It doesn’t quite have the impact of “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night,” but the city of Fresno refused to be outdone by the big boys of corporate media, and created its own Saturday night TV show, “Live from Fresno.”
The Community Media Access Collaborative (CMAC), takes over the former Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art building in the downtown area, and gives our community a voice in the media. While being supported by volunteers, members and paid staff, its roster includes a number of Fresno State Alumni.
CMAC defines its mission as being “dedicated to giving people and organizations in Fresno and Clovis the opportunity to harness the power of media in exciting ways to reach and engage others.”
CMAC hosts a monthly variety show that gives talented amateurs the chance to perform on ‘live’ TV.
The building, which was built in 1922 exclusively for the home of the Fresno Bee, underwent a massive $1.5 million renovation after the City of Fresno took over the building.
Fresno did not contribute financially to the remodel. The tab was picked up by AT&T and Comcast, as part of the Federal Digital Infrastructure & Video Competition Act of 2006.
The makeover of the nearly 7,000-square-foot second floor transformed the area into a state-of-the-art television studio, complete with control room, executive offices and a learning center for the members.
Jerry Lee, executive director of CMAC, said that the need for the membership structure is to guarantee the safety of the overall investment. “We’ve been open for business for about four months now, and we have about 400 members,” Lee said. “We have a mandatory orientation that members attend upon enrollment. This pretty much tells them what they can or cannot do. If they want to produce their own shows, there is a production class they need to attend.”
Don Priest, program manager and former Fresno State mass communications and journalism professor, taught the first round of production classes.
The classes are designed to teach members the proper way to handle the expensive equipment. Other instructors include Fresno State alumni Cesar Perez, Lisa Talley and Johnny Pecina.
Members can also attend a field production class which lets them check out professional-quality cameras and produce their own projects in the field.
Bryan Harley, CMAC facilities & operations manager and recent Fresno State MCJ alumnus, said, “As a member of CMAC, you have a couple of options. If you are proficient at video production you can submit your own video production for airplay, after testing out of the classes.”
“Or you can choose to use our professional equipment for your project,” he said. “Either way, the finished product will need to air at least once on the ‘Live from Fresno’ segment before we can release it to you for your own needs.”
In March of this year, Gary Johnson was looking for something to do with all his free time after retirement. He stumbled upon the CMAC family and quickly enrolled.
During the orientation and production classes taught by Priest, his mind kept wandering back to the golden days of television. Live TV shows like “The Ed Sullivan Show” gave him a vision, eventually evolving into the “Live from Fresno” variety show.
Gary’s idea was to tape live 30-minute segments of local talent with the help from other CMAC volunteers. They came to call themselves the Studio 3 Crew.
The studio set up is equipped with a green screen, which allows for special effects. Three state-of-the-art TV cameras and multiple microphones give the studio a sophisticated look, and provides the volunteers an opportunity to work in an environment they would otherwise never even see.
The live taped shows have been airing the past couple of weeks, and the talent is booked solid through November Some of the acts include bands, comedians, an Elvis impersonator and even a women’s roller derby team.
Johnson does have one frustration, however.
“Musicians are notorious for canceling their scheduled performances,” Johnson said. “Even worse they cancel at the last minute.”
During last Monday’s taping, two musicians cancelled at the last moment.
Luckily for Johnson, professor Von Rock was nearby with his guitar in hand, just finishing up a lesson with one of his students. Von Rock, a.k.a. professor Corey Whitehead, director of guitar studies at Fresno State, walked in and ceremoniously serenaded the Studio 3 Crew and guests with a set of flamenco guitar.
“We will definitely be having Von Rock back for another segment,” Johnson said. “This time a 30-minute set.”
The CMAC building also hosts ArtHop and JazzHop the first Thursday of every month.
“It’s been a slow and long time coming,” Lee said. “But it’s getting better.”
Membership is $25 annually for students, $50 for individuals and $250 for nonprofits. “Live from Fresno” airs Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m. on Comcast channel 96, or AT&T U-Versechannel 99. Visit camcfresno.org for more information or to sign up for membership.