mr. Sotherden as a committed member of the production team and a “jack of all trades” as he has helped with camera operations, sound, editing and more.
It has also given Joseph the opportunity to enjoy a variety of school activities. He has been there, behind the camera, covering everything from sporting events to graduation and beyond.
“We piece everything together and make a TV show,” Joseph said.
The work he does, he said, is an art form and a way of expressing himself.
“You see how many hours and the dedication that goes into it,” he said. “I’d say ‘Ram Watch’ is an intermediate course,” something which would be beneficial to the many students he knows who are interested in pursuing filmmaking as a career.
Senior Grace Herbert has been involved since her freshman year and has worked extensively with Mr. Lauer. Her older brother was also involved and she joked she wanted to continue the family tradition.
Much of her focus is with the audio portion of the production, a field she hopes to pursue after high school when she studies music recording.
She has been there for numerous school activities including concerts and Homecoming Weekend.
This year she will be skipping graduation filming, as she will have other things going on that evening.
“I really like it for the audio, it’s one of my passions,” Grace said.
Two years ago, Mr. Lauer asked her to come aboard as the coordinating producer.
“That gave me a boost to my ego,” she said.
Away from the studio, Grace said her experience in producing “Ram Watch” has helped her feel more comfortable speaking with people and being more social. The experience has also helped her writing as she has written scripts.
“I’m a grammar fiend,” she admitted.
“I’m grateful to be a part of something where you can learn so much,” Grace said. “It’s nice being a part of a project and know you were a part of it at a young age.”