Students sample the magic of television
by Leslie Vryenhoek
Students who hoped for a chance to work in television when they signed up for English 3816: Television a few years back are now living the dream. As they near the end of their Diploma in the Performance and Communications Media program, a number of students are learning some new angles through field placements in the industry.
Beth McCurdy is one of them, having landed an internship at Roger’s Television in St. John’s, where she’s being mentored by Senior Director Roger Samson. In just her first few weeks at the station, Ms. McCurdy had a crash course in making both live and taped television. She’s shadowed cameramen, pieced together public service announcements and corporate promotions, approached people on the street to ask for their on-camera opinions, researched a segment that ran on Out of the Fog and tried her hand at floor directing.
By the end of her first week, she’d even had a “baptism by fire” as she helped operate technical equipment during a live broadcast of a Fog Devils game. “I have to say it was a tad stressful trying to listen to the right voice in my headphones while learning how to operate the board,” she noted. “I learned some things quite fast, though.”
The diploma program, which takes in 12 new students annually, is a collaboration between Memorial’s Drama Specialization in the Department of English, Distance Education and Learning Technologies (DELT) and local relevant businesses and professionals.
Since 2002, the diploma program has been offered to students who are working toward or have already completed a bachelor of arts. As she does every winter, program co-ordinator Dr. Denyse Lynde is calling for applications from students who want to start the program next fall.
Applicants must have at least two years of courses behind them before they start the diploma. Admission is competitive, and is based on both academic merit and on an interview and audition for Dr. Lynde.
English 3816: Television is one of the first course students take once they’re in the program, and Dr. Lynde says it’s proven an effective lure for drawing interested students. The course offers practical experience at the hands of seasoned pros. For example, CBC Land & Sea producer Fred Greening instructs students on crafting an effective pitch, then writing and presenting a documentary; film producer/director John Vatcher teaches them how to film a winning commercial then puts the students into groups and lets them shoot a TV ad.
“What students gain is real experience that prepares them to work in the field,” Dr. Lynde explained. “This week, [CBC Here and Now anchor] Jonathon Crowe arranged to have the students come into the CBC studio to experience working with a teleprompter.”
Beyond the television course, the diploma program offers plenty more opportunities to produce films and perform onstage. Only after they have mastered basic skills are students sent out on their instructional placement.
According to Dr. Lynde, the placements aren’t just a chance to gain real on-the-job experience. “It’s also a great opportunity for the students to show off what they can do, and prove that they’re reliable and skilled.”
Qualified students who are intrigued by life in front of or behind the camera can contact Dr. Lynde (firstname.lastname@example.org; 737-3201) to learn more about applying and auditioning. The deadline to apply is Feb. 28.