You need to take a course first, but after that it's all up to you

GETTING ACCESS

November 08, 1992|By Leslie Cauley

So you want to be a (cable) star?

Most public-access offices require would-be producers to take a short course on basic video production before they'll lend you equipment. Courses cover the basics of shooting and editing, including tips on equipment handling, lighting and sound. Public-access offices or the cable companies themselves run the courses, which can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks in length. Most courses are free, but some jurisdictions do charge a nominal fee, usually $50 or less.

Once you're certified, you need to come up with an idea for a show. You can let your imagination run wild, but not too wild. Public-access offices will nix ideas that are considered obscene or commercial (no lotteries or dialing for dollars). But anything else is fair game.

After that, it's up to you to produce a show -- or many shows, if you so choose.

But before committing to produce a 10-part series, you may want to consider this: For every minute of finished footage, you can expect to spend one hour in the editing room. For a standard half-hour show, that translates into 30 hours of work.

Everything else -- equipment use, studio time and even videotapes -- is free. Cable offices have technicians on hand who can offer advice -- but no hands-on help. That's verboten in the public-access environment. They also can't help when it comes to providing things like props and set designs. You'll have to come up with those yourself. (Tip: Garages and basements are popular hunting grounds.)

Baltimore doesn't have a public-access program. But the surrounding counties do. Programs are open to any resident. For more information in Baltimore County, call (410) 252-1012; in Howard County, (410) 313-6114; in Carroll County, (410) 848-8988; in Anne Arundel County, (410) 268-7551; in Harford County, (410) 272-7500; in Montgomery County, (301) 424-1730,

and in Prince George's County, (301) 773-0900.

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