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2014 Alum Jamie Gagnon Talks About Working on American Horror Story: Cult

2014 Video Production alum Jamie Gagnon first came to NESCom because, as he put it, “I had wanted to get three things: Friends/Like-minded people/connections, hands-on experience, and to test my desired path against other potential careers and NESCom succeeded all of my expectations”. Since graduating, Jamie has been quite busy pursuing that path and it has lead him all the way to California. Jamie took some time out of his busy day to fill us in on his latest achievement, working on seventh season of the hit FX television series American Horror Story.

Q: What have you been doing since graduating from NESCom?
A: Immediately after graduating NESCom, I spent the majority of my creative time writing and eventually, directed a short film before leaving Maine. Since moving to Los Angeles, however, I’ve done some freelance editing, grip work on a music video and a short film, and currently assist a film producer.

Jamie Gagnon on the set of American Horror Story: Cult

Jamie Gagnon on the set of American Horror Story: Cult

Q: What was your role on American Horror Story?
A: I’m a Set Production Assistant (PA).

Q: What was an average day at work for you?
A: First, I check into the Production Trailer, gather call sheets and sides (the segment of the script we are shooting that day), and usually distribute walkie-talkies to our crew. Then from there, I typically assist in a range of duties from coordinating First Team (actors of the day) or Background actors (extras), distribute paperwork, parrot calls to action like “Picture’s Up!” “Rolling!” “Cut!,” lock-up the set (to prevent any noise or people from ruining the shots) and continue to do so for the majority of the day. Finally, we spin the walkie channels to relay information and collect paperwork at the end of the night.

Q: What’s been the most stressful part of your work on the show”
A: There was this one day in Orange, CA. We were shooting only exteriors of the “Butchery On Main” (the restaurant featured in the show) and word had gotten out the night before that American Horror Story was going to be there and so, our set was littered with teens and twenty-somethings who were out to get a peek at Sarah Paulson or Evan Peters. They would constantly try to get past me so they could snap photos and let’s just say it made for a stressful day.

Jamie Gagnon on set

Jamie Gagnon on the set of American Horror Story: Cult

Q: What have you learned through your experience?
A: The sheer level of professionalism on American Horror Story is astounding. These shows have such a rigid system of coordination and execution that few in Maine have ever witnessed. It’s not that we’re incapable of such a production in Maine, it’s just that we don’t have the infrastructure to support it as of yet.

Q: Do you have any plans for the future?
A: My next goal is be staffed on a show so I can have a steady source of income and grow and learn on set at a more consistent pace; I’ve actually already been asked to work on two other shows. I also continue my writing projects. I’m nearing the end of my autobiographical self-help book about my battle with Leukemia which has the placeholder title, My Cancer Story. I put a first draft chapter-by-chapter on my blog, www.guyonawire.com every Monday. I am also reworking a cartoon show that I had put away years ago that is also based on my life– but my childhood, growing up in Northern Maine. Other than that, I’m developing a short film that I’m writing and directing soon, record and host a podcast every week called Not Quite Hollywood and, last but not least, I co-host a Youtube show with fellow alum, Brandon Doyen, called We Need Movies.

Q: What advice would you give NESCom students interested in your field?
A: Keep busy. Life will not hand you anything and therefore, you must work hard for what you want. I keep busy because it A) helps keep me sane and B) spreads my reach far beyond one platform. I believe podcaster and all-around multi-hyphenate Chris Hardwick, said it best: I put lots of fishing poles in the pond. Something eventually bites.” Of course, his poles all went off at the same time and he has juggled several gigs at once, but that’s not likely for everyone.

Finally, do what you love, love who you want, and most importantly, love yourself.

NESCom Video Production To Host Filmmaking Workshop With Travis Trudell

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Travis Trudell

The Video Production department at the New England School of Communications of Husson University will host a free filmmaking workshop with Travis Trudell on February 22nd, 7pm at the Gracie Theatre.

Trudell has worked in the camera and lighting department for many notable movies including The Social Network, Manchester by the Sea, The Town, Shutter Island and Ghostbusters.

The audience will be welcome to ask questions after a visual presentation about set etiquette, safety, and professional lighting techniques. Trudell is well known for his accessible teaching style and friendly sense of humor. Please join us for a fun and informative evening about making a living through the art and craft of filmmaking.

Faculty Share ‘What I Did Over My Summer Vacation’

Each fall students return to the classroom and share what they did over the summer. Faculty at the New England School of Communications also have summertime tales to tell and here we’ll highlight just a few of the interesting ways they spent their break.

Audio Engineering Associate Professor Walter Clissen stayed very busy working with world-renowned artist Jose Feliciano recording a new Django Reinhardt tribute album by Feliciano and Viennese guitarist Harri Stojka at LA-Clip Studios in Vienna Austria, rehearsing and recording Feliciano a the Academy of Contemporary Music/Metropolis Studios in London, and mixing Feliciano’s new album Latin Street 2015. In addition, Clissen continues to mix Front-of-House for Feliciano’s live shows including his performance at the Henley Festival of Music and the Arts in London.

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Entertainment Production Coordinator and Instructor Ken Stack spent part of his summer working as Scenic Designer for the upcoming October run of The Producers at the Grand Auditorium in Ellsworth, ME. Plus he wrote the script for the next installment of WHSN’s award winning old-time radio drama Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery & Imagination, slated for a live broadcast from the Gracie Theatre on Friday, October 28th.

Scenic Design For The Producers

Video Production Assistant Professor Todd Eastman traveled to Atlanta, GA to work as Director of Photography on concussion awareness videos produced for the Brain Trauma Association. The production was filmed on an Arri Alexa as A cam with a Sony FS7 Steadicam (just like the one we have here at NESCom) as B cam.

Todd Eastman at work

Alum Greg Wonder Helps Tell The Story Of Dennis Viollet – A United Man

Greg Wonder, a 2010 graduate of the New England School of Communications has been hard at work over the past 3 years working on the documentary Dennis Viollet – A United Man which was recently finished. Wonder took some time out of his busy video production schedule in Los Angeles to talk with the NESCom Blog to talk about the project and its plans for the future.

NESCom Blog: Bring us up to date on what you’re doing in Los Angeles and how you became involved with Dennis Viollet – A United Man?

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Wonder: I’m based out of Los Angeles and as far as entertainment employment goes, this is really the best place for it. My work consists of many things like writing, directing and producing but my day to day job is really as a cinematographer, video editor, and colorist. Editing/color are the things I end up doing most since there’s far more demand for it. I am a freelance contractor but the bulk of my work comes from the same company and we work on a variety of different things from fashion/makeup brands to beverage companies.

I became involved in the project through simple networking. Rachel Viollet (the film’s director/producer) and I met through mutual friends when we were both new to LA and she mentioned that she wanted to make this documentary about her father. She liked my work and the two of us got along really well so she brought me on as the DP, editor, and co-producer.

NESCom Blog: So who is Dennis Viollet and what is his story?

Wonder: Dennis Viollet – A United Man is a documentary about a Manchester United legend who played back in the 50’s and 60’s. He’s one of the best players to ever come through the club and actually still holds the record for most goals in a season. After his professional career in England he came to the United States and played a huge roll in popularizing the game over here.

NESCom Blog: With a subject that spent time in both England and America, did you have to shoot in both countries?

Wonder: The first thing we shot was a couple of short interviews in LA of Rachel and the consulting producer Kim Waltrip (producer Hit & Run) for an indiegogo campaign. The campaign raised enough money for Rachel and I to travel to England for a week and shoot our first batch of interviews. We spoke to men like Denis Law and Sir Alex Ferguson who are legends in the sport which was pretty amazing. After England, we traveled to Jacksonville, FL which is where Dennis spent the second half of his life, and shot the remaining interviews for the film. We shot Rachel’s interview in LA and also was able to grab one with the global ambassador for Man U as he was passing through town on business.

NESCom Blog: How did the film challenge you as DP/Editor?

Wonder: The creative process of editing a documentary is quite a challenge because there is no script. You create an outline of the general story you want to tell but it largely comes down to sitting in the booth and piecing together a story with the available soundbites and presenting them in a way that makes sense and is compelling. We didn’t want to rely on voice over to tell the story, but rather tell it completely through the interviews so I spent a lot of time sifting through hours of footage to find the little soundbites that would work well together. Rachel also transcribed every interview, which was helpful because she could read through them and offer suggestions for what might work well in a particular section or pick out pieces I may have overlooked.

Rachel Viollet Greg Wonder

Director Rachel Viollet with Greg Wonder

NESCom Blog: Tell us about the film’s debut in LA and the plans for future screenings/festivals/awards?

Wonder: We screened the film at Raleigh Studios in Los Angeles and it was very well received. Seeing my work on the big screen was a great moment. It was definitely a personal milestone for me. We also screened it the following weekend in Jacksonville, where Dennis spent the latter half of his life, which was really cool since the story is so personal to the city. We have also been selected as the opening night film for the Manchester Film Festival in England on March 3rd which is exciting.

NESCom Blog: What did you learn in the process?

Wonder: I learned a LOT about soccer! Both about the game in general and it’s history in England and the United States. I also learned how to strip my kit down to the bare essentials. When you have to carry every piece of gear by yourself all over a foreign country, it pays to be selective.

NESCom Blog: How did your time at NESCom prepare you for what you do today?

Wonder: The biggest thing NESCom helped me prepare for was the incredible work load you encounter in the real world. I had at least one video project due every week (usually more), which takes up a lot of time if you want them to be any good. I can remember many nights at NESCom where I was the last person to leave the building and the first person back the following morning. In this business it’s not uncommon to work 12+ hour days, in fact I’ve worked over 20 hours straight before. And then if you’re interested in producing your own content it all has to be done after that or on your days off so you really have to learn to budget your time and put in the work.

NESCom also really helped when it comes to being a one-man-band. Between all my courses I was challenged to learn about many different aspects of production which has enabled me to handle just about any part of it. Obviously you want to work with a team and find the best people suited for each position, but budgets don’t always allow for that so you often end up having to do the jobs of about 4-5 different people. If you are able to handle these sorts of tasks it’s going to make you far more employable than your competition.

For more information on Dennis Viollet – A United Man, visit dennisviolletdocumentary.com
For more information on Greg Wonder visit gregwonder.com

Journalism Students Harness New Technology For Broadcasts

At the New England School of Communications at Husson University, finding ways to push technology in journalism is part of our mission. Last week students experimented with broadcast quality and signal feed challenges using an iPad as a camera that can send a live feed back to the station using Skype. Students can now use the new Talk Show Skype TX hardware, which has been installed in the NESCom Video’s Master Control that allows for broadcasters to harness Skype technology with improved audio and video for broadcast.

For the same newscast, students fired up the new robotic camera and lighting in the newsroom for internal remotes. As with many live broadcast situations using new technology, there were challenges but the students worked through them to deliver the broadcast.  Here are some pics showing the new set-ups.

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Students Spend Summer Experiencing Feature Filmmaking

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Summer may be a time of rest for many students, but for two students from the New England School of Communications at Husson University, it’s a time to jump feet-first into new experiences and opportunities in the movie industry.

Audio Engineering 2015 graduate Alex Knowles of Chester, VT job shadowed for two days on the set of Central Intelligence, a film being shot in Boston starring comedian Kevin Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. During his days on-set, Knowles worked under head Audio Mixer Tom Williams. “I learned a lot of mixing tricks from Tom Williams, how and when to blend microphones, which mic to choose, and other mixing choices” says Knowles. “I also learned about Union work, IATSE, specifically the structure and why it’s important to workers”. Knowles adds that the best part was getting any and all of his questions answered. “Tom Williams and his team were very welcoming and enthusiastic with their answers”. Central Intelligence from New Line Cinema is set for a June 16th, 2016 release date.

Meanwhile across the city of Boston, another movie was being filmed; the much-publicized Ghostbusters movie featuring an all-female cast of ghostbusters including Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Kristen Wiig. NESCom Video Production Sophomore Zachary Greaton of Saco, ME was given the opportunity to work as a Production Assistant on-set. Greaton said this about his experience “I learned a ton about the chain of command on such a large set…which involved hundreds once 2nd unit came on board”. Ghostbusters from Sony Pictures is set for a July 22, 2016 release date.

NESCom Works To Record Greenlight Maine TV Series

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Green means go, Green means Husson and this week at the New England School of Communications at Husson University, green also means Greenlight Maine. Faculty, students and alumni are working with the creative and production team of Brian Corcoran, Con Fullam, and Nat Thompson in a venture called Portland Media Group (PMG) on a new show called “Greenlight Maine”.

Greenlight Maine, which is produced by PMG with production management by NESCom, involves Maine entrepreneurs competing for a prize of more than $100,000 to invest in their businesses. Along the way, they’ll receive mentoring from corporate, media and marketing executives.

The production of the show is no small task. Over the course of 7 days, NESCom faculty, students and even a few alumni are working to tape 13 half-hour episodes that feature all 26 semifinalist entrepreneurs of the Greenlight Maine competition that was held earlier this year. Each episode includes interviews with the semifinalists and presenting their “pitch” to a panel of three judges. Each show has a new set of judges, the list of which reads like a “Who’s Who” in Maine.

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PMG recruited an impressive group of sponsors which includes:
Bangor Savings Bank
Bernstein Shur Counselors at Law
Central Maine Power
Darling’s
Day’s Jewelers
Finance Authority of Maine
Don Foshay’s Discount Tire & Alignment
Hancock Lumber
Husson University
IDEXX Laboratories
L.L. Bean
Memic
Moody’s Collision Centers

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The show utilizes 6 cameras, full wireless audio, custom EVS workflows and a completely redesigned and rebuilt TV studio for the Show. The set, which is the creation of NESCom Entertainment Production assistant professor Brave Williams, has an entirely new “look and feel”. It fills the entire television studio at the Wildey Communication Center. Video instructor Kris Bridges is the director with support from faculty John Easton, Ed Goguen, Steve Vachon, Rick Davis, and Eric Ferguson.  1992 NESCom alum Nick Woodward has joined the crew as well as NESCom staffers Matt Bryant and Steve Toothaker. Recent graduate Heather Andrews and current students Cody Chaisson and Nick Evans are also part of the team.

Greenlight Maine will air on WCSH 6 in Portland and WLBZ 2 in Bangor starting September 12th. PMG and NESCom are in considering a follow-on show to be taped within the next 6 months. For more information on the program and the competition, visit www.greenlightmaine.com

Video Production Grad’s Star Wars Fan Film Wins Top Award

The force is strong with these ones. Iron Horse Cinema recently took home top honors at the annual Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, CA. Their Star Wars fan film “Star Wars: The Lesser Evil” was chosen by Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy as her favorite fan film of the event. The film was directed by 2009 Video Production graduate Sy Cody White. White is Creative Director for New Jersey-based Iron Horse Cinema and was on hand to accept the award with his colleagues.

Timelapse Video Shows Work That Goes Into The Nite Show

Students of the New England School of Communications at Husson University handle all production aspects of the Nite Show, which airs nearly statewide on television stations in Portland, Bangor, and Presque Isle, Maine. As the students worked on the set for tonight’s taping at the Gracie Theatre, student Alan Wardwell shot a time-lapse of the 2+ hours it takes to assemble the set.

Students Participte In NESN Next Producer Competition

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Five Video Production students at the New England School of Communications at Husson University are finalists in the Next Producer competition being held by NESN (New England Sports Network).

Heather Andrews, Dave Roberts, Ryan Carignan, Nick Young & Justin Foster worked as part of a team to tell the story of what it takes to cover a live sporting event. “We push that a broadcast team is just like a football team” says Andrews. “One team, one goal, striving for perfection, and going for the win (or in our case success)”.

NESN’s Next Producer competition is a new series that will officially premier on NESN on April 6th. The seven-episode run will air the student-made short films following Red Sox post-game coverage. The student filmmakers will get access to and input from two Hollywood producers with ties to New England – television Hall of Famer and Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner and Co- creator/Executive Producer, Brad Falchuk (Glee, American Horror Story, etc.). Falchuk is a Newton, Massachusetts native and passionate New England sports fan. Werner and Falchuk will coach the finalists to improve their films and pick the winner.

You can view & vote for the NESCom entry into the competition HERE. Help support the great work of NESCom students by sharing the voting link with friends and family.