Sydney and Jessica, Hands On at The Friday Zone

By Mona Malacane

I have a confession: even though I study, research, and oftentimes critique the media industry I know next to nothing about the process of producing a television segment. The tiny bit that I do know, I learned from interviewing Sydney West and Jessica Hand this week.

Both Jessica and Sydney are enrolled in T597 this semester, a production internship with WTIU-TV (PBS). The two have been working together on producing “packages” (or short segments) of fun, educational activities that air during The Friday Zone. “The segment is a 3 to 4 minute clip that we put together that has an educational base but is fun to do,” Sydney explained. Essentially, they find cool activities or places to visit that children would perhaps be interested in doing as well, and then film a segment that highlights the fun and educational aspects of the outing. Kind of like a field trip! The Friday Zone already has a bank of these field trip packages but Sydney and Jessica find new activities to add and update the current selection.RC_3

In addition to these segments, Jessica and Sydney also cover PBS-related events around town. Sydney gave a few recent examples, “I went to a baby fair and Paige [an undergraduate intern] dressed up as Word Girl and read books to little kids. We did another event at the Wonderlab which was pretty cool … There are also these literacy labs coming up where little kids come in and we help them write stories.” These segments are more or less pre-arranged through PBS and Jessica and Sydney cover them; but for their segments, they arrange everything from initial contact to the final cut. “We find it, we have to ensure that it fits the intended demographic for the show, run it by Eric [their boss], hop in an IU van and go,” Sydney said.

Both Jessica and Sydney come up with ideas for future segments and separately contact the different venues, but they collaborate on pretty much everything else. Perhaps this (and the fact that they have the same schedule) is why you rarely see one of them without the other! The impression that I got from our chat in the grad lounge is that they are a dynamic duo – colleagues who work pretty well together. There were several times during our interview that one would finish the other’s sentence, or tag team an explanation for segments they are planning in the future.

“We talk all the time,” Jessica laughed. “It helps that our schedules, like [Jessica] said, are exactly the same … and that in part stems from our similar interests which is why I think RC_1this works so well for us,” Sydney finished.

The Friday Zone is broadcast all over the state of Indiana so Sydney and Jessica travel around the state for the segments. Sometimes these trips are successful and sometimes not so much … Like one of the snowy and frozen weekends in February. “I have been trying to work with the Children’s Museum and we had a shoot set up in Evansville …” Jessica began, “and then that morning we got up the roads haven’t even been plowed,” Sydney finished.

But this Saturday was a successful trip for the two, who drove up to the Rhythm! Discovery Center in Indianapolis for a drum demonstration.

Jessica was the "talent" on their trip to the Rhythm! Center.

Jessica was the “talent” on their trip to the Rhythm! Center.

The segments they are working on now will likely air in the Fall, after they have been edited and worked into the production schedule. But the idea is for Sydney and Jessica to keep working together on the segments for the next few semesters and continue to build up the field trip collection (and have some great finished products for their portfolios after graduating). Both of them agreed that this opportunity has been a great learning experience. “The interesting thing that I am finding this semester and kind of across all of my classes is that I’m able to see where all the dots connect from my classes now,” Jessica said.

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The Third Half, the refreshing extra

By: Niki Fritz

coe_flyerYou may have seen the snazzy-looking flyers around the Radio-TV building beckoning you to a new event, something called the Third Half on March 6 (2:30 – 3:45, RTV 226). The flyers promise stimulating discussion on politics and religion with Media School Guest Speaker Kevin Coe of University of Utah. There is also the lure of “non-routine refreshments and superior coffee.”  The Third Half sounds promising, and yet I couldn’t help wondering what a rugby-reference could possibly have to do with an academic talk.

It turns out the name comes from one memorable brainstorming session, which included the brilliant minds of Norbert, Julien, Paul, Andrew, Betsi, and Harmeet.  The group wanted to move away from the standard brown bag, with all of its ritualistic predictability, and into something more “non-routine.”

In keeping with this new ethos, there was a desire to move away from the name brown bag and other tired words.

“We were looking for a name that encompasses the spirit we want to give to the new speaker series. We don’t want it to be another brown bag. We want to move away from the traditional speech which is followed by a few very polite questions,” Julien says.“We want it to be something much more participatory. We see this as a community building activity not just a talk where you sit while sipping on a soda pop. We want to make intellectual socialization a robust experience. We were trying to find a title that encapsulates all of that.”

It seemed quite a tall order for one name to encompass community, participation, socialization, and liveliness. To prompt out of the box thinking, the brainstormers began with a different type of word – “huddle.” The “huddle” gave way to “scrimmage” and eventually Julien hit on the Third Half.  It comes from rugby, a game he followed avidly as a fan of championship-winning California Golden Bears during his days at UC-Berkeley.  In the world of rugby the “third half” is the time after the two halves of the game when the two sides come together at a public house in the spirit of camaraderie.

The new Third Half mugs which will hold outstanding coffee or other non-routine refreshments

Third Half mugs for superior coffee.

Given our dry campus, our Third Half will bring together colleagues over coffee and other non-routine refreshments.  There are even new coffee mugs bearing the jazzy new Third Half signature, which was the artistic creation of Norbert. While the brainstorming was still in full swing, Norbert sketched the Third Half signature on his iPad.  The brainstormers loved it right away, as it captured the mood and energy in the room.  Teresa then brought that energy to the image for email announcements and the flyers that doubled up as mini-posters.

The hope of the brainstormers is that the Third Half will not only bring people together, but also ideas; that this extra inning will create flashpoints of synthesis, when the team becomes greater than the individual players and the whole becomes greater than the sum of parts.

As of time of print, this illustrious group of brainstormers were not willing to talk about how the Third Half will “play out” so-to-speak.  They say you will have to see for yourself on March 6th.  The grad blog will be able to offer more only after the first Third Half on March 6th.

Bryant Goes to Sundance

By Mona Malacane

“Hot Girls Wanted” sounds like just another video that was analyzed in Bryant Paul et al’s project on content analysis of pornographic videos. Normally this would be a safe assumption, but in this case, it is a documentary on the experiences of 18-and-19 year old girls entering the amateur porn industry.

Bryant got involved with the film through Dr. Debra Herbenick of the Kinsey Institute, who was contacted by the film’s directors, Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus. In the initial stages, Bryant gave consultations mostly on the pornography industry. Over time these conversations evolved into research on pornography and the effects of viewing. “It started out as inside industry stuff and then they were asking about usage statistics for how popular certain sites are … and some [research] on effects. And they wanted to know numbers on how many people join the industry per year, so I used some contacts that I’ve made over the years to try and find some of this stuff out.”

While Bryant helped fill in some information holes with research and data, Jill and Ronna continued to edit the film. When the first rough cut of the film was ready, Bryant offered to do a test screening in his undergraduate class and give feedback over Skype. Jill and Ronna found the feedback very useful.  They started implementing the recommendations and offered Bryant a co-producer credit on the film. (Fun fact: Actress Rashida Jones is also a producer on the film!)

Rashida Jones on the very popular show, The Office. More recently she has starred in the show Parks & Recreation (also hilarious and popular).

Rashida Jones on the very popular show, The Office. More recently she has starred in the show Parks & Recreation (also hilarious and popular).

Having seen a short clip of the film myself, I have to say that in true independent docu-film style it both tugs at your heart and makes you think deeper. It adds another layer to the cultural conversation of pornography by showing both pros and cons. Bryant in fact commended Jill and Ronna for their unbiased stance. “They really are objective. They are not anti-porn but they are not pro-porn either, they were just reporting on this topic … It’s actually amazing to me how objective they have remained through all of this.”  According to Bryant, the film not only shows the dark side of the porn industry but also shows that not all of it is bad – some people even make a career in it.

The film is now in the final stages of editing.  Last Monday (December 1) Bryant organized another screening and Skype meeting with graduate students and a few professors. Shortly after the screening, the directors and everyone else working on the film got a huge surprise – they heard that their film had been accepted for the Sundance Film Festival! Of the 12,166 submissions to the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, only 118 were selected and “Hot Girls Wanted” was among them. (In case you’re wondering, that is about 1% acceptance rate.)

hot girls wanted

If you’re interested in learning more about “Hot Girls Wanted,” here is their website. Fear not, this link/website is SFW (safe for work). I can’t say the same for the Google searches though … (That was a naïve mistake on my part.) They currently don’t have a video trailer for the film on the website yet, but now that they have been accepted to Sundance it should be forthcoming.

Chief Economist, David Waterman

By Mona Malacane

Retired life has been pretty exciting for David Waterman. On November 13 Federal Communications Commission’s Chairman Wheeler announced David’s appointment as FCC’s Chief Economist.

David has published for years in the area of economics of telecommunications and media ( here is an earlier blog post), and has consulted for the FCC in the past (as well as the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice); so being considered for the appointment wasn’t a complete surprise for him. He knew for some time that he was the shortlist for the appointment and had spent a day interviewing at the FCC earlier this year. Although David had gotten to know quite a few people who work at FCC through annual conferences, David thinks that the opportunity was mostly about being in the right place at the right time, given the media-related issues coming up at the commission next year.

FCC-building

Humble in his usual ways, David explained, “It’s not as important as it sounds. Even though they call me the Chief Economist, I don’t actually have any real power. There is a large staff of economists at the FCC and I’m sort of, theoretically, at the head of that staff. And part of my job is to promote economics in the commission and encourage publishable research by the staff … but I’m actually not in charge of administering anyone. It is like academia in that I can choose what I work on and although I report directly to Tom Wheeler [the chairman of the commission] and that’s a great opportunity, he chooses whether or not to listen to me.” Considering this is his life’s work, David is, as you might expect, looking forward to his new role at the FCC. After interviewing him a few times for the blog, I have to say this is the most I have ever seen David smile!

The appointment term is for one year beginning January 5.th David will be living in Washington and was still searching for somewhere to live when I interviewed him before the Thanksgiving break. He won’t be far from family though because his daughter, Chloe, works in DC for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – another perk that David is looking forward to. “She is going to help keep me anchored and from going crazy so that really makes a big difference.” I was very concerned that his beautiful garden would suffer without his attention and care, but don’t worry! David plans to leave detailed instructions for his son Matthew, who will be staying in Bloomington, to care for his peppers while he is away.

#relieved

#relieved

Before our interview ended, David wanted to recognize Ryland Sherman and the work they have done together. “It’s been the flair coming from his understanding of technology and the law that I think attracted the attention of the Commission, so that’s been a very valuable thing.”

 

Russell McGee and Doctor Who

By Tamera Theodore

The best part of my job is working with graduate students. Since I’m often the first point of contact in the department and the go-to person for things grad-related, I am a front line witness to a graduate student’s journey.  From the moment they arrive wide-eyed and enthusiastic through graduation when they head out to fulfill their dreams as researchers, creators, and educators – I am here to encourage, support and help pick up the pieces as needed.

Luckily for the department, Russell McGee didn’t head out right away when he was handed his Master of Science diploma in December 2013. He stayed right here in the department. I say “luckily” because I’m quite happy having Russell around. I’ll stop myself just short of suggesting he was one of my favorite grad students (even though he was – and I can say that now that he’s graduated!).  But, I will say he is an awesome person. He’s warm, humble, and genuine and he has an impressive wealth of knowledge about media production and theater. When he graduated, he was looking for work in Bloomington, the department was looking for an adjunct instructor and everyone benefited.

His work in the department has extended well beyond teaching T206 Introduction to Design & Production the last two semesters. He also simultaneously served as an associate instructor for several of our advanced production courses and he assisted in the production lab. Spring 2015 will likely be a repeat act of juggling multiple roles with the addition of another component – he landed a new job at Big Finish Productions, a company that produces CDs, downloads and books.  While you may not have heard of Big Finish Productions, you have probably heard of one of their biggest projects:  they are best known for their Doctor Who audio dramas.

Russell had the opportunity to meet one of the executive producers at Big Finish Productions when he attended the annual Doctor Who Convention in Chicago last year. That chance meeting led to an audition process that lasted over six months and ended up with Russell being hired as a freelance audio editor. He’s working on his first assignment now – very possibly something related to Doctor Who although he couldn’t divulge the specifics.  Typical stories are four episodes, each two hours long, and the average turnaround for audio editors is one to two months.  Since one of the biggest stumbling blocks for editors is getting the work done on time, and since he’ll be a story-to-story freelancer as long as they’re happy with the work, Russell says you can bet his top priority is meeting the deadline.

Russell(1)Russell(2)Russell(3)

Russell came to our graduate program with a goal to better himself as a director, producer and playwright. As an M.S. student, he had the opportunity to take a variety of production courses and in the process learned a lot about audio in a rather unplanned way.   “Not very many people think about the audio until the very last moment with production. As a result of that, the productions that I’ve done here [as a graduate student], trial by fire, I’ve learned audio” and that’s how he ended up with Big Finish. But the reality is, Russell points out, this very well could be a foot in the door to bigger things. It’s possible, for example, to be hired onto the Doctor Who production team for the BBC and that would be like a dream come true.

For now though, Russell is happy combining his teaching and freelance work and hopes to find a more permanent home in The Media School if an opportunity presents itself.  And in typical generous Russell McGee fashion, he asked if thank you’s could be included in this post to some of the people who have been instrumental to his success in graduate school and beyond: Harmeet Sawhney, Rob Potter, Susan Kelly, Robby Benson and even (especially!?) me.

Telecom Time Capsule

By Mona Malacane

With the Media School officially inaugurated  and the moving date on the horizon (hooray, more construction!), we are onto bigger things …

But transitional changes are sometimes sad and, no matter how much you’re looking forward to the change, I think it’s pretty normal to feel your throat tighten a little when you think about what we will be leaving behind … It is wonderful that we’re moving to a new, renovated (hopefully more naturally well-lit) new home but it is sad to be leaving the ol’ RTV behind. I mean, it’s been a good home for 51 years and no matter how annoying the construction and scarce parking is, it’s a little bittersweet to be leaving.

So last week’s blog story got me thinking, if we were to bury a time capsule for Telecom, what would be in it? (Please note the irony here: a pixels department burying a time capsule.) Reed started my thoughts going with his comment that  he would include some crumbled papers from the times the copy machine jams.

glass case

Ancient Telecom goods.

Now here are a few things I would add to that list:

  • A few things from the glass display cases downstairs
  • The TV 169 room sign
  • In case the Internet dies, transcripts from all of the past blog stories (preferably with gifs included)
  • Sugar cookies from the T600
  • The card readers for the grad lounge and grad lab (perhaps they will work better after having a few decades of rest)
  • A picture of the greatest ever grad lab whiteboard mural
  • Edo’s chocolate balls
  • Tamera’s LC4MP doodles
  • Perhaps some of the interesting papers that are currently stuck to faculty doors
  • Past pictures of the whole gang gathered on orientation Mondays
  • The very first batch of T501 final papers (if Annie still has them)
  • A few of the conference snow globes currently overflowing in the ICR
  • Department of Telecommunications coffee mug
  • Tamera’s rear view mirror
  • A picture of the view of the Arboretum from the 3rd floor (one from Spring and one from Winter)
  • And maybe one or two of the graduate student mailboxes

I’m fully aware of the hypocrisy in this list of things that I will miss, the majority of which are things that are kind of annoying about the building … But, to be honest, these things are irksome in the way that a younger sibling can get on your nerves: you sometimes hate them, most of the time you like them, but no matter what, you always love them. So if there comes a time when we (i.e. the powers that be – Walter Gantz) decide to turn this hypothetical time capsule into a real one, be thinking about what you would add! Or send your ideas to me and we can add them to this list!

An Appetite for Learning

By Mona Malacane

Who would take classes after achieving tenure, winning major grants, and earning the title of Distinguished Professor?

If you’ve taken T501 then you’ve heard her motto, “A PhD is a license to teach yourself.”

If you haven’t already guessed by now, I’m talking about the one and only Annie Lang. She practices what she preaches – that learning never stops –and if you can believe it, she enrolls in a course almost every semester. “The first time I took a class was when I was an assistant professor actually, and I took a class in Electrical Engineering on electrical circuits, circuit design, and I did that because at that time I was setting up my first psychophys lab and back then it wasn’t like how it is now, you couldn’t go buy a lab in a box. You had to buy equipment that was not made to do psychophysiology with and you literally had to solder it …  So I thought ‘well I just need to learn how to do this ’…  And I did.”

This semester, Annie is taking two courses: Dynamic Systems Theory (Q580, Cognitive Science) and Perception & Action (P651, Psychological & Brain Sciences). Initially, her plan was to only take Dynamic Systems but then she learned that Perception & Action, a rarely offered course, was being offered this semester and so of course she had to sign up for it as well. “Instead of just taking one which I probably could have handled without killing myself, I’m now taking two … It’s just like being a graduate student: I’m teaching one, taking two, and doing everything else professors have to do. So I’m actually busier probably than I’ve ever been in my whole life.”

preach

She has also taken four semesters of Italian, Mathematical Psychology, two semesters of Calculus, a master gardening class … oh, and golf, just for the fun of it. But the most “meaningful” course Annie has ever taken is Developmental Psychology; a rather far cry from Electrical Engineering but necessary nonetheless because she had just won a grant that involved research on children and hadn’t taken a developmental course since grad school. She wasn’t expecting the course to have such a profound and lasting impact on her scholarship. “That’s where I first encountered Dynamic Systems approaches to Psychology … That’s when my paradigm first started rocking … And I still remember walking into Walt’s office about halfway through [the class] and I said, ‘well I’m in deep trouble. I think my paradigm is shifting.’”

[Please indulge me with this little detour from our interview which almost resulted in my death from laughter. Annie told me more about her professor for that course, Esther Thelen: “She was such a good teacher. She would always give you a question to write about the readings. And I would always do the reading and go ‘I don’t see what this question has anything to do with this reading’… which is of course what I do to students all the time … but I hadn’t had it done to me in a long time!”]

Being the tree-hugger that I am, I thoroughly enjoyed Annie’s analogy for the process of self-teaching/self-learning. She explained that when you’re teaching yourself, you don’t get “the whole tree.” “When you get a good class, it gives you the trunk and the big branches. And then after that you can always hang stuff.” But before you have the trunk and branches, you sometimes just have a bunch of knowledge to hang but no idea how to organize it.

Which kind of describes the entirety of graduate school when you think about it. We go to grad school because we have questions and stuff that we want to hang so we understand it better … So we find some good, solid trees and where to hang some of that stuff – also known as getting a PhD. But like Annie said, a PhD just gives you a license to teach yourself, so you’re constantly learning more about trees and collecting stuff that you want to hang and … wait a minute.

I see what you did there Annie... you're good.

I see what you did there Annie … you’re good.