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Valley Life | television

Not Just 'Wayne's World'

Cable access provides exposure, experience both before and behind the camera.

March 30, 2001|PAMELA A. RICHARD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Aspiring actors seeking fame, producers and directors wishing to express their views, and musicians hoping for that lucky break are using the public access channel at their local cable company to pursue their dreams.

Public access allows them to hone their on- and off-camera skills while sharing their interests and knowledge in a wide array of topics, from hiking to music to politics, cable company officials said.

"Public access was conceived as a service to the public so every citizen can have their views heard in cable television form," said Eric Brown, vice president and general manager for Time Warner Cable, which serves 125,000 subscribers in the west San Fernando Valley. "It's a service we provide to the community."

Time Warner holds TV production classes for 150 people each year. The company's 550 registered producers create 250 shows a year, said Deane Leavenworth, vice president of government and media relations for Time Warner. Under the 1984 federal Cable Communications Policy Act, local cable companies--Time Warner in Chatsworth, Adelphia in Van Nuys and Verdugo Hills Television in Tujunga--must provide a public access channel for community members to produce their own noncommercial shows.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday March 31, 2001 Valley Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Zones Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
Cable access--A story that appeared Friday on cable access television misidentified the Southern California regional programming manager for Adelphia. His name is John Monaghan.

After attending a monthly producer's workshop, participants are registered as public access producers and can book studio time to produce a show that will air on public access, said Larry Jones, studio operations manager for Adelphia, which serves 110,000 subscribers.

There is no fee to produce a show, but producers must supply their own videotape, which costs about $30. The cable company will provide a small staff and interns to operate cameras, lights and controls.

At a recent orientation, Jones spoke enthusiastically about public access and the range of topics that can be produced using the public access format.

"The sky's the limit--you can do whatever you want to do," said Jones, who started in public access as an intern 19 years ago. "The doors are open for you to come in with your own creative idea. Take advantage of it!"

Rob Fein took advantage of public access 17 years ago when he started producing "Poker Party," a showcase for bands and musicians hoping to be noticed by people in the entertainment industry.

"There are a lot of celebrities on this system who will see your show," said Javier Moreno, public access supervisor for Time Warner. "Public access has become really big. Everybody watches it."

No figures are available on the number of people who watch public access programs because cable companies do not measure ratings.

"The only thing we can do is proximate the total number of people that could be watching based on the subscriber numbers," said Larry Monaghan, the Southern California regional programming manager for Adelphia's 22 offices. "Usually, it is 3 1/2 people per subscriber home. We do projections, but there is no way to be certain without doing ratings."

Cable companies do collect opinions from viewers who call, send e-mails and write letters.

Talk shows are the most popular to produce, Monaghan said.

The Rev. Braxton Berkley, associate pastor of Mt. Gilead Baptist Church in Pacoima, has taped his show "After Thoughts" at various public access studios since 1991. His spiritually based shows feature positive profiles of people in the community.

"Major television shows don't cover people unless they do something horrendous," Berkley said. " 'After Thoughts' is a venue for the average citizen to voice their opinion. We try to solve problems and look for solutions."

Community members at a recent Time Warner public access class had a variety of ideas for shows they want to produce. Todd Cumberland, Jim Clark and Todd Kramer are planning a show about hiking in Malibu that will include their interest in archery.

Public access is an inexpensive way to learn video production, Cumberland said.

A field production show requires checking out the equipment, with a $200 refundable deposit, loading it into the car and driving to the location of the shoot, said Alan Popkin, director of production for the Time Warner class.

"It's your show," Popkin said. "We'll do whatever we can to help you, but you are responsible for everything in front of the cameras. The crews are not professionals and they do make mistakes."

Actress Carolyn Alexis Chiodini said she tries to minimize mistakes when she prepares for "Carolyn's Showtime," an in-studio production. Before shooting live to tape, she gathers material for the topic, usually an interview with a creative performing artist, and incorporates clips of the person's work during the show.

"I have all these skills and tools, but I need an opportunity to show them, and public access gives it to me," said Chiodini, a former film student.

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