A new program teaching students the ins and outs of media production
By LEAH RHYNE » Photos by ANNA HARTMAN
In the space of five minutes, Becca Finley tells one student in her Media Madness program not to leave early, and admonishes the class, “Don’t be late next week. We have a lot to do.” From the serious looks on the faces of the 11 high school students assembled at the Danny Jones Armory, it’s clear Finley is dead serious.
As she should be. Media Madness is a 20-week-long master class in film production, journalism, research, editing, ethics, and conscious living. Whew. During her time with them, Finley takes inquisitive, ambitious high school students and transforms them into media professionals. She has exactly 60 hours to cover enough topics to fill a college major.
Thus, the most important rules: Be on time, and no leaving early.
Media Madness is Finley’s brainchild and passion. Growing up in an affluent Texas community, she loved the arts but lacked the support to pursue a creative career. The artistic bug, however, wouldn’t let go. After several years of daily grind, “scurrying around” as she puts it, she returned to the arts, determined to learn everything. Taking every internship and job she could find, paid and unpaid, she learned from the ground up how to produce a film, a book, a magazine, a newspaper.
Still, she wasn’t fulfilled. “At my core,” she says, “I am meant to serve.” After moving to South Carolina and laying roots on Sullivan’s Island, she began sharing her knowledge with students, first at a college level and then high school. High schoolers, she says, are more invested, more excited. They come to learn, not just for an easy A.
Her program is vast in scope. Each year, the class produces two issues of Found: Music Uncovered, a glossy magazine on par with Paste. They learn every aspect of production, from selecting bands to profile, interviewing, writing, photography, and editing.
Additionally, students produce three 30-minute film segments, also about music. Says Finley, “Music is tangible. It’s cool. It’s something everyone can relate to.” For these students, it’s a point of embarkation.
Her staff is made entirely of volunteers. Graphic designer Joel Travis, the Editor-in-Chief of the student magazine, found Finley by accident, answering an ad on Craigslist. “It sounded perfect,” he says, grinning. “The hours matched up, and now, years later, I’m still here.”
Ellie Payne, a telecommunications expert whose credits include Comcast local programming production, spent a recent class describing set creation and lighting. To her, it’s an art form. “Shadows are your friends,” says Payne, adjusting a spotlight. “Get rid of the ones you don’t want, then add new ones in for depth and color.”
Aline Dick, a full-time salesperson with Arcadia Publishing, helps with one of the group’s annual events. They curate the musical acts for the Cooper River Bridge Run. “I love being able to give back,” she says, discussing the hours spent listening to submissions and planning the locations for bands along the route.