BY CHRISTINE PHELAN, Valley Dispatch Staff
PELHAM — Jim Greenwood has a cardinal rule for his student technicians: Always, always, always hit the record button.
But even for Greenwood, the affable manager of the town’s cable access channels 20, 21 and 22 — in charge of recording, editing and airing everything from municipal meetings to town events — even the cardinal rule occasionally gets broken. That’s because, for more than a decade, he’s employed a battery of high-school students who learn the ropes of TV production, video recording and editing under his watch while utilizing tens of thousands of dollars of town-owned equipment.
“Sometimes I sit at home and yell at the TV,” he chuckles. “But I can laugh about (the mistakes). It’s typical teenage stuff.”
Pelham Public TV’s camera technicians are hardly slackers. What they lack in age, Greenwood says, they make up for in their ability and technical savvy. And by all accounts, the students lap up the experience, usually staying for years and returning even during and after college. Students — who earn just over $8.50 an hour — also have a chance to get a glimpse of Pelham politics, up close and personal. And for them, the first taste of TV production is a route into a career. Some PTV “grads” have gone onto Emerson College production programs, the big three Boston affiliates, even ESPN.
Greenwood said hiring for the positions is generally word of mouth. New techs shadow the old hands for a month’s worth of meetings before being set off to use the cameras on their own. But Greenwood is never more than a call away.
“You can’t just set the kids out to do their own thing,” Greenwood said, flashing his ever-present cell phone. “We’re constantly in contact. There hasn’t been a single vacation I’ve taken when I haven’t taken a call.”
So what does he look for?
“As long as they’re committed. I’m looking for ambition.”
With any luck, next year’s budget will bring a boost to the Pelham Community Television coffers. Greenwood hopes to purchase digital equipment, revamp the studio space, and offer his students more in the way of editing technique. Because of budget concerns, Greenwood has been forced to curb coverage of annual events like the Horribles Parade, high-school graduations, Old Home Day, and even the Yuletide celebration.
But budget cuts haven’t stopped him from shelling his own money for things like pizza, sodas and the inevitable fast-food runs. After all, he reasoned, these are teenagers.
“I always end up pulling money out of my own pocket for pizza and sodas,” Greenwood chuckled. “And they’ve gotten used to it. Now they all look at me like, ‘Where’s the food?’ They pretty much expect it.”
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