Students hone their TV studio skills on their own mini-dramas
by Michael Dobie
In a Montreal apartment, a seduction is taking place. Zoom in on a young couple, Pat and Kathy, returning from a date to Pat's place as he finishes telling a joke. "And the bartender says, 'Take a couple of these and maybe your wife will look better.'" The joke is bad, but it gets a laugh from Kathy.
Now, zoom out beyond the couple, now seated on a couch, to the brick walls of the apartment and beyond, past the fourth wall of the studio set -- to cameras, lights and the students of Seminar and Practicum in TV III, putting together a 22-minute dramatic production called Loose.
Loose is one of nine television dramas being made by the students of Communication Studies Professor Nikos Metallinos. Eight students are responsible for three dramatic, three experimental and three documentary productions, which the Concordia community is invited to see on April 23 at the F.C. Smith Auditorium.
Loose writer and director Antonio Di Biasco is torn between two prospective careers -- TV directing and radio. "It's such a rush for me," he said of directing.
The students are engaged in all aspects of TV production. "They write the scripts themselves," said Metallinos, who brings 26 years of teaching experience to his profession. "They organize, they rent costumes, sets and write original music." The students also produce, crew the cameras on the studio floor and direct the action from the control room, communicating with headsets.
"They are a very select group, screened very carefully," Metallinos said. The students replicate professional standards as closely as possible. Though the equipment is a little outdated, everything in the studio is what they would find in the working world, if on a smaller scale.
The course has three axes: theoretical, professional and aesthetic. "We approach the television medium as an art form," Metallinos said. "We challenge the mind and trigger creativity. We don't teach camera-pushers, technocrats."
Students do internships with such broadcasters as the CBC, Musique Plus and CFCF-12. Caroline Joyner, who has interned with Musique Plus and Radio-Canada, will take off after graduation this spring for Australia, where Metallinos has helped her make some industry contacts. She is directing another of the dramas, Always, which was written by her classmate Jessie Mocle.
"A lot of times, it's not what you know, it's who you know," Di Biasco said. Having Concordia alumni in the business all over Canada is a big help, Metallinos agreed. Former students can be found in all aspects of the Canadian media, mainly in the biggest production centres: Toronto and Vancouver.
Many of these successful people find time to help recent graduates of the program. Metallinos said his students' post-graduation job prospects are good in this competitive industry because of Concordia's emphasis on combining technical know-how with theory.