Stringers branch out, now shooting movies!

... new link to the Melrose television station ...

from Don Norris and Louise Fennell

That's Louise Fennell at the right, the instigator, the designer, the manager of the new television series now airing on MMTV called "Have You Been Here?". At her right is editor Norma Staples, and cameraman Geoff Shanklin. The guiding light of the project is Mike Miner, staffer at MMTV. There are also some dozen people, mostly SilverStringers, connected with the project.

Just when you think you've got everything for the new issue of the "Mirror"
lined up, up pops a suggestion to do a piece on the new (relatively new)
MMTV show called "Have You Been Here?".

Besides, MMTV is THE competition, but the fact is, the people down the
street have been very helpful, very useful, in publishing our monthly issue of
the Melrose Mirror. It's all on account of one particularly bright Mirror editor, name of Louise Fennell, a Mirror writer who gave birth to a new show called (you guessed it) "Have You Been Here".

On Television! yet!

Louise's new production team hasn't swept up the airwaves this early in the
game, but her deviation from this internet newspaper to drama show on
TELEVISION is no less a deviation rather than a desertion. Like, it is the
advent of television that put newspaper after newspaper out of business --
around the world.

During the heydays of The Mirror, the staff numbered 35 to 40 writers from
Melrose and all across the country. We had a judge in California, a cop in
Florida, and perhaps a dozen former Melrose residents who now live in
warmer climates. Times have changed, television has crept in, our staff is
now down to a dozen -- some four of whom are active in the new Melrose
television station.

Louise's idea stems from her home-town (Beverly) seniors group, where
Louise was a member of a new Beverly television show -- sponsored and
compiled by Beverly's seniors. The show "Livin' the Good Life" got off the
ground some ten years ago, and was an immediate success. We suspect that
there were a couple of pros (televison people) who lent a frequent hand to
this new tribe. Louise became a videographer and sometimes host on that
interview show.

But then she moved to Melrose, discovered the Mirror, and joined up. She
was obviously a pro (we surmised) because, as a reference, she brought
along a copy of her interview with a prominent Beverly doctor. It was good!
So Louise immediately was named "editor" with the Melrose Mirror. Not only
was she a good newsperson, she was a crackerjack with a new digital
camera, and provided us with a good flow of very fine photos.

Eventually she became interested in Melrose's own TV station, and decided to start up a new TV group here. She hit the jackpot when she announced her need for knowledgeable people. Among those responding were Rita Macera, a resident of the Towers who, before retiring, was a fashion promotion manager for all of Filene's stores and taught fashion
merchandising at Simmons College. Another willing soul was Norma Staples,
a volunteer teacher at the Immigrant Learning Center in Peabody.  When Louise announced her intention to form a new TV program, a bunch of people appeared at her organizational meeting at (of all places) Dunkin Donuts, down on Main Street.

There was Geoff Shanklin, whose father had been on the staff of the Free
Press; Kay McCarte, who was a charter member of the Mirror, and Don
Norris, a veteran newsman and also charter member of the Mirror. Flo Shea,
another Stringer,  joined the group and a late comer was Debbi Collar, who
has been writing up a storm for the Melrose Mirror. Key was the cooperation
of the television station, MMTV, that has been in business for several
decades; A young man by the name of Michael Miner was sort of appointed
the company representative; Mike was the new group's leader, teacher,
encourager, and  guy to whom all technical problems were addressed.

MMTV was happy to have another amateur group -- there are several dozen
continuing programs run by local folks, all designed to give MMTV listeners a
proper view of the City of Melrose. All are amateurs, but experience in the
media varies widely. Their charter says that MMTV must take just about
anything submitted.

Louise told her new group what she was about to do -- form a team that would produce half-hour shows every month, entitled "Have You Been Here?" -- fun places all within an hour's drive from Melrose. The team was to travel to selected spots, do interviews with VIPs, shoot the happening as directed by Louise -- supply enough video film for half-hour shows. The group formed a list of appropriate places and Rita made arrangements for the Melrose team to shoot a show.

Keep in mind that all Louise's staff were amateurs, as well as seniors. Both
Shanklin and Norris were named as cameramen, one using the MMTV video
camera and the other shooting stills. Early shoots proved the program was
possible, even to our hosts at MMTV -- who put out a thousand dollars for a
new, light-weight video camera. Now that was a sign of confidence.

The group meets bi-weekly, discusses problems, finds solutions, explores ideas, and plays professionals. It works, and it works well. The group by this time has shot some ten shows, ranging from Castle Island in South Boston to Pickety Place, a delightful restaurant deep in the woods of southern New Hampshire.

The problems we ran into were solved by sheer confidence. Like, in shooting
an interview with the guide of the the fort at Castle Island. It was in open air -- but it was right in line with the prime runway at Logan Airport, just across Boston Harbor. Every three minutes another jet would roar overhead, barely 600 feet overhead. Two weeks later, chagrined, we asked our guests to come to the studio at MMTV for a re-shoot of that interview. Embarrassing -- but it was our first experience in using a professional television studio.

The group's agenda has included shoots at Marini Farms, a family farm-
stand in Ipswich, a 60-mile ride into the woods of southern New Hampshire
to do Pickety Place (a great place to eat), an hour's ride over to Sudbury to do the Wayside Inn, the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton (which included a
2000 year old painting of Jesus), and the Topsfield Fair. From a cameraman's
point of view, Topsfield was the easiest shoot, for there was so much going
on -- including a pageant of Royal Canadian Mounted Police. One of the
most interesting was a fashion show by Yolanda at the Charles River Museum
in Waltham. Yolanda, herself, took us around and told us fascinating stories
about her life and what went into putting on a fashion show.

Editing both the video and the still-shots, coordinating conversations with
background music, and cutting endless material that just isn't up to par--
that's the key job of Louise and Norma, with serious help from technician
Mike Miner. It is hard work, it is long work, and sometimes the team finds
itself short of material. That's life, that's what one gets in dealing with raw
recruits. But we manage, and the group has published on MMTV some half-
dozen of its series.

The show is aired twice each week, once on Wednesday at 10:30am and again on Friday at noon. (See the MMTV schedule in the Free Press or on their website for exact times). The team tries to keep at least two shows ahead of air-time, and several shows are held over until the subject is "in season" -- like the farm stand segment, which was shot in late fall; it will be shown in spring.

All in all, the group feels it has been successful, has produced a number of
interesting shows, and enjoys the monthly job.

"It's been a blast, Norris said -- "both an education and a lot of good times
learning about some pretty strange places."

February 6, 2015

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