`It’s taught us some things’
First imagine you are 17.
Then imagine you’ve been asked to be on television for an hour.
Now imagine you get to be the star, the center of attention for a full hour – live.
Pretty cool, huh?
“They’re counting down – `30 seconds to start, 10 seconds to start’ – and you’re under the lights thinking about what you need to say. It can definitely get nerve-wracking under the lights,” says R.A. Beattie.
“It’s so hot, so unbelievably hot sitting under those lights,” explains senior Tiffany Stone. “You’re trying to sit up straight and listen and think of questions. Sometimes I’m like, `Oh shoot, what did he just say?'”
“The scariest thing of all is the first time people stop talking and you’ve run out of questions,” admits Carter Hansen.
Beattie, Stone and Hansen are the hosts of the television program “Be Heard! Aspen,” a teen talk show that airs live on Tuesday afternoons on Grassroots Channel 12. All three are 17-year-old seniors at Aspen High School.
Their “job” on the program is facilitating an hour-long discussion on a serious topic with a panel of four teens. They are responsible for researching the topics and coming up with questions before the program airs. “I keep a list of questions so there isn’t any dead time,” Beattie said.
Once it’s live, they’re in charge of introducing the panel and moving the discussion along. When the program breaks, which happens several times, they need to wind down or even cut off discussion.
But as important as their roles are, Beattie, Hansen and Stone are far from the only local teens to have found “work” on the program. Aspen High teacher Kathy Klug reckons more than 30 kids have been involved one way or another.
Be Heard! Aspen is modeled after another program called Be Heard! that aired statewide this winter on public television out of Denver.
The format of both versions is essentially the same: a panel of teens discusses one topic. The topics have been the same as well, ranging from teen drinking and driving to “The Columbine Effect,” to stereotypes and dress codes.
There are some differences, however. Be Heard! was hosted by a 25-year-old youth activist from San Francisco. And it was taped over two days in front of large audiences of teens, first in Glenwood Springs and then in Colorado Springs.
Be Heard! Aspen is linked directly between the Grassroots studio and Aspen High School via the airwaves and the Internet. The program is shown in the school auditorium, where there is a keyboard available so students can type in questions and comments that show up on a screen at the studio.
Both shows are the brainchild of Chris Tribble. Tribble owns Versatile Productions, a Carbondale-based video production company that works with several major television networks and several major corporations.
Tribble is aiming to take Be Heard! national, creating a program that moves to a different spot around the country each week. Be Heard! Aspen is likely to become the model for local versions in other communities if Tribble’s ambitions are realized.
“What I want to do is find a way to keep the conversation, the communication going after the show has come to a community,” he said.
To do that he’s relying mostly on the teens. They handle the cameras and computers and just about anything else they are willing to do.
During filming each Tuesday, at least one of the giant television cameras in the Grassroots studio is manned by a teenager. Ask any of them about the experience, and the almost universal answer is, “It’s cool.”
At the school, a member of the film club takes clips of the audience. Those clips are subsequently edited into the original program and show up on television when a taped version of the program is rebroadcast later in the week.
“It’s taught us some things,” said film club member Nick Cortez, who was filming the audience during the Feb. 27 broadcast. Cortez said Tribble taught him and other film club students everything from the importance of keeping the camera steady to how to pan across a large group of people.
The same day Cortez was filming, junior Seth Wilcox was in charge of the computer and the keyboard. He spent a good stretch of the program either coaxing people in the auditorium to type in their questions or wrestling the keyboard from their hands. The rest of the time he typed in written questions submitted by Klug’s class.
“The hardest part about this is not skiing during my two double-stacked free periods,” Wilcox said. “But it’s kind of neat to get people to ask their questions and then have them talked about on TV.”
Actually, the hosts rely on those questions. Often, they’ll be cued by a producer to a student who is standing just off center stage in front of a computer, who reads a question off the Internet.
Beattie and Stone have hosted two shows each and report the second time around was much more comfortable. Stone is scheduled to host the final episode next week, and she’s not nervous at all.
“It’s cool for me to say I’ve been on this TV show,” she said. “I can relate to how hard it is for Katie Couric to sit up there every day.”
“It definitely makes you feel better about yourself, being able to sit in front of a camera and keep things going,” said Hansen.
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