Austin High School at TCEA | Print |
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Austin High School is participating with School Video News at the TCEA annual conference in Austin, TX. These outstandingstudents will beconducting interviews with attendees, presenters,keynote speakers and exhibitors. In additon,Austinstudents will bestreaming live from the Austin Convention Center during the five day event.

Gil Garcia is the TV/Video Production teacher at Austin High School. School Video News digs in to give you the inside scoop.

SVN: Tell us about your background.

GG: I come from the ad world, where I got my start as an agency editor at GSD&M Idea City while still finishing my undergrad at the University of Texas School of Film. After three years at GSD&M and by then an assistant producer on the Wal-Mart account, I took a position as an assistant film editor at 501 Post, an editorial boutique. I was only there a year before being lured back to the agency-side by one of our clients, LatinWorks Marketing, to start up an in-house production company and serve as production manager.

SVN: You transitioned from the “agency-side” of production to teaching. What inspired the move?

GG: The ad business is very glamourous and exciting, but its also very hard work that’s client driven with grueling deadlines and a hectic travel schedule. Not the most condusive schedule to have when starting a family as I and my wife were starting to do.

And on top of that I had become sick of it all. If I had to sit through one more focus group about combining tomato juice and beer I was gonna hurl. It struck me one night over dinner with my wife. She had a bad day because one of her kindergarten students’ father was imprisoned and the student was emotionally distraught through the day. I had a bad day because the client insisted on using his daughter as the lead actress. Right there it clicked. The working weekends, the umpteen revisions, the unruly clients, none of it mattered. If I were to die that day, someone else would have to edit Brett Favre’s hands for a Pennzoil Commercial animatic, and the world wouldn’t be the wiser. I needed meaningful work that made a difference. Work like my wife was doing. A friend of mine who taught at a high school told me about a position at his school for a digital filmmaking teacher. I had that job within a week.

SVN: What is the best part about teaching production?

GG: What I love about teaching is that I can get back to the creative side. I love to see what the students create without mandatorys, shooting “outside the lines” as I like to call it. Because my creativity was squashed so many times in advertising, I wanted to get back to why I started in the field in the first place, visual storytelling. That’s what I love the most: being able to teach the students the tools they need to unleash their creativity.

SVN: How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?

GG: Our class is currently funded by the Carl Perkins Grant through the Career and Technical Education program, but upon startup it was through the parents’ generous donation of time and money.

SVN: Did you have equipment available?

GG: Yes, I took over a great program that had been ten years in the making. I walked into a great equipment list, as well as a teachable space. So many programs are shoved in the back of a library that I feel very fortunate to have a classroom as well as studio.

SVN: How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes and how is it broken down?

GG: In total I serve 130 kids. [I teach] three intro classes (Sophmores), one advanced field production class (Juniors), and one advanced studio production class (Seniors)

SVN: Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?

GG: The classes are 50 minutes each although next year we are going to block. The program starts with the intro class, [There are] thirty kids to a class which is too much (I only have space for 18) . We take a script-to-screen approach, learning everything we need to during the course of the year, starting with writing for film and broadcast and finishing with online and dvd distribution. Some projects are individual (storyboarding), some are in groups (shooting). Projects range from making fake blood to the dollyzoom challenge. We shoot one group project as a class and then we all edit our own version individually.

That’s the intro class.

In the advanced field production class of 18, they are making packages for the daily show that the seniors produce. They produce one package every six weeks in a team of two. And also have to be available for assigned coverage which is basically go get a camera and cover the car wreck in the parking lot. Advanced lighting and editing technique is taught in this class with a Final Cut Pro assessment being given to qualify the top 18 students for the next level.

In the advanced Studio production class of 18 (broken into two teams of nine) they produce the daily news show. They alternate days. While one team is producing the show (called k-ahs, pronounced chaos) the other team is working on their contest submissions or short films. Then they switch the next day. The show is a live-to-tape format that airs the following day

SVN: Do you also do a weekly broadcast?

GG: No, but we hope to do a monthly broadcast to air on community access next year.

SVN: Do you do any sort of special events coverage?

GG: Yes but only as coverage for a news package. We don’t stream football games or anything like that.

SVN: What jobs do the kids do?Do the kids rotate through on-air talent and crew positions or are they “hired” for a specific task?

GG: Great question. I ask the same of my students each year and each year they vote to rotate. There are two anchors, two camera people (one operates a third camera via remote), a technical director, a producer/editor, a soundperson, and a B-Roll team of two who go out and get b-roll for the announcements that day. Soon though it will be a b-roll person once our teleprompters come in, and I will have one person on the prompter.

SVN: Do students audition for on-air positions?

GG: Yes. In order to be on air you must be “certified”. What that means is that on top of being a good anchor you have to have no more than four tardies in any classes for the six weeks prior, have not failed any classes, no unexcused absenses, and no referrals to the office. I put up a list of certified anchors for that six weeks, and if they don’t make the list, then they have to stick to the other positions.

SVN: Do the students write the content?

GG: Yes and no. They are given the announcement by the student or teacher via email to our group email address, but then they have to re-write it and make it their own. It must be different then what the anchor said the day prior.

SVN: How long does the show run?

GG: Ten minutes

SVN: Do you submit programming to independent contests such as those sponsored by StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV?

GG: We do submit, but only to local contests. The three we submit to take up all our time, but now that you mention it, it wouldn’t hurt to submit a package or two to those you mentioned.

SVN: Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?

GG: We upload the show everyday to our website, It’s really a Vimeo channel that we point our domain name to. We like vimeo because it’s not blocked by the district.

SVN: Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?

GG: Geez. It’s a 400 line Excel spreadsheet that I would be happy to send to anyone, but for short…

Twenty 24 inch Imacs (18 classroom, one soundbooth, one control room)

2 macbooks (one to take home everyday to edit the show together, one for lengthy projects)

10 Canon HV20’S

3 Panasonic DVX

1 Panasonic HVX

3 Canon gl2’s (studio cams)

Videonics switcher

2 monopods, 2 glidecams, 10 tripods

two boom mics kits,

lots and lots of lav kits

2 Arri softbank kits

One Rode nt2a mic for our soundbooth

M-Audio profire i/o for soundbooth

SVN: Do you have any quick start tips?

GG: Get some lamps for your classroom and turn off the overhead flourescents. The computer screens look better, the room looks better, and most importantly, it brings the kids energy down as soon as they walk in the door. We only turn them on if we are shooting in the room.

You can communicate with Austin High School through their blog at


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