ATETV and the Telly Awards

Behind the Scenes of the Award-Winning ATETV!

Today, we go behind the scenes of ATETV to talk with the series Creator and Executive Producer Anthony Manupelli. Besides learning more about how the ATETV series was developed and what makes it tick, we had an ulterior motive — to congratulate Anthony and the production team on this week’s announcement that the Web series has won three Telly Awards!

The annual Telly Awards were founded in 1978 to honor outstanding local, regional and cable TV commercials and programs, as well as video and productions and online film and video. The competition received more than 13,000 entries (from all 50 states and five continents) for this year’s competition. ATETV received Bronze Tellys in three categories: Education Film/Video Production; Education Internet/Online Programs; and Education Internet/Online Video.

We caught up with Anthony at Pellet Productions, a production company outside Boston, and though he was happy to talk with us about ATETV, he was too modest to brag about the Telly Awards. So we decided to do the bragging for him!

Congratulations on these terrific awards, I understand that the mission of the awards is to “strengthen the visual arts community by inspiring, promoting, and supporting creativity” and that judges are the creative professionals who have previously won Tellys themselves and are peers within the industry.

Thanks. Yes, it’s an honor to be recognized by our peers and an honor to be recognized for such a worthwhile project.

Tell us a little bit about how ATETV originated.

Several years ago while at WGBH-TV (Boston’s PBS affiliate) I was producing a series called Pathways to Technology which profiled students and showcased some of the technological programs at community colleges across the country. This was a real eye-opener for me. I’d had no idea of the incredible resources and the sophisticated technologies that community colleges had to offer. I didn’t realize that the community colleges routinely partnered with industry, and I was especially impressed with the teachers’ dedication.

But it seemed like more people needed to know that these amazing programs existed. Even though the federal government’s Advanced Educational Technology (ATE) initiative was launched more than 20 years ago, some of the participating students didn’t even realize they were in ATE programs! So, in designing ATETV, our goal was to make the invisible visible, and show prospective students what community colleges really looked like and to demonstrate that community colleges were a viable educational option. We also wanted to profile the workplaces so they could see that working in a plant didn’t mean being on a boring assembly line — we wanted to show how dynamic the work environments were, and we wanted people to be able to see the amazing robotics and other sophisticated technologies that are in today’s technological workplaces.

How did you decide on the program’s format?

From continuous research, the Association for Interactive Media Education (AIME) and Pellet Productions,Inc. knew that our primary audience -– prospective students and others in the community college world -– get much of their information through the Internet. So whether they’re on a computer, or on a cell phone, an I-phone or now an I-Pad, they’re looking for dynamic, visually appealing information that’s easy to digest in a short period of time and points them to additional resources if they want. This format also enables the colleges to download the content from the Web so that they can use it on their own websites.

What about content, how did you decide what subject areas to focus on?

We did a lot of testing, conducted focus groups and worked closely with our advisory board to design stories that would be representative of the diverse student populations, the numerous technological programs and the many career opportunities that ATE programs offer. As a result, we highlighted some great subjects – Laser Technology, Wind Farms, Women in Aviation, Video Game Design, Biotechnology Internships, Environmental Technology – to name a few. Among other things, we learned that Green Technologies were really taking off, so a lot of our emphasis has been on these up-and-coming “green” careers.

What do you think makes ATETV unique?

First, it is story. We have searched the country and found people who have very real, compelling stories to tell. We also have very strong visuals to support their stories. From underwater ROVs to wind turbines, the field footage imagery we captured for this series is amazing. These videos show firsthand the incredible work coming out of the 2 year colleges.

Another aspect of ATETV we think is particularly important is collaboration: We share the videos not only with the people who we’ve videotaped, but with other people in the ATE community so they can share their input with us and assist with fact-checking to make sure that everything in our scripts is accurate. Then we work with our advisers and with the sites and then go back and tweak the content based on their input — nothing is done in a vacuum. We’re especially careful about all of our content because these are essentially living resumes that we’re documenting.

Another really cool, yet geeky, aspect of the series is that we maxed out on the latest technologies to produce a 48 episode video series within budget. From cameras to software, we used every tool available in producing this series.

What feedback have you received so far on the programs?

It’s been really positive, people seem really happy. When
we first began the project it was hard to get the colleges and individuals to sign on to participate — everyone was so busy, they didn’t feel they could devote the time to the project. But now that they’ve seen the videos, word has been spreading and lots of people now want to be a part of the project. We’re really pleased with the response.

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