$120,000 grant will help create a media hub for movie streaming

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A VIDEO CONSOLE to monitor inputs from multiple cameras filming a live event, such as the one operated by Kurt Broderson at last month’s Festival on the Green, will be used by the new Addison Art Media partnership to broadcast live events. Independent Photo/John S. McCright

“The pandemic has made it clear that many arts producers in Addison County are ill-equipped to pivot effectively in terms of creating digital content.”
—Lisa Mitchell

MIDDLEBURY – The Town Hall Theater in Middlebury has won a state grant of $120,000 to establish a “multi-camera media centre” within its performing arts centre, equipment that will enable the organization to live stream a variety of entertainment and cultural events that fans near and far will be able to view in real-time or playback – some for free, some for a fee.

But the Addison Art Media Partnership (AAMP), as it’s called, won’t just benefit the Town Hall Theater and its patrons. It is expected to bring together a broad group of community partners – including Middlebury Community Television (MCTV), the theatre’s 12 resident companies and members of the business community with arts programming – “under one digital umbrella”, according to the chief executive. from THT, Lisa Mitchell. She successfully applied for the Vermont Arts Council grant, which will be spent over three years.

LISA MITCHELL

Mitchell explained that THT executives had long yearned for improved digital technology, but it was seen as a financial burden on the nonprofit arts organization. But the COVID-19 pandemic has made a digital upgrade more of a necessity than a luxury, as THT – like other performing arts centers around the world – has had to cancel in-person events. Unfortunately, the resulting drop in revenue forced some venues to close permanently. Organizations that survived, such as THT, made ends meet through continued booster support, cutting costs, staging some performances outdoors, and bringing entertainment to customers through their screens. computers and televisions in the home.

It wasn’t easy and there were hiccups along the way.

“The pandemic has made it clear that many arts producers in Addison County are ill-equipped to effectively pivot in terms of creating digital content,” Mitchell told the Vermont Arts Council via THT’s grant application. “THT and its resident companies have certainly felt this challenge. Through trial and error, we’ve found ways to connect with audiences through technology, from less expensive Zoom performances to hiring an expensive camera crew to film an entire opera. In all scenarios, there was a steep learning curve. Without tools and training, we remain woefully unprepared for the digital age or another wave of a pandemic.

Last year, representatives from the state’s performance venues successfully lobbied the Legislature to earmark funds to support arts organizations and set them up for long-term success — in the right places. times, as well as during this pandemic and the future ones. About a third of THT’s $120,000 grant will pay for a four-camera setup, three of which are wired and strategically placed in the theater. The fourth will be more mobile, operated from a pole or tripod.

This is a setup that will include video surveillance equipment allowing one or more people to coordinate camera changes and other production work during performances.

But the bulk of the grant will be spent training people to use the equipment and partially funding a technical position at THT. This will ensure that the equipment will be used effectively for a long time after the three-year grant expires, Mitchell explained.

“It’s important for us to have the tools and the training to be able to continue to connect with the community through the arts in a variety of ways,” she said.

And it’s clear that MCTV and its executive director, Kurt Broderson, will play a big role in using the equipment and training people to operate the cameras. The local community access station is based at Ilsley Library and has a small staff, but also a dedicated corps of volunteers who attend local meetings and events which are broadcast to viewers in real time on channels 1071 and 1091 (for Comcast subscribers) and through recordings available through MCTV’s YouTube channel.

“Kurt has been wonderful,” Mitchell said. “He put us in touch with a supplier who will install the cameras. He was an integral part of the process to help us figure out what we will need and how best to use and deploy it.

Broderson said the partnership made a lot of sense for everyone involved. And the big bonus for MCTV is that it will be able to add to its broadcast schedule and archive any free THT performances that station reps help film. MCTV is also willing to outsource services to THT on projects that are not public and free, according to Broderson.

“It’s a great artistic and cultural powerhouse to win this grant,” Broderson said. “I was confident about it and I think it’s a real win-win.”

KURT BRODERSON

Once operational, AAMP will have its own website, featuring a menu of program options. Viewers will be able to order and pay for the program of their choice. Once payment has been received, a code – and the entertainment platform through which the program is accessible – will be sent to the customer to access the program.

Organizers will have a lot of work to do over the next few years, including installing video equipment, launching the AAMP website, training people, selecting and coordinating content, and getting involved. stakeholders. But Mitchell is confident it will be worth it. She said AAMP will be able to deliver much more than just performance. We talk about the potential of arts-related podcasts, educational programs, and artist interviews that preview upcoming attractions.

And eventually, when THT amass a large enough reservoir or recorded programs, it could offer a paid subscription option.

With that kind of convenience and access, is there a risk that people will stop filling seats in the historic THT?

Mitchell is not worried.

“I expect there will always be a demand for live theater,” she said. “Nothing can replace that feeling of being in a room together, laughing and reacting to something that you share and that you all witness. But I think for some people who are a little suspicious and want more d options to engage, digital is a great channel.

“We do not intend to become a television channel.”

John Flowers is at [email protected]

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