The Media Factory is here for you in 2020 and beyond
No matter that we all work in our homes, separated by miles and connected by cables, the Media Factory stays here for you.
Photo: Production Manager Joey Palumbo and Production Technician Jude Domski on location this summer.
Thanks for being here with us in 2020. If you have benefited from our work this year, and have the capacity to give, please do. Together we can use community media to make 2021 even more connected and meaningful.
When 2020 began, folks at the Media Factory anticipated a year of interesting challenges. In the home stretch of merging organizations, Media Factory partners RETN and VCAM were aligning policies and external communications, while our education, distribution, and production departments had already begun working together. It looked to be a year with many milestones.
Little did we know what was coming in March, when our state went into lockdown for COVID-19. On March 13th, we filmed our last production in the studio for several months: recording Burlington Schools Superintendent Yaw Obeng as he shared the school system’s plan for school closures. And then the Media Factory studio was closed to the general public.
Burlington Schools Superintendent Yaw Obeng announces school closures in our TV studio.
We pivoted quickly to amplifying vital information with a news ticker on our channels and social media announcements about school meals, emergency info, and Covid testing as it became available. Our municipal meeting coverage had no time to pause, as local governments needed to get information to their constituents quickly and safely. Our staff were trained on remote recording workflows, and were covering as many meetings as before, if not more.
“I spent a lot of time helping these boards and administrators learn how to host successful Zoom meetings. Initially, that focused on good Zoom appearances, security and facilitation.” said Ken French, Municipal Services Manager, “Part of our mission is to foster community engagement in public governance. Interestingly, the era of Zoom has enabled more people to participate in these meetings.”
"Interestingly, the era of Zoom has enabled more people to participate in these meetings.”
- Ken French, Municipal Services Manager
Municipal Services Manager Ken French directs a remote meeting.
Some in-person projects were halted mid-stream, and we worked hard to create continuity and find closure for participants, such as the annual collaboration with Champlain College’s Broadcast Media program to support seniors creating their capstone video project.
“In a typical year, the class would come to the Media Factory classroom for several sessions and end the semester by recording a showcase program in our studio, says Jess Wilson, RETN Executive Director and program mentor. "Covid hit while students were still actively shooting and editing their projects. We quickly moved our sessions online and helped students strategize effective ways to finish their projects under lockdown conditions. We made our end of semester show over Zoom and even hosted a live viewing on Zoom for college administrators, as well as students' families and friends.”
"We quickly moved our sessions online and helped students strategize effective ways to finish their projects under lockdown conditions" - Jess Wilson, RETN Executive Director
Once we got through the initial challenges, we looked at how we could continue to support our producers, who were trying to communicate and create from their own homes as well. Our education department created the Work with What You Got Series to provide producers with a way to connect and get technical support from Media Factory staff. Other live events and workshops were re-developed as online experiences, such as our Artist Talks and PechaKucha.
“Our goal was to continue to meet people where they were at home and in their lives — to maintain relevance for folks and also to provide a space where they could focus their creative energies on positive projects," says Ross Ransom, Education Coordinator. And the efforts were well received. "We had an uptick in average attendance with online classes and we saw lots of repeat attendees. It was wonderful to be able to offer a lot of 1:1 support remotely with our community.”
"Our goal was to continue to meet people where they were at home and in their lives — to maintain relevance for folks and also to provide a space where they could focus their creative energies on positive projects." - Ross Ransom, Education Coordinator
All this was gathered on Media Factory Remote: a web page featuring community-made stories and online content focused on the pandemic and staying home. The website itself was still in development, so we accelerated our launch in order to provide a robust communication space to share vital information as well as content created by our producers exploring the experience of the pandemic.
Education Coordinator Ross Ransom & Community Engagement Manager Gin Ferrara facilitate an online workshop.
Providing equipment for our producers was another challenge we had to solve. “We try to break down the barriers holding people back from creating videos, radio shows, and more by providing education and access for free to any members of our community. A huge bulk of our producers take out our equipment to make media on their own terms; whether that's in their home, out and about, or on a set," says Joey Palumbo, Production Manager. "We looked at the science behind COVID-19 almost daily and determined a cleaning schedule, a required "quarantine time" for the gear before it could be rented out again, and documents to train our staff with once we brought them back in." Now the Media Factory has a regular schedule for curbside gear check-out and a system for distanced teach support.
"We try to break down the barriers holding people back from creating videos, radio shows, and more by providing education and access for free to any members of our community." - Joey Palumbo, Production Manager
New signage produced to enforce health guidelines stands by the door.
Our community radio was also on the air, round the clock, without a hiccup. WBTV-LP Radio Coordinator Athena Kafantaris even added new programmers to the community, including the producer of a new program about education inequity in Vermont, Back to Freedom School. “We were able to adapt and condense the orientation materials to fit the circumstances... We intend to do the same for the upcoming season which starts in January”. We did what we could to help housebound people stay motivated, “It was important because people in our community needed a way to get social and educational contact safely. In the early workshops, people really seemed to need something to focus on that got them "out of the house".”
"In the early workshops, people really seemed to need something to focus on that got them "out of the house".” - Athena Kafantaris, Outreach and Radio Coordinator
Radio programmer Melo Grant records her show "The Cultural Bunker" in the 99.3 FM WBTV-LP studio.
As the world continues to change, we are adapting with it. We aimed to continue to serve our community, to support civic engagement and media making, and to share vital local programming on our channels, radio station, and online. No matter that we all worked in our homes, separated by miles and connected by cables. The Media Factory stays HERE FOR YOU.
- We partnered with colleges and high schools to film their socially and physically distant graduation ceremonies.
- This summer we launched online orientations and curbside reservation pickup, so that members can join and borrow gear to continue to make media safely.
- Vermont Access Network's ambitious Crowdsourced Cinema VT collaboration brought producers together from across the state to re-create the feature film “Cast Away,” providing families and filmmakers with a fun and challenging summer project that was bigger than the sum of its parts.
- Our drive-in premiere of Crowdsourced Cast Away with LCATV and MMCTV was a memorable time together (in our cars, far apart!) to celebrate a huge accomplishment.
- A coalition of community media centers created Vermont Community Television to share noncommercial local Vermont-made content across the state.
The drive-in premiere of Crowdsourced Cinema VT "Cast Away" is a collaboration with LCATV and MMCTV.
We now have workflows in place that give us the flexibility to record meetings remotely, to create media with both high production quality and safety precautions in place, and to provide rich learning experiences using online tools. Much of this work was done because we felt that we must. The Media Factory was here for you through it all, and we hope that you felt supported and informed by our efforts. We know that this has been a difficult time for our community, and are proud we can do our part to maintain programs and services that matter to you.
Please consider supporting our work for the year to come by making a donation to fund our online education program, tech support for producers, and radio programming. If you have benefited from our work this year, and have the capacity to give, please do. The more support we have, the more we can be here for you for the long haul.