For over 112 years, Riverside Military Academy has remained the nation's preeminent all-boys military college preparatory academy. Located in Gainesville, GA, Riverside Military Academy educates young men in grades 7-12. Our Corps of Cadets averages over 500 cadets from 30 nations and 30 states.
The Video Production program, led by RMA Alumnus Zach Garrett, '11, introduces cadets to the fundamentals of storyboarding, filming, editing and producing digital media projects. Cadets are assigned to production teams, given project deadlines and expected to creatively produce works that best represent the tasks assigned. These courses are meant to challenge cadets on essential skills demanded by employers in the workforce while allowing them to creatively express themselves through popular digital mediums.
Tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
I studied multimedia communications at Georgia Southern University. Before then I’ve been making commercials, wedding videos and other marketing materials for businesses and organizations since 2007. I chose to start teaching during my master’s program at the University of Georgia. I arrived at Riverside Military Academy in the fall of 2016 and started the video production program. We launched with only four students in the program and one section of video production. Today, we have over 50 students with 4 levels of AVTF, including an 8th-grade survey course. Our school population is only about 450, so that’s a good percentage of the school enrolled in AVTF!
How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
I initially had to raise almost every dollar I spent in the program. I started with parents and alumni of the school. From there, I’ve had a few members of our board of trustees give to the program and I secured a donation from Apple, my former employer, to fund Macs and iPads.
Did you have equipment available?
We had one 2011 model iMac and old camcorders before the donation. Some were disc and tape camcorders.
How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes? How is it broken down? Is it a multi-year program?
It's a program that starts in 8th grade. The 8th-grade class is a semester-long course and feeds into the AVTF 1 class. After successfully passing level one, they can ask to move on to AVTF II and then apply to be in Broadcast Video Production (level 3 of program) and be on the production team of our school news show, the Eagle News Network (ENN).
Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?
Our classes meet for 50 minutes each four times a week - we have a rotating schedule. I have about 10-15 students per class. The 8th grade and level one of AVTF courses work on projects that exercise basic editing abilities. These projects expect students build and deliver simple stories for their viewers. For example, one project is called “I Am Riverside” where they introduce themselves, where they’re from, why they chose to come to Riverside (we’re a private school) and what their interests are. They will then add B-Roll of what they are talking about, add subtitles and add music. This gives them a chance to start cutting, working with lower thirds and building a storyline.
Level two and the Broadcasting course work on longer-form projects and submit their works to film festivals in Georgia and to our CTSO, the Student Television Network.
How many kids to do the morning news broadcast? Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?
We have typically aired an episode of ENN, every 8-10 days. This year we are aiming for one episode per week. We don’t really cover announcements from the admin, so we create segments that feature stories and events happening on campus. It’s a journalistic approach that teaches students to tell stories that matter and can engage their audience.
Do your students capture other school events? Sports? Assemblies? Board meetings? Musical Performances?
We will sometimes be asked by admin or other school officials to produce special projects, or cover events, for various departments. I determine whether my students will be able to produce the project and if we have time to do it. If so, I arrange a client meeting where my students will sit down with the school official to discuss details. The students become the point of contact for the school official for updates on the project. This gives the students more ownership over the project and emphasizes those valuable employability skills that we all teach.
For most sports, assemblies and other things that my students are not asked to cover or produce are captured by our Public Relations office.
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?
My ENN students will rotate through various positions each episode. One producer, one final timeline editor, one production technician, several segment leads and segment assistants serve as the backbone of our production. At the end of the year, students should have served in each position at least three times. This cross-training approach helps ENN survive student and instructor absence if it occurs. Students sign “employment contracts” to be members of the ENN team at the beginning of the year.
Do students audition for on-air positions?
We do host anchor auditions for students not involved in the program. You’d be surprised how many students show up for this. It serves as a powerful marketing tool for the program. Most of the time however, we select students in the class who express interest in being on-air talent. The ENN team will vote if there is a surplus of interest vs on-air talent spots available.
Do they write the content?
Yes! They come up with the stories and ideas and will draft their own scripts.
How long does the show run?
Each episode has a runtime of 12-15 minutes with season finales exceeding 20 minutes. (one per semester)
Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by STN, SkillsUSA, NATAS or others?
Yes! STN is our program’s CTSO.
Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?
Yes! Our school website, YouTube and Facebook channels as well as our internally CCTV network.
Where do you post programming? YouTube? Vimeo? SchoolTube? SVN-TV? Other?
YouTube and Facebook.
Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?
-3 Canon DSLR (Rebel T5,6,7)
-3 Mangus Tripods
-3 Dracast field and 6 mounted studio LED lights
-Zoom H4N recorders
-Label and Handheld Mics
-DJI Phantom 4 Pro Adv 2.0