Based in the media lab at Catskill High School and taught by Virginia LuPone, the program was launched for the 2015-2016 school year. It may be new but it is already attracting a lot of interest from local high school students, with about 10 juniors currently enrolled in the program’s first year.
The Media Communications program gives students the foundational knowledge and hands-on experience to pursue college programs or careers in the media industry.
“Media has become an inescapable and powerful force in our society,” said LuPone. “Teaching our students how to recognize, analyze and control media gives them an advantageous and increasingly essential skill regardless of where their lives ultimately take them.”
The students receive exposure to a wide range of topics in the media field, including television, film, photography, journalism and radio.
Not only do students learn about media, they make media as well. From start to finish, students write scripts, get footage and edit film using state-of-the-art technology to produce news broadcasts, commercials, promotional items and short films. They even produce short segments called “Cat Chats” for 98.5 The Cat, a local radio station based out of Catskill.
The Media Communications program gives students a head start in learning some of the most common production programs used in the media industry, such as Adobe Photoshop and Final Cut Pro.
Recently, LuPone’s class produced a promotional spot for a local senior home. Christian Cantelmo, a junior from Catskill High School, used the GarageBand for Mac program to mix sounds and create an original score for the spot.
“I’m good with GarageBand and everyone liked what I made, so we used it,” said Cantelmo. He is also looking forward to adding the finished spot to his portfolio.
When creating media projects, LuPone’s class frequently rotates duties—sometimes even mid-shoot—so they can have a chance to experience all the different roles involved in media production, such as actor, director, production assistant and camera operator.
LuPone’s class of juniors has a number of projects on which they are currently working, including a short horror film and a social media campaign.
Jacob Kistinger, a junior from Catskill High School who wants to become a film director, worked with David Verner to draft a script (or “screenplay”) for the class’ horror film. “We chose the horror genre as a class,” said Kistinger. “We start with the screenplay and then come up with the shot list, which outlines the sequence of shots and what they will look like. The group of us also decided together who would play which characters.”
Verner, a junior from Cairo-Durham CSD, said it can be nerve-wracking to be on camera as an actor, but he added that it “gives us another perspective to help us understand the entire process.”
A more serious project being produced by the class is a social media campaign, called “Pass it On,” for Twin County Recovery Services.
The students are in the process of filming two short videos to be posted on Vine, a social media network on which people can post 6-second looping video clips. The focus of the videos is drug awareness and prevention.
Ms. LuPone divided the class into two groups and tasked each with giving their campaign video a certain tone, either positive or “scare tactic.” Using story boards to plan out their shots, one group filmed a series of shots to depict the advantages of not giving in to drugs and alcohol whereas the second group used film to illustrate some negative consequences of drug and alcohol abuse such as loneliness and depression.
Both campaigns send a powerful message—not just in their content, but also in the fact that the Media Communications program is about more than just meaningless movies. “These students are thoughtful, and they care deeply about the world around them. Everyday, I am impressed with my students’ willingness to collaborate, innovate, and reach for more,” shared LuPone.
The success of these student projects can be shared by important community organizations like Twin County Recovery Services. LuPone is teaching her students to not only make media, but to make media that matters.