Lights! Camera! Activation!

by Janet Thomas

Associate Editor

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    Canadian youth are helping others tune in to the gospel message.

    “Truck left and get me a two-shot.”

    The words come quietly but insistently over the headset to a young cameraman silhouetted against the hot lights of the television studio.

    “I thought you just told me to stay with a close-up,” he whisper yells into his microphone. “What’s it going to be?”

    “Get the two-shot,” the director insists.

    The cameraman wheels his camera to the left, focuses it, locks it in place, and watches as the red light comes on indicating that his camera is live.

    The television show being taped is one of a series being produced for cable television by the two wards in Kamloops, British Columbia. The series, the LDS Hour, can be seen on the second Tuesday evening of each month. The show consists of one of the many films produced by the Church, followed by a panel discussion using the theme of that particular film as the topic for comment. The guests on the show, hosted by the stake public communications director, Graham Noble, are local residents, most often nonmembers who are experts in the area being discussed. So far, the program has dealt with such topics as loneliness, alcoholism, genealogy, and self-esteem. The boys who run the cameras, control the sound, and direct the production are from the teachers quorum of the Kamloops Second Ward.

    It all started when Brother Noble visited the meetinghouse library and saw that there were nearly 70 Church films available for viewing. He thought that it would be nice to show a film on television once a month. “I figured that with 70 films, we could be on the air for four or five years.”

    “I knew people liked Mr. Kreuger’s Christmas, and I thought they might like these other films,” said Brother Noble. “I phoned the television cable company and was invited for an interview. The manager said we couldn’t just show a film. We had to have some local content. He suggested an hour show where we show a half-hour film and discuss it afterward with two or three guests. We set the formula for the show based on his suggestion.”

    Before the first episode of the show could go on the air, a crew had to be assembled. The studio personnel would train the people involved to run the cameras and sound equipment and be the floor director. Brother Noble thought of using the young men of the ward. He asked the teachers quorum to help. His aim was to have a trained, established group who would stay with it for several years.

    Were there any problems using such an inexperienced young crew? Brother Noble said, “There was some opposition to my using kids. But we stuck with it. They are just the right age to learn.”

    It takes a four-man crew to get a show on the air. So far six have worked on the program, Allen Oram, Mike Noble, Martin Kyle, Bill Graham, Doren Quinton, and Chris Arnold. Not only are friends impressed when they beg off from other after-school activities because they “have to go film a television show,” but parents too have been impressed by what their sons have done. Indeed, most of the boys’ families and other ward members tune in to watch the show. But the crew doesn’t always sit back and enjoy the program.

    “When we watch the show on Tuesday nights,” said Doren, “we’re critical of how we did.”

    Allen quickly added, “We’re getting better all the time.”

    Things have not always gone smoothly as the young men were learning how to run the equipment and anticipate the requests of the director. Some of the first tapings were plagued by pictures with no sound and potentially embarrassing zoom shots.

    The group learned quickly that they had to do it right the first time. “There are no retakes,” said show host, Brother Noble. “If you stutter or clam up, it’s right there on tape, no second chances. It doesn’t bother me to talk to different people, but once you get under those lights, it shakes you a bit.”

    Chris remembers learning about how to produce the show. “I was really surprised at first. The first time was quite rough, but we learned. Now when I watch television, I know what the cameras are doing and when they mess up.”

    Martin was also involved in that first program. “Everyone decided on what area they wanted to work, sound or camera. I thought the whole thing was a great idea. I had always wondered how they actually did television productions, and here we were doing it too.”

    Martin chose to do the sound mixing. His interest has been stimulated, and he finds that knowing a little has added to his appreciation of professional sound mixers. “I went to a concert, and I was really interested in the complicated sound mixing. It was amazing because I knew just how good it was.”

    At first, the LDS Hour seemed to be a service just for Church members. But Brother Noble and the boys found out that the show was being watched by an audience they hadn’t quite expected. They found that members who have not been attending church for years are tuning in.

    “They don’t want to commit themselves to attend church meetings, but they want some connection. One lady who watches our show was baptized 33 years ago,” said Brother Noble. “Her home teachers and visiting teachers have never been successful in encouraging her to attend the ward. But she watches the program and calls her friends to watch it.”

    The group really didn’t know how well the program was being received until one day the LDS Hour had to be cancelled because of a scheduling conflict with another program the cable station was airing. That was when the telephone started ringing. Viewers wanted to know what had happened to “their” program. The following month the show was back in its scheduled spot, and both the cable station and the local wards were glad to know they had a program that was missed when it didn’t make it on the air.

    The young men have caught on that they are involved in something more than just publicity for the Church. They recognize it as a service project. “Yeah, but it’s fun,” is the quick response. It has involved the community because the subjects of the films and the discussions are of general interest.

    Bill explains, “It’s not really a preachy show. It’s about good things that society wants. It’s about human relations. It’s something we can all share.”

    Bill also tells about one man that was touched directly from the program. “I know a lot of people call their friends and tell them about the show. One man saw the show and called the missionaries and wanted to know more about the Church. It’s a missionary tool. We aren’t directly teaching people, but we’re helping. I like being a part of that.”

    The crew has arrived at the studio ready for another taping. With an air of knowing exactly what needs to be done, they quickly arrange the furniture on the set. Chris and Allen pull cables out of the way of their cameras. Martin clips the tiny microphones to their guests’ lapels. Mike is seated at the switching board, giving instructions over his headset.

    Suddenly someone yells, “Quiet.” Bill counts down with the fingers of one hand. “Five … four … three … two … we’re on the air.”

    Photography by Janet Thomas

    Mike (top right) acts as program director and switcher at his station in the control booth. He gives instructions over his headphones to cameramen Chris and Allen (2nd and 4th right). Doren (3rd right) pitches in to arrange the set. Martin (far left) is responsible for the sound. Floor director and cameraman, Bill (previous page) counts down to start the action. Host Graham Noble (bottom left) greets his guests before the taping begins.