Howard public access channel promotes do-it-yourself television


February 07, 2005|By Dana Klosner-Wehner | Dana Klosner-Wehner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ARLEEN GOODWIN believes misunderstandings in relationships are caused by the differences in the way men and women think. So the Elkridge resident set out to promote healthy relationships by producing a new television show, The Y Factor, which will appear this month on Howard County Public Access Channel 73.

Goodwin has completed the first episode, which features a panel of men and women and herself as host. Her guests are presented with hypothetical situations; Goodwin hopes their responses will demonstrate how the two sexes react to the world.

Ellicott City resident Bob Krasnansky and his group, Marylanders for a Free Palestine and Secure Israel, produce a show called Building Peace for Israelis and Palestinians.

"The idea is to educate people about a serious issue," Krasnansky said. His guests include story-tellers, humanitarians who work in the Middle East, and speakers on both sides of each issue, Krasnansky said.

The show started in October, but Krasnansky is not a newcomer to public access television. Several years ago, he taped 90 episodes of a show he called Making a Difference, which also was a show about achieving peace.

Goodwin and Krasnansky are just two of the many volunteer producers who have taken advantage of the chance - provided by Comcast, in partnership with Howard County - to produce shows at the Comcast studio in Ellicott City.

"[Public access] gives residents the opportunity to play out their dreams," said Donna Richardson, government and public affairs manager for Comcast. "If they've always wanted to be a TV producer, an actor, or have a message they want to get out, [they can do it here]."

Howard County residents who have an idea for a television show - and the time and drive to produce it - can have their work aired. Comcast provides a full studio equipped with a talk-show set, three cameras, lighting, and audio and editing equipment, as well as any necessary remote equipment. No broadcasting experience is necessary.

After a prospective show is approved, volunteer producers go through about 16 hours of training. They can sign up for the training with a group of friends interested in working together, or Comcast will provide a list of volunteers who have taken the training and are looking to work on a show. The training and studio time are free, with a small fee for materials.

"I feel blessed that I've had the opportunity to do something like this and to enjoy it to the hilt," said Wilde Lake resident Nancy Kopsell, 83, producer of Spotlight on Seniors, a show that has been on public access in one form or another for 20 years. The program, which focuses on services and activities for seniors in Howard County, has won five awards at the Hometown Video Festival sponsored by the Alliance for Community Media.

"There is so much to do, you have no idea [of] the scope until you have a senior in your family," said Kopsell, a former professional radio talk-show host.

Spotlight on Seniors originated at the Florence Bain Senior Center in the 1980s, where Kopsell was spending time shortly after she retired from a career in real estate and looking for interesting things to do. At Florence Bain, she met Helen Rogers, who had a background in radio, and Mack Schwartz, who had worked in television. Using Schwartz's home video camera, the three collaborated, recording Rogers reading a book she had written for her grandchild, an aerobics class for seniors at Howard Community College pool and other local scenes.

Since then, the show has grown to an 11-person crew, many of whom have a professional background in production. Topics range from Hospice of Howard County to a behind-the-scenes look at the movie industry, featuring local senior Prudence Barry, an actress who has appeared on the network television show Homicide: Life on the Street and in the movie Suspect, starring Cher and Dennis Quaid.

"We are free to be creative. It's wonderful to be in that position. There are no boundaries to things we feel are of interest," she said.

Some members of the Spotlight on Seniors current crew have taken television production courses at Howard Community College. "There is always more we need to learn," Kopsell said. "You never stop learning. Aging is just a state of mind."

For Hickory Ridge resident Judy Templeton, creating and directing her show, Imagine That!, was a lifelong dream. "I always wanted to work in the TV field," said Templeton, who works as a supervisor in a human services organization and teaches musical theater and dance at Slayton House, the Drama Learning Center and Patapsco Middle School. "I have always managed to find ways to work in fields that I love."

That's the theme of her show. "It's a positive program for children. The theme of [Imagine That!] is: Imagine you can - and you will," she said.

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