Lights, camera, public access television
On a Tuesday evening as the sun begins to drop in the sky and most people are ending their day, you can walk into a fluorescent-lit conference room in Bellingham’s municipal court building.
When you walk down the steps to the basement, you will find a room bursting with creativity and character – where a few cameras sit atop the tables and tripods are scattered around the room.
Eero Johnson, a local freelance film and video producer, teaches video classes here every week. He helps people in the Bellingham community create videos and short films.
Johnson was contracted by the City of Bellingham over two years ago to teach camera certification classes and create content for the public access television channel, Access Bellingham. The channel allows community members to air anything they want on Sunday nights at 6 p.m.
“I think video is a lot harder than people give it credit for,” Johnson said. “To come up with an idea, organize cameras, get interviews, getting everything together, organizing footage and then distributing it into an interesting and cohesive story is time consuming and difficult.”
Each workshop class is a camera certification and a program orientation. It’s an opportunity for community members to come in, meet other video producers, learn about equipment, opportunities and expectations. The class enrolls on a three-month basis, with the next workshop beginning Aug. 7.
On a designated Tuesday and Wednesday for three months, participants can learn a new camera skill. The first month is about learning how to use the camera, and the second month is about editing. The third month, participants work on the final touches of the programs they’ve created. Once the camera certification is complete, participants can attend the Tuesday night class for as long as they’d like.
Johnson began in the film and video industry over 20 years ago. He started shooting short films on a Super-8 camera as a child. He recalled shooting a space video when he was young and enjoyed creating his own props. From then on, he never looked back.
Later in life he became involved in music and theater. While working in the film industry, digital cameras became reasonably priced so he bought one and put all his passions together. Johnson said although he never had formal training, he had good mentors to teach him necessary video skills.
Johnson is willing and ready to guide students through whatever they want to do, but it’s not always easy, he said.
“Some people come into the two-day class thinking they are going to learn video in those two days, not really understanding that it’s truly a lifetime pursuit,” Johnson said. “I have been doing this for 20 years, and I still learn stuff all the time. There’s always something new to learn or new to try.”
The class is not meant for people that want to make a Hollywood film. It’s more for people who want to learn and create anything that interests them, Johnson said.
Most people come because they want to be more connected to others in Bellingham and explore their own creativity to share with the community. The class teaches people from all different backgrounds, age groups and skill sets. It moves at the pace it needs to, however slow or quick that may be. And there’s a learning curve for most people, Johnson said.
On June 26, participants assemble teams and story lines in minutes and begin shooting short videos both inside and outside.
Doug Dahl, a class participant, rolls a homemade dolly onto the sidewalk with electric blue skateboard wheels and PVC pipe.
The group shoots a short video using the dolly. They pan back and forth on two actors having an air guitar dual. One person wears an Einstein-looking wig and the other adorned in a cowboy hat and matching throw blanket.
Around the corner, another group creates a getaway scene and back inside the conference room a third group recreates a can-crushing scene from the Netflix show, “Stranger Things.”
Johnson was racing between each group helping the entire time; moving them along and giving pointers to help them create these videos.
Senior Sarah McCauley, an intern for Johnson, is learning how to fit into it all. She sat smiling in the corner ready to jump in whenever necessary at the beginning of class and later ended up in the getaway scene.
McCauley explained it’s been difficult to pursue film and video without an established major available at Western. Working with Johnson has allowed her to gain some skills in the video craft.
“There’s definitely a lot of good resources at Western, there’s the Digital Media Center and they have some great stuff there, but there’s no film program so you kind of have to figure out a way to learn it all on your own,” she said.
Not many students have taken advantage of the resources Access Bellingham offers, Johnson said. He would love to see students and community members working together.
He said an important part about learning how to produce videos is to just get out there and do it.