The program opens with a television camera swooping down from the sky over choppy harbor waters, zooming in on a small fishing boat engulfed in flames. In another scene, firefighters and paramedics brace themselves precariously near a jagged canyon wall while hauling up a stretcher to which a 10-year-old boy is strapped.
Such action is typical in dramatic prime time programs like "Magnum P.I." and "Miami Vice." In this case, however, the performances are not fictional. They're part of "Orange County Jobs for You," a video jobs recruitment program created by Orange County, and the people on screen are not actors but county employees demonstrating their real jobs.
The innovative show is being unveiled for the county Board of Supervisors this week and will begin airing on most local cable systems in October. It may be the first example of a government agency using cable television for advertising career opportunities, county officials said.
"We are trying to tap an audience that we have not necessarily reached before," said Howard Perkins, county recruitment director.
"This (cable television) is a whole medium that hasn't been explored for the job market," added Gail Mowry, Orange County personnel officer and executive producer of the show. "A lot of people will look at TV who will not search through the want ads."
Rather than simply putting together a printed list of the county's job openings, Mowry proposed the idea of a series of 30-minute shows combining actual footage of county employees on their jobs with interviews of representatives from various departments.
Her proposal was awarded a $4,500 grant from the Foundation for Community Service Cable Television, a state agency created to foster cable programming that benefits local communities.
"The foundation has funded a lot of city and county groups, but our board was very impressed by the County of Orange's use of cable to help publicize jobs and to show job applicants what those jobs are really like," said Evelyn Pine, the foundation's director of information services. "It seemed to us that this is a model program . . . the kind of strong partnership between the county government and local cable systems that represents the ideal use for cable."
Perkins added: "I showed a segment at a regional meeting of county and city personnel departments from throughout California and Arizona and it created a lot of interest." Perkins said the county plans to produce more segments if there is sufficient public response to the shows.
The state grant was supplemented with money from the county's Personnel Department and from Videovision Corp. of Mission Viejo, an independent video production company that produced the four programs.
The county turned to Videovision, rather than attempting to do the $13,000 project in-house, Mowry said, "because I would not have known how to go about doing a show that was production-ready. Since the Board of Supervisors' name would be on it, I wanted to go with the best possible production."
Videovision executive producer Deris Jeannette said: "This may be the start of a different kind of television. The trend now is that people are beginning to find out what the value of video is. Video is a scary medium and most people don't know where to start. Now that Gail has made this step, a number of other departments are showing interest in it."
Jeannette said that Videovision contributed several thousand dollars toward the finished product--mostly in additional shooting, editing and post-production work not billed to the county--to help attract as wide an audience as possible.
"If it was going to be done right, we knew we'd have to put more money into it," Jeannette said, estimating the project's real cost at about $10,000 per program. "It doesn't matter what the budget is; people have to see prime time TV (quality). If they see something that looks amateurish, even if the subject is worthy, they'll flip past it. If it looks good, they'll be more likely to stop and watch."
Each of the "Jobs for You" shows features a guest, including Pilar (former Mrs. John) Wayne and KOCE Channel 50 television host Jim Cooper, who are interviewed by host Cindy Subby on their feelings about Orange County as a place to live and work.
Those interviews are followed by in-the-field segments showing county employees on the job, interspersed with in-studio interviews of one or more representatives from the department spotlighted in that segment. The programs examine career opportunities in various fields including the Sheriff's Department, county libraries, clerical posts and cooks.
Tour of Academy
In the show on the Sheriff's Department, for instance, viewers are given a video tour of the sheriff's academy, Orange County Jail and brought along on a mock arrest and booking. Jeannette was also given access to the department's helicopters for the dramatic aerial photography in some of the segments.