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CWC broadcast students crew PBS broadcasts from Legislature

Mar 3, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Some lessons can only be learned through experience.

For example, when filming a live broadcast during the winter in Wyoming, it's best to bring along warm clothing.

"When you try to (roll up a cable) outside in negative 30 degree weather in a snowstorm, it's a different ordeal completely," Central Wyoming College broadcast student Shawn Fagnant said this week.

He should know. For the past several years Fagnant and other broadcast students from CWC have headed to Cheyenne during sessions of the Wyoming Legislature to work as crew members for Wyoming PBS, helping with weekly Capitol Outlook shows and the governor's annual state of the state address. During their time in Cheyenne, they load and unload equipment, set up cameras and lighting and assist with filming in general, experiencing every aspect of a live, mobile shoot.

"Last year when I went down for Capitol Outlook I got to interview the governor one-on-one," Fagnant said.

The opportunity to work with a professional crew is unique according to CWC assistant broadcasting professor Amanda Nicholoff.

"Thanks to Wyoming PBS (being) right next door to us, the students have really an unmatched skill training level," she said.

"Nowhere else at the university or college level (do) broadcasting students have a chance to work with a state-of-the-art, high-definition production truck."

The young broadcasters also direct fund drives and film sporting events for PBS, gaining experience locally before being chosen to contribute in Cheyenne.

"Our confidence comes from competence," student Kye Funk said. "We have so much experience."

Having worked together for years, the CWC students have developed efficiency on the job. Fagnant said their abilities have been noted by members of the PBS crew.

"(They) say they're going to miss us when we're gone," he said. "They've come to expect a certain quality of work with us."

Caleb Blakeman said legislators notice the students' good work as well.

"(It) gives them an opportunity to see how their money's being spent," he said.

There are more lessons to be learned working live at the state capitol, however, like the importance of winter preparedness that Fagnant discussed. During their first stint on the PBS capitol crew, Fagnant and Blakeman said they didn't think about the weather.

"We were in Cheyenne one year moving cables when a snowstorm hit, and we weren't wearing gloves," Blakeman said. "Our hands would stick to the light stands."

Now they make sure to carry extra gloves as well as hats, coats, thick socks and handwarmers.

For student Ben Gale, who has worked in Cheyenne for the past two years, the proximity to state representatives motivated him to pay more attention to his appearance and demeanor.

"Before going down there I wasn't very professional," he said. "It helped me make that step of dressing and acting more professional."

He also has learned what it's like to work with subjects who are on a schedule.

"Senators are busy," Gale said. "They don't have time for us (to be slow)."

Blakeman said working for PBS will prepare the CWC students for jobs in the future. In fact, he and Fagnant already have worked on Hollywood documentaries and for American Idol, and Blakeman just finished a job with the Travel Channel.

"They were excited (that) we knew what was going into the shoot," he said of his professional employers.

"It goes to show the stuff we're learning actually translates into the field."