Dan Young, Matt Holland and Steve Belanger: Garage X
Dan Young is the guy you’ll work with to learn the ins and outs of filmmaking and producing a TV show at Access Nashua. But he initially became involved with Access Nashua through producing his own public access television show, Garage X on Nashua’s Channel 96.
The show is a do-it-yourself car fix-it show, with car repair enthusiasts Matt Holland and Steve Belanger (above). Young has produced just two shows, but these are more complex than most TV shows you’ll see on your public access channel. They’re dynamic, 30-minute projects shot outside the studio (take a look, at accessnashua.com). The beginning looks like something from old-school MTV, with a catchy introduction flashing the slogan, “Garage X: Real cars, Real people, Real budgets.” The show is pre-taped and pre-edited, and you can tell — there are phone scenes, outdoor scenes, repair scenes, interview scenes, fix-it scenes, and it moves effortlessly. In their first show, they work to refurbish and redesign a 1997 Ford F-150. The hosts don’t describe themselves as experts, but they talk to the experts. It’s lighthearted and fun, filled with funny dialogue and interesting shots of Belanger and Holland at work.
These shows take much longer to produce than most, and the work shows.
Steve Shaw: Music and Life
It’s the longest show name on Concord TV: Steve Shaw’s Without Music, Life Would Be a Mistake: Improvisation in Music and Life is like a talk show about how art and music affect your outlook on life.
Shaw describes his show as an improv kind of show. He features guests, with whom he talks about how music affects their thoughts and feelings.
“I like the spontaneity. It’s neat how people learn on camera,” Shaw says.
It’s very easy to sit in the hot seat and talk with him. At certain times, on a talk show like this, it’s easy to forget the camera’s even there, he says; much of the time, his hour-long segment flies by, and then, all of a sudden, he has only a few minutes to wrap up.
“Any time you go out of the studio, it becomes inherently more complicated,” Young said. You have to worry about snow, leaf blowers, wind, rain, car noises and sunlight. “But one of the greatest parts: It’s local content. There’s no other place to do this,” Young said.
Sharing stories — Bob Stevens in Veterans Forum
Bob Stevens is an 89-year-old veteran, and he’s still as sharp and charismatic as he ever was. He hosts Veterans Forum, which tells the stories of U.S. war vets.
You can see the show in a number of local towns; he’s on at 10:30 p.m. every night on Channel 23 in Derry, said Derry Community Television reporter Kimberly Haas. He’s also regularly on Manchester Community TV (Channel 23) and on Londonderry’s public access channel (CTV-20).
In Veterans Forum, Stevens and a veteran guest sit in front of an American flag and talk. With dark eyebrows and a short, light, “busy” beard (and a bald head, he adds, which “the mosquitos use as a landing!”), he’s a wonderful interviewer — funny, serious, patient and relatable.
Veterans Forum is a show featured across the country; veterans from all over host shows on their respective community television station. Stevens became interested in filming his own after he was interviewed on a Veterans Forum in Dalton, Mass.
“Frankly, I enjoyed it. I was a ham. I’m a good, cured ham,” he said. After he saw the playback of the show, he thought he’d try it out for himself. “I’ve been told — and I’m starting to recognize it — that I have an engaging manner, the ability to tell a story,” he said. He shot his first show in Pittsfield, Mass.
“I was given the statistic that in World War II there were 16 million guys doing their thing throughout the world. Of that crowd, there are less than 3 million still alive,” he said. “I’m an old sailor, and it’s corny but true: When they die, and they haven’t told their story, nobody will,” Stevens said.
Many veterans come on the air to tell their stories, and like Stevens, they find it cathartic. Perhaps it’s because, like Stevens says, he has an engaging manner about him. Maybe it’s because he, too, is a war vet. Many of the veterans who come on to tell their stories, though, have never told them before, Stevens said.
“Not all of us are John Wayne hero types. For many [interviews], it’s about the guy who did a simple thing. For others, it’s a bit more. But the bottom line is to get the word out to all the veterans, to come on the show and share their story,” he said.
“It’s at the bottom scale with TV production, and it’s just as good, if not better than something you’d see on commercial television sets. But then, I’m biased!” he admits. “The thing I’m happy about with my show: It’s history that’s made by people, and it’s told by the people who made it, the gal and the guy who did it,” he said.
Workshops, classes and no stupid questions
Many access centers provide one-on-one lessons in camera, editing and television production. Londonderry, Manchester, Nashua and Derry, for instance, all offer these one-on-one lessons for their residents.
“Everyone has different needs. Some people have never touched a mouse, and some people are very adept at these things and want to get better,” said Joe Lahr, operations specialist at Manchester Public TV. “Some have a technical aversion, but boy to do they know how to talk!” he said.
Hosting group lessons has its perks, too. Nashua Access trainer Dan Young is looking to schedule some workshops for editing, filming and media journalism later in the year. Concord holds monthly classes and occasional workshops to accommodate its group of filming enthusiasts.
I was allowed to sit in on one of these classes, Introduction to Camera. My classmates were UNH screenwriting professor Dana Biscotti (looking to make an example for her students — she hopes that they’ll produce their writing in multimedia) and Nick Darling, a 17-year-old Concord High School senior who is filming Concord football games for a media class. (These classes are also free for Concord High School students to take.)
This small informal class, taught by production/training coordinator Jonathan LeDuc, assured me that I was not technically incompetent — that, in fact, I could totally produce this article in a film instead of in words, if my editors wished. (All right, we didn’t go that in-depth.)
It started with a fun video that gave basic tips for filming, such as not to cut off people’s chins. I learned the “rule of thirds,” how to “compose the nose,” and to look out for bad backgrounds (for example, make sure there aren’t any poles sticking out of your subject’s head).
Then we learned how to use the cameras that the access center distributes — how to turn the camera on, how to focus, to zoom in, zoom out, and how to adjust the settings and the lighting to best show off your subjects (and the lighting to avoid: overhead, fluorescent lighting, backlighting, and weird-colored lighting).
LeDuc gave us some tips on audio, too — basically, that if you’ve got bad audio, you’ve got nothing. Content is king, he said, “but audio is 90 percent of what you see.” “If people are interested in the content, they’ll still watch, even if the video is not as good,” LeDuc said. Use alternative sound, he advised (a microphone, perhaps), because the video camera will pick up the sound of every lawn mower, every whirl of wind and every car alarm in the area. “Air conditioning,” he said, “is the hallmark of bad audio.”
Knowledge of how to film and edit is not mandatory in order to create a basic show on most stations. The classes are open for those who are interested in becoming more tech-savvy or who would like to put a little more work into their show, but at most public access stations, the employees are there to help.
The best part of the class was that LeDuc assured that there were no stupid questions. Even when I had to ask a few times where the “off” button was on the camera.
Upcoming classes/workshops with Concord TV:
• Intro to Camera ($25) is Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 6 p.m.; Wednesday, Nov. 7, at 6 p.m.; and Wednesday, Dec. 12, at 6 p.m.
Every center has its own personality
Most public access stations require that you be a resident or that you work within the city whose station you’re requesting to create a show on. Check with the station for its rules.
• Bedford Community Television (10 Meetinghouse Road, Bedford, 472-8288) also has the PEG format — public (Channel 16), government (Channel 22) and school (Channel 23). The website (bedfordtv.com) offers live streaming and video on demand.
• Concord TV (170 Warren St., Concord, yourconcordtv.org, 226-8872) Although most of the programming is done by the public for the public, some of the programs are put together by employees at the access center. Channel 6 is the education channel, Channel 17 is for government and 22 is public access. Concord TV is described as an “on-air, community bulletin board” where local groups and nonprofits can publicize meetings and events. It’s a nonprofit organization, incorporated in 1998, to manage Concord’s community television center and its three channels. It’s located within Concord High School, but it is a separate entity. Concord TV does not have live streaming of its show, but you can download shows from the website. Right now, only the Concord TV staff-produced shows are available for download, but soon all the shows that air on Concord TV will be available to download at yourconcordtv.org, said Jonathan LeDuc.
• Derry Community Television (Derry Municipal Center, 14 Manning St., Derry, 845-5518, derry.nh.us, derrytv.wordpress.com). Derry’s media station is linked to organizations all over town, featuring channels 17 (government) and 23 (public access). There are a few key players at Derry Community Television — there’s video producer Sean Zajac, cable system coordinator Chris Martin, assistant cable system coordinator Debbie Roy and something that most community television stations do not: a reporter and video producer, Kimberly Haas. The station is very active with Pinkerton Academy, offering internships for local high school students, and as with most access centers, it covers local events, moving around in its mobile truck. Training includes classes in basic camera, basic editing, studio production, audio production, lighting directing and graphics for video.
• Goffstown Television (goffstown.com/gtv.html, 497-8990, 27 Wallace Road, Goffstown) began in 1992. Also located within the town high school, it features a public channel (16) and a government channel (22). Right now, there are seven regular shows within this smaller access station. They station is volunteer-based, David Suitor said, and while they do offer one-on-one lessons for residents who want to learn more about creating television, the employees at Goffstown television take care of most of the technical work.
• Londonderry Access Community Television (281 Mammoth Road, Londonderry, 432-1147, lactv.com) is right next to the local high school. There’s a public access (CTV-20) and a government (GOV-22) channel. The website offers live streaming. Londonderry Access Center is one of the larger stations in the area, led by Erin Barry. In addition to providing residents access to filming equipment, studio usage and lessons (which are free), the access center offers summer camps and kids’ after-school programs on Tuesdays from 3 to 5 p.m. (Their latest venture is in creating Halloween movies.) “It’s surprising how many people don’t know that we’re available for anyone looking to work on a show -- it’s pretty much as local as you can get,” Barry said. TV topics have a wide range, from learning to eat right to travel.
• Manchester TV (manchestertv.org, 628-6099, 1045 Elm St., Manchester, manchesterTV@comcast.net) hosts three community access channels. Channel 16 is dedicated to art, culture and education. This includes local sports, school graduations, musical concerts and parades. Channel 22 hosts government meetings and programs about city services. Channel 23 is where local residents can produce their own shows. Manchester Public Television was created July 1, 2010, and is available on Comcast cable; live streaming is available online (it requires a download of Microsoft Silverlight). Private, one-on-one instruction is available. Representing the biggest city in the state, it’s also one of the only channels that features live public access television. These programs take place at the studio itself. “People like it when the phone rings. It means people are watching. It means that people are being stimulated enough to call, and they’re interested,” Lahr said. “It’s wonderful, because you’re actually interacting with the community while it’s happening,” he said. Access to the public TV center is $100 per year.
• Merrimack TV (6 Baboosic Lake Road, Merrimack, 423-8561, merrimacktv.com) offers three local access channels, including the community channel on 22; education on 21 and government on channel 20. The station provides video equipment facilities and training for Merrimack residents and nonprofit groups who serve in Merrimack.
• Access Nashua (accessnashua.org, 11 Riverside St., Nashua, 589-3141) is a relatively new to public TV. The town had been considering it for years, but it wasn’t until 2011 that Mayor Donnalee Lozeau put Nashua’s public access center in the budget for a trial run. After one year, the city decided to renew the contract and fund it. “Our job is to make it as easy as possible to produce a show.... They [producers] like the willingness of the team to work with them,” Dick Gagnon said. Gagnon worked for 17 years at Goffstown’s television station before he made his way to Nashua. Right now the access center features about 17 shows. This is one of the few channels that offers both online streaming and video on demand. Public channel is 96, government is 16 and education is Channel 99.