Rhoda Scherer remembers when she first stepped into the studios of Nashville Education, Community, and Arts Television (NECAT) five years ago.
“I had no clue about television,” Scherer says. She’d been invited to visit the studio by a producer she’d met while volunteering at her niece and nephew’s school yard sale.
“I came to NECAT, I sat in on one of her productions, and I just fell in love with the studio.”
Scherer — who now produces a show called “Psychology Matters” — learned how to run the cameras, lights, and control room through NECAT’s training program.
“You learn in the classes exactly how to use everything,” Scherer says. “They make it so easy to learn.”
That’s music to the ears of former NECAT CEO Trish Crist, who adds that the technology of a TV studio is not as complicated as you might think.
“The skills are mastered pretty quickly,” she said. “Then you get to use them as part of a team to help someone else bring his vision to life and express himself on television.” Crew volunteers earn credit hours they can apply toward advanced production classes, where they can learn green screen effects and specialized camera work.
NECAT’s channels currently broadcast more than 400 shows to 19 Middle Tennessee counties. Because programming is produced by community members for community members, diverse viewpoints and topics can get air time.
As Scherer, who has a psychology degree, gained experience in the studio, she knew she wanted to transition to producing her own show. She created “Psychology Matters” to focus on mental-health awareness. Her show features experts who answer questions that, often, Scherer crowdsources from her show’s Facebook audience.
For Jay Witt, another NECAT volunteer, helping others create TV shows is a powerful way to facilitate creative expression. Witt came to the studio in 2017 to attend Spring Break TV Camp. Like Scherer, he had little knowledge of TV production. Now, he manages the network’s Super Crew — which is responsible for all crew positions for the Our Nashville series, where each episode features a different nonprofit.
Witt, who’s now considering a career in film, has some advice for anyone interested in volunteering at NECAT, but who might be intimidated by what seems like a lot of technical hurdles: “Don’t be nervous at all. Even if it’s something you don’t end up loving as a future career, it’s still a great experience.”
Getting Started With NECAT
Want to dip your toes in the TV-production waters? NECAT offers a free two-night TV production class, where you will learn all the technical elements of working in a TV studio — camera operation, video switching, audio engineering, conducting interviews, lighting design and teleprompter control.
From there, you can choose one of two pathways — for Producers or Technicians.
Technician Pathway — allows you to crew on any NECAT-produced show
$40 annual fee
Producer Pathway — allows you to book the studio and produce your own NECAT show
$80 annual fee
• Once you’ve completed the aforementioned free production class, those who choose the Producer Pathway must take a two-night TV Pre-Production class (for a $50 one-time fee), which teaches how to organize and plan a show for success.
Photos courtesy of NECAT.