Story by Jim Curry, Northeast Public Relations
NORFOLK, NE – If you saw the feature motion pictures Mad Max: Fury Road or Kingsman: The Secret Service, they were shot using the same type of cameras and equipment that are being used by the next generation of media professionals at Northeast Community College.
Now in its fourth year, Digital Cinema and Media is one of three concentrations under the College’s Media Arts program, which also includes Audio Recording Technology and Broadcasting – Radio and Television.
“We’re teaching film production in two years compared to what others are doing in four,” said Timothy Miller, audio recording technology instructor.
Since it began, students in the program have produced marketing pieces featuring several academic and athletic programs at Northeast, while also working with non-profit groups such as the Animal Shelter of Northeast Nebraska, the Elkhorn Valley Museum and Research Center, and the community of Wausa’s Quasquicentennial Committee.
In addition, students have shot and produced a series of “Capstone” films that have been screened at CEC – Norfolk 7 theatre.
“Capstone projects are creative pieces, but may be shot as documentaries or short films, to showcase all of the students’ production skills as they work through the lifecycle of a production piece,” Miller said. “As a group, they start work on smaller pieces and then move toward a larger project where they are responsible for casting, shooting, editing, and producing every element of the production on their own.”
Miller said the name of the program, Digital Cinema and Media, reflects what students can choose to create – fiction, documentary or corporate-type films. He said students learn a good cross section of skills such as storyboards, shooting, videography, lighting, video editing, and motion graphics. By the end of a production they are considered independent creators and producers.
“It allows them to gain training and marketing skills so they can break into a corporate environment. They are discovering how to put together a well fleshed out press kit for an emerging or existing company with a new product or line.”
Miller works with two other Northeast instructors in the Digital Cinema and Media program. Nancy Sutton-Smith, mass media, teaches post production, Brian Anderson, broadcasting, works with digital storytelling and scripts, and Miller oversees students on the production side of filming.
In addition to their instructional time – all three have decades of industry know-how. Miller has over
40-years, Sutton-Smith with over 30-years and Anderson has over 25-years of trade experience.
Sutton-Smith said Northeast features state-of-the art equipment and digital software which allows students the ability to learn on the same equipment that professionals use.
She said, “The Media Arts program is serving our students the very best way we can when software changes every four months, when cameras change constantly, and when we have to send students out to media jobs that seem to change every six months. We stay up with trends, but don’t chase them. We also stay current with what is popular technically among filmmakers. It is still necessary for us to teach the core basics, which don’t change.”
Sutton-Smith said they are teaching media creation for rapidly evolving media jobs that were not in existence five years ago. She said now that professional equipment is available at more affordable prices, anyone can pick up and “make media.”
“Now, businesses in more rural areas can produce high-end media which are also the types of jobs we’re training our students to seek out. In the past you had to go to larger cities and be willing to work in a city to work in professional media … and it’s not like that anymore,” she said. “Rural areas can play in this high-end media game now. Northeast has great cameras, great equipment and great facilities and we’re right in the middle of it.”
Sutton-Smith credits Miller’s vision for transforming the program into what it is today.
“Everything that Mr. Miller envisioned as he built the audio recording program beginning in the 1980’s is now what he always wanted it to be. Mass Media students have the opportunity to gain all the skills they need to go out and do whatever they want.”
Many students have stayed at Northeast to get two degrees – such as high end audio recording technology and digital cinema and media. Journalism students have also earned associate of applied science degrees in broadcasting so they have a radio and television concentration on their resume.
Sutton-Smith said hands-on work in media is critical to getting hired in such a competitive field compared to other students which allows them to get a foot in the door. At Northeast, she said students are hands-on from the moment they come in as freshmen.
Students are also finding employment, oftentimes, before they graduate. Alumni are presently working at newspapers, in local television, independent contract work, and production companies that focus on programming on outdoors channels.
All of the projects in class provide practical training, which Sutton-Smith said keeps the projects relevant for a student’s resume.
“Media is a career field for many different types of learners,” she said. “Often we have students who walk in the door with all this great equipment and high-end computers and make music videos and say, ‘Can I really do this as a living … as a career?’ So it offers them a hands-on, creative, fulfilling job that takes two years of training. This gives all kinds of students an opportunity to have a successful career.”
Miller said it is rewarding to see how far students can go in just two-years.
“You can see students transform in their ability to produce and deliver a professional product that will take them far into the work force. We feel the Media Arts program at Northeast is in the right place, at the right time for the fast paced, high tech media field.”