Did you hit record?
Those four words were all I heard in highschool. They’re all I ever paid attention to. For good reason I suppose. See that was the question we asked as soon as we hit ‘transition’ in the broadcast studio. It was a routine, one that I will never get tired of. If we didn’t hit record then we had no record of what we were showing to the school at the time…it just became nothing. All the hard work, the hours we spent filming events instead of doing homework or sleeping was just gone.
I’ve written a lot about this topic before. I originally was planning on submitting it to Shonda Rhimes’s G2 Pilot Pen contest but I felt too self conscious about it and had struggles with handwriting it and copying the paper. Every time I did it the scanner would ruin my image and I had missed the time to mail in submissions. I also wanted it digitized because I have very sloppy handwriting. So this story never made its way to Shonda.
and I certainly also want to mention that I myself am not the first female director of my highschool’s broadcast program. There were about three I think before me? One was my mentor herself. But I had a lot of circumstances in my three years that I kind of really reflected on.
Everyone focuses on how great it is that I’m a woman and I had this power, and I’m very proud of that. But no one actually understands how hard it was. I enjoyed every second of it and I kept going back each morning because I was in love with the thrill of it. There’s a sense of feeling you get when you do a show and get to use a switcher, and press all these buttons. But life wasn’t just all button pressing.
The lay out of the class is a student run for credit class with a teacher to supervise us. He teaches all the video classes which prepare you for the broadcast class. You take video 1 to get in, although there’s exceptions who never take the class or simultaneously take broadcasting and video 1 together. See you don’t exactly sign up for the class.
I’ll walk you through my interview.
I had video one even though I was qualified to not take it, I was enrolled for elective credit. I went in during a study hour to the first classroom which was a make shift art room with computers and video equipment stored in a shared closet with Art next door. The closet is where I had my interview. Student directors sat on stools with only one set of lights on, for dramatic purposes. They ask about my experience, my leadership skills, my skills working in groups, what I wanted from the class…all to how I would solve technical issues. It wasn’t as scary as they tried to make it be. I got in like the next week. But that process is handed down through all the directors.
So I took my first year as a sophomore and in the spring they called for interviews for director. There’s some sort of rule about how it should go. Sort of like one senior, one junior, one sophomore for each position. Yes there’s multiple positions. I may be a director but there were three of us in total who all had the same power and ability. Our formal titles were different, I actually was executive producer? They actually messed up my year because they picked two incoming juniors and an incoming senior. Which made things unbalanced when we had events to cover that we would be at or when it came time to pick people for our junior year. Anyway I was treated just like any other director, I think.
Only let’s discuss that whole concept of being treated the same as a director. I was formally again, considered by staff and by other students but here is where it becomes a bit…messy? yeah. I’ll say messy.
What do you tell a 15 year old girl when she gets the title of director for a highschool broadcasting class? How do you let her know what she’d face over the next years of her life?
There is no guide book. There’s no process. There’s no amount of training I could have had to make this easier or better for me. I wouldn’t have traded my experiences for the world but I don’t think people realize that my experiences include being disrespected, bullied, put down, invalidated, creatively ignored, and having to do the hard stuff like reporting after the death of a student.
Honestly I learned to care less about what people think if it doesn’t benefit me but let’s forget all that mushy feelings about me finding myself and being able to take charge. I’m a shy person, but I grew and developed with my class of students and I found a way to be loud.
But here it is. We need to dig into the problems I faced out of pure sexism. This isn’t to blame anyone, or point fingers in any way but more of an understanding of how students work in today’s society. It was very difficult my first week. I received the title and status in April I think of that year so I was still 15 nearing 16 and I sort of was coming to terms with having this power. We run the class. We address the class each morning, we content check everything before it airs, we even graded our classmates. I suddenly could speak out when I didn’t like something someone had presented to us to air. I could creatively tell them that they were wrong, and I could propose things for people to film and so I started to try to.
Can you picture a timid 15 year old me, trying to tell an 18 year old senior his package can’t be aired because of say a mic being cut off or audio being fuzzy?
or let’s throw this one in
no one is actually doing work in the studio and you get a sixth sense your teacher is about to come in and witness the lack of effort, and you have the job of telling everyone to start working- and you do, pretty loudly…but they still don’t listen?
Those are two examples of what I dealt with on the daily. No one listened to me. I had to command respect suddenly. These were my peers who I know I sometimes pissed off by putting my foot down over certain topics…which is when middle of my first year I started being called a bitch behind my back. I sort of brushed it off. It worried me at first but then I had come to an understanding that in order to be in a professional environment that I had to accept what was being thrown at me.
There was staff meetings towards the end of my final year where they requested my male co directors over me even though they were discussing a project that I had been following, and was close to the graphic creator for. There were students who gossiped about our program, who put us down constantly and they didn’t even know I was running it. We have credits but no one reads them, they’re just to be fancy I suppose. Or male students accused us of brainwashing when we tried to cover news stories without bias about current state of affairs in our society, which included things that affected our student body like gay marriage and health care. From then we started a small segment were students could send in messages and do an editorial on them, to explain our content choices. It didn’t fair well with students, but was praised by teachers.
It’s hard to pick out a really terrible moment from a vast sea of them.
I had bad times too. When a male student thought it was okay to disrespect a deceased student, whom I was close with which resulted in me screaming at him (and I had lost my patience with him as a poor broadcast student who was flaky and very poor at due dates as well). I did things I was not proud of like undermining someone else’s project and so forth.
I struggled with finding my voice and this program helped me to. So I guess this is time to explain why I get so interested and invested in people directing because I never thought that I couldn’t direct. I never was like oh that’s a man’s job I can’t. It was more that as I became one, and the only female one during my year (and then went to choose two, very deserving, female directors for the year after I left) that I realized I was alone. But I also felt like that gave me power, being the only woman. I took everything into my hands, I often overloaded myself with work. I watched three different news channels a day, I was a junkie- but I believed in helping my classmates receive real news. We didn’t cover just when the sports played but impact stories about our community or the world. I also empowered my female students and I let their voices be heard, and we did things like accepting people to be anchors who had no experience and people thought of as just a cheerleader- she’s in a journalism college now. These people have stories and talents, and I helped them grow.
I get so excited when I see women directing because I know they’ll struggle, even if they never admit if they do. I’ll have felt the same as them. The frustration of not being listen to. The sheer anger when you’re about to go live in five minutes, and a script isn’t done being fixed.
and that moment when you ask did you record?
I can say, yes I did.
Drink: Orange flavored immune boosting drink, in warm water. Also a cup of English Tea Shop super berry mix.
I think I have my letter to Shonda typed up still if anyone wanted to know the full story behind everything. I go into a lot of depth, including things that I don’t mention here like the school trying to remove our program.