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SENIORS : How to Be a Star : You don't need a million dollars or a degree in film or video production to become an actor or director.


"Lights, camera, action!" If you ever wanted to write, direct or star in your own television program, it's not too late.

Senior citizens can have fun while creating programs and public service announcements for nonprofit clubs or volunteer organizations.

And they don't need a million dollars or a degree in film or video production. There are people to help teach the basics--and it's free of charge.

Through its CRE-8 program, Ventura County Cablevision in Westlake Village offers training and equipment to help people in its service area produce noncommercial programs and announcements for broadcast on Channel 8, its public access station.

All it takes is six hours of camera training on a Saturday or two weeknights to get you started.

"We try not to overwhelm people. We teach just enough so they can use the equipment. We have to put people at ease since we encounter all levels of knowledge and expectations," said Alan McDaniel, the community programming coordinator for VCC.

You are ready to tape a spot after just the camera session. But there are also workshops in editing, lighting and sound for those who want to become more skilled. Multicamera taping will be offered after the VCC studio is rebuilt.

Two weeks ago I checked out the Saturday workshop. The class is fun, informal and personal with opportunity for hands-on practice. It is designed for people with no previous camera experience. You start with the basics and receive useful handouts with easy-to-follow diagrams. That day, seven women and four men learned enough in five hours to tape a program.

You learn about the basic kit: camera, view finder, videotape recorder, battery, tripod, cables, sound and microphones. Mike Kamm, the instructor, recommended that more than one person from your nonprofit group take the class. "It's easier for someone to operate the videotape recorder while another person runs the camera," he said.

When you have demonstrated an ability to use the equipment and are ready to make a program, McDaniel or Kamm can help with pre-production planning. You may use the studio or borrow the equipment for 24 hours. VCC provides videotape and can lend you props including artificial plants and a podium.

Under FCC guidelines, you are responsible for program content. If you wish to use copyrighted material or music, the handouts explain how to obtain permission.

The city of Thousand Oaks has grants up to $500 available to defray certain production costs for community programming. These might include set construction, permissions or graphics.

The program started in cooperation with the CRE-8 Producers Group, a local coalition of trained public access users, said its chairman, Ron O'Neill. "In January, we started up the program and trained people to shoot, edit and produce programs for public television. There are over a hundred nonprofit groups in the Thousand Oaks area. By training people through the CRE-8 program, they can go out and film their own public service announcements."

For senior citizen groups that would like a public service announcement, for example, without taking the training, CRE-8 can provide a crew and talent. It can even help you fill out forms to reserve equipment or to apply for a grant. The 120-member organization has produced dozens of nonprofit public service announcements for others.

Since their training almost a year ago, Thousand Oaks residents Dorothy and Howard Engel have discovered that video production is fun. "Working together in the CRE-8 Group gave us confidence," Dorothy Engel, 67, said. As Voter Service Chair of the Ventura County League of Women Voters, Dorothy Engel used a grant to produce a program that explained the measures and ballot propositions for November's elections.

"From the point of view of volunteer organizations, this is a good tool for recruiting members and informing the community of your activities," she said.

Dr. Tom Maxwell, 66-year-old retired professor of Anthropology, agreed. After making programs for the Conejo Valley Archeological Society, he said: "It's not a difficult thing. It simply takes time to do it."

Tune in next week: Hanukkah happenings and a bagel-tossing Klezmer band that will knock your lox off.


To register for the next CRE-8 training workshop on Dec. 11, 12 or 15, call Ventura County Cablevision (805) 379-5300 or (818) 889-7370. For information on production grants, call the city of Thousand Oaks, (805) 497-8611 ext. 200.

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