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APTRA Academy

These pictures were taken by APTRA's very dedicated Rachel Ambrose. She's been a huge supporter of APTRA Academy since the day we started the program. Let me tell you a little about these pictures. The camp, at Cottontail Ranch in Malibu, is a role play program. Aspiring anchors play the part of anchors at Pepperdine University's television studios up the street from the camp. Aspiring reporters play the part of TV reporters at a fiction station called Malibu News 12. You can get more detail on the workings of the camp in Joy Short's article on this site, but these pictures reflect what some have called two incredible days.

The camp's dining hall is the meeting place for all program activities. Here they're broken up into teams, assigned mentors (who work in all aspects of television), have their meals, write and have their packages edited on laptop editors provided by ICTN, KFSN, KGO, KSBY and KVEA/KWHY. More editing takes place in live trucks outside the hall. This year's microwave trucks were provided by KCBS/KCAL, KTTV/KCOP and KMEX. The KCBS/KCAL truck was also used to simulate liveshots done by all of the students in the reporting camp. Additional gear was provided by NBC11 in San Jose.

There are mock news conferences help by real agencies PIOs. This year by DEA, L.A. County Fire and LAPD. L.A. County Fire provided a real hand crew. They could be seen hosing down a hillside battling the fake brusher going on. File tape was used to show flames, aerial water drops, a methlab explosion site and so on.

We had 3 wonderful actors. Conrad Bachmann (The West Wing) played the part of a U.S. Senator on recess from D.C. when a methlab explodes in his neighbor's home. As the story plays out the methlab explosion triggers a brushfire. Victims played by Nancy Sinclair and Brittny Roberts have tragic stories to tell as one, Nancy, comes running out of a building screaming in pain. The other (Brittny) ultimately faints. She was walking her dog when the explosion occurred. She seriously bumped her head, can't remember much and can't find her dog. All three actors performances were made all the more realistic by incredible special effects makeup done by Saeid Rastegar, Carin Impionbato and Jessica Edwards. All, graduates of Joe Blasco Make-Up Center, were just amazing to watch and so helpful.

What's next in the story is soap-operish! Senator Conrad appears before a news conference to demand tougher laws. Then, not from a real looking methlab (setup by DEA), two brawny DEA agents arrest the suspect played by Anthony Smiljkovich. Every other word is a four letter one as the suspect, handcuffed, tries to fight off the men arresting him. Within seconds, the Honorable anti-crime/anti-drug Senator Conrad realizes the suspect is his son-in-law and goes berserk tearing his way through the throng of reporters trying to get to him.

For the hours that follow the drama, the students will write their stories, have them edited and then, after a session on how to send out resume tapes to News Directors, show them for critiques.

The anchor academy has a similar drill in that it's dealing with the breaking news of the brusher and other stories of the day. They also interview the PIOs on the set.

The methlab explosion-turned brushfire-turned national scandal was memorable. The tapes the camp's students made were top notch. Their level of enthusiasm and commitment couldn't be beat. The mentors were absolutely remarkable! Enjoy the pictures!

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