Contrived Producer Evaluation
Tampa, 8/17/04. The present grievance documents the progress of my attempt to satisfy TBCN's alleged need for proof of my technical competency, and indicates my need now to seek reevaluation of the examinations given thru some other legally constituted source. A superceding grievance (number 16) will be directed to the requirement for recertification in the first place.
Before elaborating on my from divergence from TBCN on methods, you may need to understand that throughout my 15-year tenure at the Center I have not taken competence for granted, and on my own initiative maintained operational skills on equipment incidental to my right to make programs. From 1987 thru 1992 (winning by the way GCAs in each of those 2 years) I was as active a producer and technician as anyone there. But, as the organization of my website indicates, my unpaid and voluntary interest in public expression subsequently declined to one production a year. Nonetheless I came back year after year returning good product in the can, under my own training and except when I needed to involve staff.
Since my last van shoot in 1999, the general indifference of Time Warner's local franchisee in running a public access center is apparently inherited and amplified by Speakup. Aside from those few small contributions to other people's programming that should have maintained my certification, any effort of mine to work under my own name has been met with rancor and hostility by the TBCN bandwagon.
Since the focus of this particular report are the events culminating in Mr McClelland's appraisal of my editing skills on August 4th 2004, I will simply preface that report by reference to several other unfortunate encounters with TBCN's Gladiator School prior to decert, already a matter of public record.
The essence of those encounters that apply to this narrative are briefly as follows: Twice in 2003 I approached Training, on my own volition, for permission to audit two 1-session programs already scheduled. According to the dates I've marked on their handouts, I attended Editing o/a 8/22/03 per McClelland and Graphics o/a 9/2/03 per Tjauna Franks. I had no problem understanding McClelland, but got practically nothing from Franks patronizing although cavalier delivery, and had to schedule four additional Compix sessions that September to re-organize her material. In neither case did I elect for the evaluation experience; and while they did not demand it, I was given to feel that I had denied them some necessary homage.
In November Thompson published her re-cast Policy & Procedure, a $2.50 item now included in our "free" training for just $20, whose additional benefit to us was a new rule that what had been voluntary was now mandatory. Now ordinarily de-certification is the most severe penalty that might be assessed for some major violation of Access rules, but so that Training might be assured the proper severity from its captive producing population, to avoid excommunication we must go prostrate to its sacramental authority at least once every year. In other words, now in addition to venial sin and mortal sin, we have by the mere fact of having been a producer, original sin.
And, to be sure we remember who we are dealing with, rather than advise producers individually of their decertifcation according to new rules, in 2004 April we appear each to have been slipped a copy of the entire Access client database, where we may locate among the 1600 entries our revised status for ourselves. Inquiring as to whether I should indeed connect the rules to my decertifcation. Thompson and I exchanged some e-mail (outside the scope of this grievance).
After calling and leaving a message, on 7/24/2004 I located Franks in the PAC lobby and approached her on the subject of decertifcation. She asked if I had some particular project in mind, and I said no, I just wanted producer re-certification. Responding as though I was speaking a foreign language, she asked if I wanted to book some time (I agreed), and returned with my first appointment. Upon further inquiry as to just what I was supposed to do with that time, I received 2 instruction sheets describing the nature of examinations in Graphics and in Editing - which placed me as shown in boldface in 5.1’s incredible reduction process. But we must also note very little congruity between the underlined administrative components indicated for review in 4.6, and the tasks I had been given under 5.1.
P&P 5.1 PRODUCER TRAINING. The purpose of TBCN's Producer Training Programs is to develop skilled Producers. TBCN, through a variety of training and testing mechanisms, offers formalized processes whereby experienced and inexperienced TBCN Members alike may obtain, develop or demonstrate the skills and knowledge required for certification in specific areas. (chart follows) (page 11)
P&P 4.6 ANNUAL RE-CERTIFICATION. All TBCN Members and Producers must renew their registrations and/or certifications on an annual basis. Certification renewal is offered each quarter and must be completed each year prior to the anniversary of membership or certification, respectively. This process has been implemented to ensure that ail Members and Producers are familiar with, understand and accept the most up-to-date P&P as well as any equipment and/or other policy or legal changes that may have been implemented during the previous year. (page 10)
The appearance of what I received was documented for Thompson on 7/29, to which she responded on 7/30. Basically I asked how I was supposed to do the test closed book with no access to a studio in about a year, noting that those circumstances are completely contrived as compared to how I might otherwise use the studio. Thompson's response blithely ignored Franks as the source of misdirection on "closed," and reminded me (perhaps from some undelivered newsletter) that all tests have been open book since last October.
Consequently, I booked 1.5-hour sessions in Control "A" twice, and twice prepared a tape demonstrating my mastery of the content in TBCN's publication "Exploring Editing." Even though it was twice conceded that there were no errors according to the text's subject matter, I was said to have failed the test, according to elements either not clarified or not revealed until after the test. Capitalizing on my apparent inability to read his mind, McClelland concluded, "Since this is a second test with notes, I am recommending that the producer retake the edit class or schedule a One on One." Since the latter prospect is about the most disgusting one I can imagine, I have elected none of the above, and later on the evening of the 4th cancelled my tentative appointment to take the test a third time for 1 hour on Tuesday the 10th.
Therefore, in addition to Franks' unpreposing inauguration of my testing, I am offering first the following chronology of these two Edit testing sessions: of what Thompson must be advertising as McClelland's personally developed "non-linear editing training program."
Friday, 7/30/2004, 4 PM 1.5 hrs, Control Room A. No mention was made of any other materials to be provided, so I encountered no objection to using the DCT tapes I brought as source to, and for output from, the test. Since Franks had given me a deliberately misleading instruction sheet, I asked McClelland for current instructions, which he refused, claiming that except for no open book restriction, they were the same. So I took the test without them.
To make it clear that I was doing inserts not associated with the 1994 program I was dubbing from, I included a little extra black between the cuts. As I was running short of time, I did not lay down the full length of black, but did make the required number of cuts, and did make the two inserts that would have compromised the tape if it were intended for production. I did however mistake the Compix remark in the published instructions as merely commentary outside the program, intended only to amplify development of the slate. Audio levels were merely transcribed as currently rendered in source, which raised no QC objection when they were originally aired.
Michael L. Caldwell, McClelland's host on “Cooking for Guys,” graded the tape and failed it for not including a Compix "producers credits (sic)." It was explicitly agreed that there was no question of control track integrity in what I produced, and no mention of any QC evaluation or deficiency. It should be noted that while the Checklist when later shown suspiciously indicated a whopping -25 for a missing "pc" and therefore taken to be as severe as broken time code, there is no explicit penalty for a whole missing slate whose presence requires exactly the same editing techniques.
Wednesday, 8/4/2004, 2 PM, Control Room A. Asking Franks if I could not just append the missing Compix insert to the end of my earlier edit (as one would ordinarily do in production), she seemed aghast that I did not treat this Edit as a Test, and I would "have" to take it all over from the beginning. It also did not bother her that while she conceded this now to be open book, there was nothing in the Edit Manual I had about doing a "Producer's Credit; "Everyone KNOWS, from the Graphics class onwards, that you need to have a (PC)." In fact, the Graphics handbook does contain an undeveloped reference to PCs, but Franks did not mention that as source.
Feeling now a need to provide them, McClelland gave me the previously requested Edit instructions, which were to the point of the preceding Friday's error significantly different from what was then initially available to me. A section is now explicitly labeled "Tape Requirements," and it is blocked at two levels, and within the one called 5-minute content there is a final item called "Producer's Credit” (of no specific duration). My instructions looked nothing like that.
While Tjauna and her staff may thrill on it, I personally cannot abide duplication or unnecessary expenditure of effort in any context. Back in "A", I was therefore determined to recreate last week's product in as little time as possible, so I might attend more carefully any new work. I laid bars, tone and black down to prescribed program length in a single assemble, then dropped my tape from last week into the first about four minutes of program content. Done.
Left with the leisure to put on a count, extend out the last cut, and drop a credit at the end - the latter ostensibly being the whole point of this 1.5-hour exercise. Without time to correct it, my own QCing showed I had copied last week's work 30 seconds too far down on the tape. All I do in my remaining time was to insert a 20-seconds at the front, leaving black for the next 10 seconds. Perhaps unattractive but hardly in non-production context, I thought, fatal.
Turned the tape in, and after about 15 minutes saw Mike going into their break room. Asked about results, told me not he but Rob was doing the evaluation. Few minutes later I want in, and Rob removed this paper from the printer. It was a tabular check sheet used to record defects, no feature of which was ever previously described to me. Coinciding with Mike's previous verbal report, not a single named error was indicated on my tape. But in a category even nominally extraneous to the small subject matter being tested, Mr McClelland found occasion to plug a failing -22 points into my report, which he amplified in writing as attested above.
He explained that any test prepared for him should be taken as though it was going to be cablecast, and is therefore also subject to normal QC standards. Tis better, he said (my wording), to notice bad QC practices in testing, rather than on the air. I replied that as QC had not faulted me in fifteen years, I am not likely to be handing production a QC-deficient (I believe my exact words were "bad fucking") tape now. Rather that accept the conditions he specified for my reform, we opted to schedule another test for a time he would be here, in this case the following Tuesday at 2 PM.
Before leaving for the day, I thought I might again try to get current Training materials, so as not as I mentioned to TF and Robert, encounter "any more bunnies coming out of hats." McClelland gave me Trainings current issues: a revised Graphics was mentioned but not in release, so what I got was the same as what I had: Exploring Editing's new version was however (like my first instructions) NOT what I had - but the mere sight of the title prompted me to exclaim "Exploring; no SHIT." And I left. Later examination of the new Editing handbook revealed now a small reference to PCs:
So about 7 the evening of the 4th I decided to give up on Editing for the time being, and called the Center to ask to change Tuesday's test to Graphics. No liaison being available for the adjustment, I requested and was granted a cancellation. I noticed Access on my intent to grieve their Edit decision, and after two attempts was granted an appointment to test for Graphics on Thursday August 19th.
Extended reflection on McClelland's remarks prompts me to wonder if there are not indeed guides to our action at Access, which supercede what might be called lesser performance considerations. For Robert these seem to be Production over Training, which he inverts: even more incredibly because the scenario described does not (except in his mind) involve any actual Production issue. If, for instance, you want to see QC violation, you are welcome to a full 12 seconds of silent uninterrupted black at the end of SuTB's own program for August 2nd (my tape #649).
The guides which need to prevail are twofold. Access is, as is Democracy, first and foremost an experiment, but only in process: the end game, as our Declaration tells us, is not in question. Any process may be stopped at any time - not only on corporate initiative, but also on that of what we may call its citizens - when, among other things, some component is misappropriated or contrived to cause any destruction of its polity. In addition, Access is an instrument, even if only as franchised, to general First Amendment speech - to which impediments even as devised by management may be construed and prosecuted as violations thereof.
We are therefore stopping the clock to revisit the preceding Training events, as they were managed not to be instructive but to be adversarial: therefore recovering something at least educational from what we may take to be TBCN's typical testing of a Producer. We will take the chronology apart to look separately at Training's part in that testing, and then the Producer's.
From the beginning, Franks lied about test conditions, so I might be forced to leave my notes at home. We know Franks lied, and was not merely forgetful, because Thompson's email deliberately avoids naming the source of my distress, when there could be no honest reason to conceal it. Instead, I was directed not to believe what the Training Manager had explicitly told me, in favor of information somehow otherwise derived thru general osmosis.
Rather than continue to deny me useful information, Training went to any corporation's traditional retaliatory stance and operated instead to be sure I had no information at all. Failing me once on a confusion that they themselves knew they had to have corrected, they denied even when I asked for it, evidence of that correction. And because they knew after the first hit I would have to come back, they decided not to show me the evaluation sheet ("Edit Test Checklist'), which while it purported to guide their judgment, would be just too much of a clue for me as to what they might later claim to have expected.
The final instrument, in what Ann Flynn might like to call Tools of the Trade, for converting Training into a weapon has to be that well-concealed Checklist. Rather that being advertised first, as any methods course in education would prescribe, to tell about testing objectives, it is used surreptitiously at the end to filter out (as Rob plainly indicates) undesirable aspirants. For all its superficial quantification, the examination has only one premise and one conclusion: if you did the assigned build, did you lose control track - yes or no.
Given a passing threshold of at least 80 points, 5-10 points are deducted for failures in the build, and a failing assessment of 25 given for lost track. Then, just to let you know failures to observe Policy are to TBCN just as important as technical incompetence, the same 25 point hit is put on no PC. Nowhere is the amount of black between edits cited as a deficiency: in fact, missing (presumably post trt) black will cost you 10 points. Nevertheless, according to Robert's evaluation, my tape was not deficient in any "non-QC" category.
So McClelland decided in my case to fill the slot called "Misc QC" with 6 instances of his just-now invented deficiency of "black between edits," and found 5 places where he invented a QC for the sound levels, multiplied out to 2 points more than he needed to fail me. Prompting him to conclude, as I mentioned before, "Since this is a second test with notes, I am recommending that the producer retake the edit class or schedule a One on One."
Let us dwell on "Since this is a second test with notes,..." All we know by that remark is that Mr McClelland is well on his way to a Louise Thompson Award forCommunicators. As we may assume from my 7/30 reservation #22731 made by him on 7/24 at 4:18, he would (unless the printout also lies) be the one who gave Franks the bullshit instructions she passed on to me: so we may properly savor with him his appended "with notes." We may also appreciate with him the fact that there is nothing in those notes, or any number of retakings, to suggest a legitimate QC requirement in the evaluation. Fact is, tell me if you can find any of his QC objections in the following list of all those that Production knows about:
P&P 6.15.1 TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS. All videotapes submitted to our Programming Department are monitored for both video and audio quality. To be considered air-ready, videotapes must meet ail of the following technical requirements:
· Only a DVC-PRO large format videotape may be submitted for telecast
· A videotape must have no tracking, skewing, burst, sync or blanking problems
· When viewed on a waveform monitor, the video component must not be less than 7.5 IRE or greater than 100 IRE
· Audio must have no hum, buzz, feedback or loss of signal for more than five seconds
· Each tape must have one minute of color bars and 0 db tone, 20 seconds of slate, a 10-second countdown preceding and 30 seconds of black directly following the program
· Each tape must be labeled with the Producer's name, program title, production date and total running time
· Series program tapes must be submitted no later than 48 hours prior to the first scheduled cablecast time. Programs submitted later than this will be replaced with an alternate program and may or may not be rescheduled for a later date.
Programs must meet technical requirements in order to be telecast. If any of the technical requirements listed above are not met, a TBCN Quality Control Form will be issued to the Producer by our Programming Department and the program will not be aired. … (page 22)
We might not know until their response to this grievance (and very likely not even then) just what motivates this pair of juvenile pranksters impersonating Training Staff in their assault on me. Perhaps that sorry performance is just a way of amplifying their manager’s relentless contempt for an old White guy’s refusal to stand down against the aggressive display of her own small knowledge. Certainly, like the advantage that their trade unions have obtained for doctors and lawyers, clients are denied knowledge beyond Training’s skimpy manuals of the actual operation of the equipment. And not being allowed to go behind the boards, we have to take their word for what is connected to what. So not knowing these things, Training can always play on our “stupidity.”
But in fact I have not received technical “training” from them in any particular excess of what I came into Access with, 15 years ago. If anything, their gifts to me have only been multiple exposures to skills reduction and manipulation by now several certifiably incompetent managements, none of who bragged on it as strongly as Louise Thompson.
Nor is Franks’ group even concerned with burning up Access resources for now three, and potentially 4.5, hours valued at $300 per, just to play games. And while staff is on the clock, we might also have hoped there to be a limit on how much of my totally uncompensated time they feel they have a right to waste.
The only qualification I would put on the preceding assessment is that it’s significance may be obscured to the extent it appears to affect only me. Impersonally, I think we can fix that: because now Speak Up seems to have traded roles with the County as the wholesale violator of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. SuTB may recall that in its recent case in District Court, the Constitutional rights that were being defended were those of Producers, not SpeakUp. SuTB’s interest in the case was basically only the right to make money - to protect its investment, funded in part by the County.
TBCN’s latest quarterly report suggests they have made something called the “community” very happy. Any number of money-making productless stockholder-free operations have received “face-time” they could not have otherwise afforded in the commercial marketplace. Lots of folk from local government who might have used GATV also found it convenient to use Access. So apparently there’s no real desire to kill Access if you only want to knock out some undesirable programming. That filtering job is now in the presumably competent hands of TBCN Training. They might not know anything about teaching anyone, but they certainly know how to eliminate them.
The following biographical excerpts are reproduced from Speak Up’s home page, as of 8/17/04. Notably, neither photo nor bio seems ever to have been published for Tjauna Franks, the Training Manager.
A graduate of the University of Tampa with a B.A. in Communications, McClelland joined TBCN in August 2003 as a Trainer/Liaison. He has co-produced seven training videos and helped develop our non-linear editing training program. He is producing “Cooking for Guys.”
Michael L. Caldwell, Liaison/Trainer
A graduate of Hillsborough Community College with an A.A. degree in Mass Communications, Caldwell received a Training certification from Rockhurst University Continuing Education Center. He joined TBCN as a Trainer/Liaison in January 2003. Caldwell is hosting “Cooking for Guys” on TBCN.
Perhaps unappreciated as significant social contribution, Now’s Cooking for Guys showcases hausfrau Caldwell’s big talents in the kitchen. In the episode captured below, associate McClelland’s clever just-in-time discovery of the light switch manages to illuminate culmination of the evening’s project – which baked canned fruit into prefabricated dough, baked fries, and grilled two extremely thin steaks into a sandwich. While the series was available to Hillsborough viewers only in the third quarter of 2004, Cooking managed to be one of the five shows reviewed in a December 2004 edition of the Weekly Planet, where a remarkably similar episode is analyzed