Students find 15 minutes of fame
Remember the days of yawning through the morning announcements while your teacher listed off club meeting times and athletic team updates in monotone? Maybe one reason students at Park City High School (PCHS) are informed about and involved in school activities is because they pay more attention to the morning announcements than students at most high schools.
Chris Maddux, media technology and broadcast media teacher at PCHS, and the Miner Morning Show production crew are to thank for their creative efforts. They put together a live, 11-minute TV news show that is broadcast to nearly every classroom in the school each morning with the purpose of sharing important announcements with the student body. According to Maddux, the Miner Morning Show has been around for about 15 years.
The first few weeks of school, students quickly learn the production process, and for the rest of the semester, the entire show is student-run. The writer, director, producer, talent, sound, filming, and special segments are all student responsibilities.
Every two weeks students are assigned a different job on the set, so by the time the semester is over, they’ve learned about every aspect of the production process.
At 7:35 a.m., after the morning bell rings, the Miner Morning Show production staff gathers for a quick debriefing, and then each student goes to work on their respective assignments. Some students run around, collecting announcements from teachers to include in the show. The scriptwriter works with the on-screen talent and students involved in special segments may go film a short skit about something that relates to student life.
The students learn how to work on a deadline, because at 8:30 a.m., the class reconvenes for rehearsal. Steven Roth, senior, said that the rehearsals are usually rough, but they have a way of pulling things together for the actual show. Then, at 9:09 a.m., the live broadcast begins.
Maddux oversees the whole operation. He helps trouble shoot if a piece of technology misfires and does his best to keep witty remarks appropriate.
One way students keep the show from becoming mundane is by using humorous movie clips or SNL skits during the intro or outro. Scott Bauer, this week’s student producer, said that recently, they’ve been tying the show to the election whenever possible.
According to Bauer, the most coveted position is probably the on screen talent. Don’t be fooled, just because the show is student produced, doesn’t mean professionalism is a foreign concept. All the young men in front of the camera were dressed in pressed shirts and correctly tied ties. Jack Burrus, whose role this week is on-screen talent, said that he’ll receive comments about the show, for better or for worse, when he’s walking through the halls.
Maddux said that, on top of learning the technical nuts and bolts, many students leave the class having learned a variety of unexpected lessons. For instance, he said that it’s rewarding to watch timid students become more comfortable in front of the camera.
Grace Whitney, scriptwriter for this week’s show, said that she’s learning leadership and organization skills. She said that it can be really challenging for the producer to get the other students in class to listen and follow instructions. Student producers have a long list of responsibilities, and even grade classmates on their effort and performance at the end of each show.
Clever students can interject more creative words into mundane parts of the script. For example, in a broadcast Monday morning, Roth used the word plethora on-screen instead of saying "a lot." Students in the production room who weren’t familiar with the word received a quick vocabulary lesson.
Another aspect of the class is learning how all the technology works. The students said that learning how to run the soundboard and other pieces of technology was challenging at first, but after a few weeks they figured everything out. Maddux said that he relies on grant money to buy most of the equipment necessary to keep the show running.
Students sign up for the class for a variety of reasons, some might just want to spend some time on television, but many students go on to pursue a future in some aspect of film production, according to Maddux. He said that close to 90 percent of the students involved with the Miner Morning Show go into communication or film production-related majors in college. He said that one of his former students is currently working as the assignment manager at Fox News. According to Maddux, students at PCHS get a lot of exposure to film production at school, from their parents, and with the Sundance film festival in their hometown, which is why so many students find careers in the field appealing.
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