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.
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 this 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.
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.