By William Ferrall, published in Mahon About Town, Celebrating the Best of Nantucket
Look for intro classes in video production skills this fall and winter?
Across our country and beyond, we’re well into the age of neophyte videographers and ‘citizen journalists’ aiming their cell phone cameras at street scenes, events, and intimate gatherings. Here on Nantucket, dozens of budding videographers are upping their game.
Credit for that goes to Nantucket Community Television, NCTV-18, founded in 2010. The island’s now flourishing community television station, which broadcasts on local cable channel 18, is introducing and training students of all stripes and ages to a full range of video production skills. NCTV has signed on more than 200 members, with nearly a quarter of those having completed NCTV classes on video production topics from how to handle a camera to electronic editing to interviewing and storytelling techniques.
Nantucket has embraced the station’s rise. In its fifth year this fall, Nantucket Shorts Festival showed a record number of 12 video films of up to 10 minutes in length during Nantucket Arts Festival, made by local amateur and professional videographers ranging in age from 10 to 75. Co-produced by NCTV, the event again filled the main theater at Nantucket Dreamland Film and Performing Arts Center with more than 320 in the audience. Many more will see the shorts online, where they and most NCTV-18 programs can be seen as video on demand, either on the station’s website or on its YouTube channel.
Overall, NCTV now broadcasts about 500 hours of programming monthly, with about 18 hours of live programs, according to executive director Lisa Frey Getter, a longtime photographer and videographer who has lived on Nantucket since 2001 and is in her third year at NCTV.
“We are growing quickly,” said Getter. “The more the community gets to know about NCTV, the more they want to be involved, whether it’s becoming members, taking classes, producing their own shows or hiring NCTV to produce shows for them.”
Town of Nantucket government proceedings and local civic events are a hefty share of NCTV’s programming, as are community celebrations, non-profit functions, educational programming, and creative arts exhibits and performances. Most programs are produced by NCTV’s staff of four, led by Getter along with Andrew Cromartie, cameraman Mark Pommett, and production assistant Charlie Hoilman. Arlene O’Reilly provides marketing, development, and graphic arts services. A nine-member board of directors guides the non-profit organization.
Volunteer members and the programs they produce are rapidly expanding the station’s programming with talk shows, documentaries, and feature films. A “Teen View” program, produced in conjunction with Nantucket Film Festival and local schools, showcases the video creations of Nantucket youth. ”
With it’s public service mission in mind, Getter says the station intends to produce local news and more special programming about Nantucket or useful for local viewers, provide accredited professional training workshops and classes, and offer scholarships for media education and internship programs. The station would also serve as Nantucket’s televised emergency broadcast service. A community survey on the station’s website is designed to help determine what other kinds of programming might best serve the island.
To beef up its programming, the board and staff of NCTV intend to take better advantage of its financial arrangement with Nantucket’s cable provider Comcast/Xfinity. NCTV is licensed as the island’s federally mandated PEG station, a designation under the federal Cable Communications Act of 1984, which requires local cable TV providers to fund a local “public, education, and government” channel, under separate non-profit oversight. A portion of fees are set aside from local cable subscribers to fund PEG station operations, with the fee negotiated between cable providers and the local government.
Fees collected are limited to 5% of a subscriber’s bill, with some extra services excluded, and with the final amount negotiated between the town and the cable operator. When NCTV was set up in 2010, the Town of Nantucket and Comcast agreed to just a 3% fee. NCTV would like to see the public access fee increased to the 5% maximum allowed when the contract is renewed for 10 years in 2019. NCTV says the increase would add an average of $2 monthly to local cable bills. The station would like also to negotiate its placement on a high-definition broadcast channel, with the station’s offerings being included in the online program guide.
NCTV would find plentiful uses for the increased revenues. Running even a modestly-sized, modern television studio and station is costly, with the need for up-to-date computers and software, cameras, lighting, and other professional equipment costing thousands of dollar, and with regular updates. Add on rent, insurance, licensing fees, and other overhead costs.
With an annual operating budget near $400,000, NCTV can maintain its current level of service, according to board president Dan Driscoll. He said the station’s next challenge is managing its growth in programming and instructional services and ensuring its financial stability. “The station and members of the community have no shortage of ideas for new programs,” noted Driscoll, “but without adding staff, therefore increasing the need for funding, we are at the mercy of grants and the generosity of local business sponsoring new shows.”
Meanwhile, over four months starting in November, NCTV will offer nine multi-session classes to train more Nantucket residents in video production fundamentals ranging from on-camera interviewing skills to operating a camera and electronic editing to animation techniques. Students will be standing behind video cameras, sitting at computer screens, and perched classroom style on chairs in the studio of NCTV on North Beach Street.
To take part, annual membership in NCTV is required, which costs from $25 for youth and seniors to $60 for individuals to $125 for non-profits and $265 for a full organizational membership, which includes instruction in multimedia production. Additional nominal fees are charged for the individual courses.
During an editing class this past summer, this writer along with seven others learned the fundamentals of two-camera filming, how to arrange a set for simple productions, and editing techniques using computer software Adobe Premiere, one of the leading video editing programs. Divided into pairs, each team produced a short video over the course of four classes. Look for longer versions or the seeds of inspiration from the class in next year’s short festival.
Courses set for this fall and winter include:
• Interview Skills 101, in collaboration with Nantucket Community School, started Thursday, November 2
• Digital Animation
• Broadcast news by Veritas, the student newspaper of Nantucket High School
• Camera Fundamentals — Tuesday and Thursday, January 9 and 11
• Scene Fundamentals — A week-long intensive course, times TBD — Mon — Fri, January 15 – 19
• Editing Fundamentals — Tuesday and Thursday, January 23 and 25
• Camera Fundamentals — Tuesday and Thursday, February 6 and 8
• Scene Fundamentals — A week-long intensive course, times TBD — Mon – Fri, Feb. 12 – 16
• Editing Fundamentals — Tuesday and Thursday, February 20 and 22