West Hartford Community Television's 'Be The Media' Program Fosters Love Of Making Movies

Rushing back and forth from the studio to the production room tucked away on the third floor of West Hartford Town Hall, three Whiting Lane Elementary School students transformed their story ideas into movies this week.

The movies Miles Gruber, Bobby Biondi and Max Einstein directed all had a holiday theme, two included zombies, all were action-packed. And all were created under the guidance of West Hartford Community Television staff through their Be The Media program, which aims to encourage residents to share movies they make with the community.

Be The Media started 10 years ago with some laptops and Flip Video cameras, according to WHC-TV executive director Jennifer Evans. At the onset, there was a Flip Video camera in every West Hartford school and some local nonprofits to capture moments and send to WHC-TV to be edited and shared.

The goal was to offer a service for residents to tell their stories in their own voice — “for the community, by the community,” Evans said.

“We didn’t have a vehicle for short-form media, but we know it’s being created around town,” Evans said. “In 2007, we saw a need for local media, short stories and get the word out.”

Diana Chin, the station’s community engagement and outreach director, has taken the lead on the Be The Media program the last two years. Chin said watching students come full circle through the workshop always stands out to her. A lot of times, she said, students are tech savvy and know a lot about uploading videos.

Students start with a blank sheet of paper and illustrate the stories they want to produce. They act in each other’s productions, direct and edit.

One of the big moments for students, WHCTV’s production coordinator Brendan McCormick said, is when they get to use the green screen and see themselves in whatever setting they have programmed as the background.

“It’s the moment it gets real for them,” McCormick said.

Whiting Lane fourth-grader Miles Gruber, 9, turned his love of watching movies into making one. Though he enjoyed the process start to finish, he said being the director was the best part.

“You’re kind of technically in charge of the movie and get to make it the way that you want,” Gruber said.

For 9-year-old Bobby Biondi, editing was his favorite because he had the ability to transform the clips he filmed.

Both Biondi and Gruber said after the two-day workshop that they understand why some movies take years to produce.

Evans said upper elementary and middle school students have taken advantage of the local program, which is offered over the summer and during different school breaks. Be The Media accepts any type of media production — animated, stop-action, music videos — under 5 minutes to share on channel 5 every Friday at 7 p.m.

“We’ve been able to provide the tools and the training,” Evans said. “We try to be there for our community as much as possible. Be The Media is one of those ways.”

The next student workshop is scheduled for March 6, 8 and 9. The full, three-day workshop costs $110 or $40 per day. For more information, email diana.chin@westhartfordct.gov.

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