Want to be a behind-the-scenes television star? Partnership gives real-world skills to students

Students in the television production technology program at Chattahoochee Technical College recently helped produce a Clark Howard special for Channel 2 WSB-TV, an affiliate of Cox Media Group.

“Ten of our students helped to shoot it using our own production equipment. They ran the cameras, operated the switches and the video playback machine. We were the crew for a WSB director,” said Ian Feinberg, lead instructor of the Chattahoochee Tech program.

The exclusive partnership between Chattahoochee Tech’s television production technology program and Channel 2 WSB-TV was signed in August, giving students enrolled in the associate degree program an edge in the marketplace.

“I don’t know of anything else like this partnership in our region,” Feinberg said. “The way it benefits our students is that they will be able to show future employers that they have worked on programming that actually aired on TV. This partnership will give our students more credibility, more experience and more exposure in the industry.”

“Chattahoochee Tech has done a fantastic job of preparing students by giving them the latest equipment and resources, and instruction on how to best use it,” said Bill Hoffman, vice president and general manager of WSB-TV. “We provide a way for the school to have a ‘real-world’ laboratory with all the local programming being produced out of our facility.”

Television production technology students learn the behind-the-scene skills necessary to produce TV news, documentaries and entertainment shows. They learn to operate cameras in the studio and in the field, as well as production, directing, writing, lighting, editing, audio, graphics and digital-animation skills.

“Our focus is teaching people how to be visual storytellers. As a byproduct, they learn all the skills necessary to operate a camera, edit, write and add graphics to a show,” Feinberg said.

It takes all kinds of people working behind the scenes in television, he said.

“There are creative people who know how to write, and there are people who are more visual and can put photography and graphics together. Then there are very technical people who know how to combine all the necessary elements and make them work together,” Feinberg said.

To recruit potential students with a mix of skills and personalities required to create good television, Feinberg goes to computer, fine arts, graphic design, photography and computer-animation classes when he visits high schools.

Full-time students with college-level math and English skills can complete the television production technology program in six quarters. They attend classes during the day and often work in the lab at night to complete projects.

Television is a highly competitive field, Feinberg said. His students compete with graduates of several schools in metro Atlanta, including the Savannah College of Art and Design, the Art Institute of Atlanta, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University and Clark Atlanta University.

“But Atlanta is a great market, with many small- to medium-sized production companies,” he said. “People think they can only work for a TV station, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. They can also work for independent production companies, corporate communications and training departments, cable TV outlets and wedding and event-planning companies.”

Starting salaries can range from the low $20,000s to about $40,000, depending on one’s skills and the size of the company. Seasoned professionals make from $50,000 to $100,000 a year, Feinberg said.

“I tell students to do what they like, work hard and the money will come,” he added.

Many recent graduates get jobs with small and midsized companies and move up quickly. One advantage of working with a small team is that workers are involved in more aspects of the field and can prove their skills.

“The job involves a lot of hard work and manual labor, but people are drawn to the field because they get to express their creativity,” Feinberg said. “It’s really fun if you get to work with a subject you love, such as sports, news or cooking.

“Every once in a while you get to be a part of history if you work in news. I have fond memories of times like that, when everyone’s adrenaline is pumping and it’s a real team effort to get the story out. It’s exciting.”

Tuition for the program runs about $8,000; many students qualify for the HOPE grant or HOPE scholarship.

For information, call 770-509-6327 or go to www.chattahoocheetech.edu.

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