A Television Production class at Sulphur High School is helping many students make one of the most important decisions of their young lives and has helped several former students secure jobs in the television market in the 10 years of its existence.
Through the 2016-17 school year, the Television Production class was taught exclusively at Lake Charles Boston Academy, with students being bussed in from high schools all over Calcasieu Parish. With traffic and infrastructure issues in the parish, the decision to split the class into two was an easy one.
LCB Academy handles all high school students attending the class in East Calcasieu while students in West Calcasieu are bussed to Sulphur High School to attend the approximately two-hour class, five days a week. Set up in a classroom, the space has been turned into a small control room on one end of the room and half editing lab, half studio in the remaining portion.
Three cameras focus on two anchor chairs set before a green backdrop. From the control board, to cameras, directing, anchoring, and editing — all are done by students, with each one having several chances at learning all the positions.
Pam Dixon is the instructor for the class with 18 years of experience in the television industry. “I was fortunate to be able to start this class from scratch based on my own broadcasting experience,” she said. “That’s what’s been really exciting for me — to take a program that did not exist and to figure out what it needs to be, what the kids need to learn, and what equipment I need … the whole thing. It’s been my baby from the beginning.”
Dixon has a level one class for beginners and a level two class for students who are returning for their second year. And though she gives direction and oversees the entire class, she also lets the students choose where they want to take the news — the stories that are important to them.
Some of the topics students have chosen are serious subject matters such as teen suicide, teen pregnancy, anti-bullying, and drug abuse. But they also take on fun topics and subjects in which they are interested.
Dixon said, “They do public service announcements, they’ve done music videos, short films, they will do videos for clients, they’ve done commentaries, parodies — there’s just a whole range of things they are able to do throughout the year.”
Once the newscasts are completed, they are uploaded online to schooltube.com, the Calcasieu Parish School Board site, shared with the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury and also run on the local government channel.
Three students at Sulphur High in their second year of the class shared some of their thoughts on the advantages the class has given them.
Senior Makki Coleman has been interested in a career in the television industry for about five years. “Ever since I started the class I’ve always wanted to do film editing and learn how to work the cameras,” Coleman said. “Learning all the computers and using the editing software, learning what every type of equipment does and is, it’s everything that I need for a career. It’s such a great class.”
“Before I was in this class I wanted to do more creative directing, like movies and stuff,” senior Cassidy Jones said. “This class helps me make creative movies while also doing news stories, so it’s broadened my interests while increasing my knowledge about what I would like to do.
“I want to do something like investigative journalism or directing and producing actual movies,” she continued.
Jeramie Britt said he’s really enjoying all the editing and story writing. “I’m a lot better writer than I used to be,” he said. “It’s just made me want to pursue a career in something like Mass Communications.” His favorite part of the class is editing and putting it all together to see it come to life. “I think if anyone doesn’t know what they want to do, they should at least try this and see if they like it because it worked for me,” Britt said.
Coleman added, “I recommended this class to several people because it has opened up so many opportunities for me and has shown me so much. It’s a good class to take if you don’t know what you want to do. I went into it knowing what I wanted to do, but that’s not the case for a lot of high school students. So this is just an incredible opportunity.”
The pride in Dixon’s voice is evident when she talks about the accomplishments of her current and former students. “What I have found, because they are with me for the whole nine months, two periods a day, they are just getting a ton of hands-on experience,” she said. “I really feel that they are ahead of many college-level students in what they’ve been able to do themselves. They can definitely compete.”