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Television, film and radio programs expanding at NWC

Northwest College student Breanne Thiel films during the NWC wrestling match against North Idaho College on Friday for the college’s television station, NWC-TV. Thiel is one of a growing number of students taking classes in the college’s new radio, television and film programs. Northwest College student Breanne Thiel films during the NWC wrestling match against North Idaho College on Friday for the college’s television station, NWC-TV. Thiel is one of a growing number of students taking classes in the college’s new radio, television and film programs. Tribune photo by Don Amend

Debbie Mueller sits at a computer Tuesday afternoon, editing a video section of a news story for the college television station, NWC-TV.

At other times, she works with a team of students to edit the NWC movie production class’ first full-length feature film, “The Art of Murder,” filmed last semester.

In addition, Mueller and a friend work together to offer a live, one-hour show, “Shockwave,” weekly on KNWT, the college’s radio station, at 5 p.m. on Mondays. In the show, they discuss entertainment news and play new music singles.

Since September, Mueller, of Casper, has immersed herself in film, radio and television broadcasting classes offered at the college as she pursues her dream of working in the film industry in Los Angeles. She chose Northwest College because it offers the only film production program in Wyoming.

That wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago.

While the college began offering some film and video experience as early as 1999, a movie production class in 2003 and television broadcasting in 2005, it didn’t have a true film production program until 2009.

“We offered a movie production class and had good response,” said Dennis Davis, NWC assistant professor of journalism and mass communication. “We had students starting to identify themselves as film majors, even though we didn’t have a film major. It didn’t take a lot to figure out we needed to start a program.”

Northwest first began filming video in 1999-2000 as an outgrowth of the journalism program. Students filmed events and news segments, which were broadcast online on the website for the student newspaper, the Northwest Trail, Davis said.

“With the Web increasingly important, we tried to capitalize on that,” Davis said. “Then in 2005, TCT West offered a space on their cable system. We took advantage of that, then had an opportunity to be on the then Bresnan (now Optimum) system in Powell, and later in Cody.”

The movie production class came later, in 2003, with college students writing, directing and filming several short films.

The college’s radio station, KNWT, didn’t begin broadcasting until November 2010, after the completion of a state-of-the-art recording and broadcasting studio, located just off the stage at the NWC Nelson Performing Arts Center.

Northwest College now offers degrees in film radio, television, screen writing and print journalism, Davis said.

Davis said the film program is designed to be a transfer program, with students moving on to a four-year institution after completing their associate of arts degree.

The radio and television broadcasting programs are designed to be two-year degrees, with students prepared to enter those fields with associate of applied science degrees. However, those students also may transfer to four-year institutions if they so desire, Davis said.

This semester, 23 students are enrolled in the radio practicum course, a hands-on class in which they learn the art of radio broadcasting by doing it.

Skills they learn include announcing techniques and sports play by play, news, preparing scripts, what’s involved in description, editing on computers and doing mixes between voiceover and music. The also learn to make announcements promoting their own programs or others.

Fifteen students are enrolled in the television practicum, where they learn and perform similar skills with an emphasis on video and television broadcasting.

Davis and Michael Konsmo team teach the beginning movie production class, which focuses on skills associated with casting, filming and directing, and Davis teaches Movie Production II, which focuses on video editing.

Konsmo also teaches screen writing.

Other courses include news writing, radio and television production and core education classes.

Students also are encouraged to take an audio production class offered by Rob Rumbolz, associate professor of music.

During spring break in March, Davis and Rumbolz will team teach a field studies class that will travel to Los Angeles, where students will get a chance to visit film production studios.

Several of those students already will have a good idea of the work and skills that go into film production, having worked on “The Art of Murder” during the current school year.

Mueller directed the casting and filming of the full-length feature film last semester in the Movie Production I class. She said she found it to be a time- and labor-intensive endeavor, beginning with coming up with a production schedule and working with the crew to find a cast.

Students had six weeks to film the 50 scenes in the 102-page script. The script was written by Michael Hinman of Logan, Utah, a friend of Davis’ since their  high school days in Powell.

“I did a lot of the organizational stuff,” Mueller said. “We did a night of open auditions, and it was poorly attended, so we were on the hunt for a cast. On the set, it was coordinating a lot of different people working with different crew members.

“I was at every shoot. Generally, they lasted at least five hours, minimum; sometime they went from 1 p.m to 11 p.m.

“A lot of people said we couldn’t get a full-length film done in six weeks,” Mueller added, but the students proved them wrong.

“We had a very determined team to get this done,” she said.

This semester, students in the Movie Production II class are working to edit the film in time for its May premier.

Mueller said she is getting valuable experience that will help her as she seeks to be a writer, producer and director in the film industry.

That is a dream she set aside during her first stint in college.

“As a child, I wanted to be an actress,” she said, “but I was always told it wasn’t practical. When I started college originally, I was trying to decide on a practical career and decided to do a career helping people, so I got my master’s in social work.

“I worked four years in the field and decided I wasn’t following my dream. My true dream was to be in entertainment, touching the lives of many.”

The film production program has helped her set that dream on course.

“I love the program,” she said. “I’ve had so much hands-on experience. I have had many different experiences, and I have enjoyed working with my professors.”

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