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By Diana Colson

Finally—my fifteen minutes of fame!

The phone rings, and it is Bob Gray asking if I would play a key role in an upcoming film being shot at Sarasota County Technical Institute (SCTI). “Of course,” I said, hoping it might be the role of The Princess or the Movie Star, or perhaps even Maleficent the Witch.

No such luck! I was being cast as The Grandmother.

“Oh,” I said, picking my ego up off the floor. “Well . . . what do grandmothers wear?”

“Regular stuff,” said Bob.

On the set with Maddie Turner at SCTI
On the set with Maddie Turner at SCTI
So I pulled on my brown fringed cowboy boots, a long denim skirt, and an apple green sweater, put on lots and LOTS of jet black mascara, and brushed on a killer-red mouth. If I was going to play Grandma, she was going to be descended from Annie Oakley!

I drove to the main campus SCTI, located at Beneva and Proctor, and parked overlooking the lake. After signing in at the visitor’s entrance and showing photo ID—standard procedure for schools these days—I received a badge and was taken to Studio A, where teacher Bob Gray introduced me to his afternoon group of young people.

Ashley McBreen had created the story, while Oliva Monks and Sean McGann co-wrote the script. It went like this: a grandmother would be seen showing her teen-aged granddaughter photos in an old family album. As they look at the pictures, the grandmother tells of meeting her future husband during World War II. Maddie Turner would play the granddaughter, while Ashley and Sean would portray the young lovers during flashback scenes of World War II. Bob Gray would play the grandfather as an elderly man.

There were many scenes to the story. Today, however, they would film only scenes in which Grandma appears.

Deanna Covert was running sound and doing makeup. Liam Jordan was operating the digital camera attached to a floating boom. Alexia Salavar and Clarissa Lynch were in charge of the lighting. Olivia Monks and Sean McGann would share the duties of director and editor. We would be shooting ten short scenes, some of them voice-overs. My script was hidden inside a magazine: hopefully I could see it but the camera would not.

I nervously sat on a bright red couch. The crew stared at the monitor as the camera got ready to roll.

“Hold the mike up over the actors.”

“Take you hand off the boom arm. Check the focus. Stay tighter on the photo.”

“Maddie, get ready to walk into the frame.”

“. . . Someone has to say ACTION . . .”

We started shooting Scene One. It took several takes. The first shot was deemed unusable as the glare of the lights was reflected in the glass on a framed photo. On the second take, a door squeaked open and ruined the sound. A third time I fluffed my line.

“Go wider and do it again.”

We did. And we did. And we did, resetting camera and lights each time. Two hours later the scenes were “in the can” and I had a chance to talk to this wonderful group of kids and their instructor.

I learned that the Digital Video Production program at SCTI is a two-year program for high school juniors and seniors. It focuses on

L-R. Ashley, Alexia, Sean, Maddie, Liam, Deanna

broad, transferable skills, focusing on key elements of the Digital Video production industry.

Faraway kids are brought in by bus from high schools all over the county to attend either the morning (7:45 am – 10:45 am) or afternoon (11:15 am – 2:15 pm) sessions. For the remainder or the day students attend their regular high school classes where they study a core program.

In this program, students gain practical knowledge and skills for entry level in the fields of video production, television production, news gathering, and film production using current digital video equipment. Students get hands-on experience in script writing, preproduction planning, scheduling, hiring a crew, camera work, lighting, audio recording set design, studio production, field production, and editing.

Every spring, counselors travel all over Sarasota County to tell 10th graders of the offerings given at Sarasota County Institute of Technology. Digital Video Production is but one of 34 state-of-the-art career and technical programs offered, including such wide-ranging fields as Law Enforcement, Cosmetology, and Practical Nursing. Most of the kids who come to SCTI first heard about these programs through counselors.

Ashley: “I always used to make little u-tube videos. Then I saw a presentation at my school and decided to enroll.” She attends Venice High School for the remainder of the day.

Olivia also travels in from Venice High: “I was always filming action sports – skateboards, scootering, BMX. I’ve been doing it since 6th grade. I always knew I wanted to film.”

Liam takes a 45 minute bus trip to Sarasota from North Port. “They cancelled the program in North Port,” he shrugged. Bob Gray explains that the State Department cut Video Production as a High School course. It is now only offered as a Career and Occupational course.

The rest of the students were enrolled at Suncoast Polytechnical High, a school located on the edge of the SCTI campus.

Deanna: “I took Multi Media last year. Did a class with Mr. Gray. Thought it was worth going into.”

Sean: “I’m a big film nerd. Decided to make movies myself.”

Alexia: “I tried Architectural Drafting last year, but it didn’t work out for me. So I tried this class and really liked it.”

Clarissa: “It sounded fun. It all looked cool.”

Maddie: I’m a big movie fanatic. I wanted to learn how to make my own. This is my calling.”

Thanks to Bob Gray and the excellent program offered at SCTI, these film dreams just might possibly come true!

Siesta Sand
Author: Siesta Sand

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