Video production class: Seeing life through a different lens

Students in the first period class in the Academy of Digital Video Production program at Wesley Chapel High School seem to have a clear idea of what they need to do, and when they need to do it.

Jillian Choinski is acting at technical director, switching between camera shots. (B.C. Manion)

They take their spots in the control room, behind the cameras, seated at the anchor’s desk, or standing near a wall — to film that day’s WCAT daily morning news.

Occasionally, there’s a problem with a camera, or they need to reread line, but the students are focused, and, within a few minutes they’re done.

Filming the daily newscast is just one of the myriad ways these students get to learn the ins and outs of video production, according to Stephanie Bertig, who oversees the program — which is the only one of its type in Pasco County Schools.

The Academy aims to teach students how to property frame and shoot video, as well as become certified on either Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro editing software, Bertig said.

Those skills will have value to the students, regardless of the profession they pursue, she noted.

Besides the daily news, students also get to create music videos, commercials, public service announcements and short films, said Bertig, now in her third year at Wesley Chapel High.

During the recent filming, 17-year-old Justin Taylor was acting as senior producer, ensuring the production team and anchors were on track.

He said he initially enrolled in the program to get a fine arts credit out of the way.

“I ended up just loving it, so I’ve been doing it ever since,” said Taylor, who is now considering a career in the film industry, either in directing or editing.

The program has taught him how to analyze what he’s seeing on television, or in a film.

Steven Richardson and Amelia Defilippis work in the control room during a recent taping of the WCAT daily news show.

He’s learned in the class, for instance, how “most shots will change every 3 (seconds) to 7 seconds.”

He explained: “You change shots to keep it fresh.”

He enjoys creating videos, and said the most challenging aspect is deciding what kind of video to shoot.

“Really the difficult part is not creating a video, it’s planning a video. Writing the script, writing the storyboard. The pre-production is kind of the difficult part,” he said.

He said he knows how to complete those tasks. The challenge is deciding what to feature in a video, given the vast array of possibilities.

Sixteen-year-old Montel Roundtree, a junior, delivered the sports and lunch news during the recent taping.

Roundtree, who lives in Land O’ Lakes, said he enrolled in the program because he’s interested in stop-motion animation.

“That’s what I plan to do,” he said.

He attends Wesley Chapel High on school choice and is glad to be in the Academy.

“I think it’s an amazing program. I have certainly learned a lot, and it’s fun, really fun,” said Roundtree, who said he’s not related to Reginald Roundtree, the anchor on WTSP 10 News.

Seventeen-year-old Peter Politano, of Land O’ Lakes, handled the floor manager duties during the taping.

He gives the Academy high marks.

“I feel like it’s one of the backbone programs of the school,” said Politano, who is glad to be part of it.

“I like being creative. I like expressing my thoughts through videos. No other class does that except for TV production,” he said.

Junior Jillian Choinski hopes to pursue a field that will allow her to use the skills she’s developing.

“I want to do something behind the scenes, not in front of the camera,” she said.

Seventeen-year-old Billy Criqui, of Wesley Chapel, was working one of the cameras during the taping.

He enjoys being part of the program. “It’s so different from everything else that they have here,” he said.

Peter Politano, is floor manager and Billy Criqui works a camera during taping of the WCAT daily morning show.

Sixteen-year-old Christabel Yonly, of Wesley Chapel, was in charge of the weather report that day.

She enjoys the class, but doesn’t expect to pursue a career in video production. However, she does want to get her certification in the Adobe products.

Like some others in the program, 16-year-old Steven Richardson originally wanted to get a fine arts credit.

“But then I started to really like it because I get to express my creativity,” said Richardson, of Wesley Chapel.

Seventeen-year-olds Austin Edwards and Ricky Perez are both interested in careers that are related to what they’re learning now.

“Every time I watch TV now, all I can think about is what shot they have. The rule of thirds they have. Their head room. What they did to get the shot,” Edwards said.

“I’ve been told a lot, ‘If you do what you love, then you never have to work a day in your life.’ So, hopefully, I can start doing something like this,” he said.

Perez is interested in a career that involves shooting news packages.

He enjoys being part of the Academy.

“I think it allows you to be creative with your decision-making. It allows you to work with a team,” he said.

Perez also enjoys his classmates: “You can make friends here. It’s awesome.”

Seventeen-year-old Amelia Defilippis has been taking television production since middle school. She thinks the program instills important traits, such as self-reliance and responsibility.

For 17-year-old Ariana Shiwbalak the program is just the beginning of reaching her goal to be a broadcast journalist.

She said she knows that the media has been labeled as purveyors of fake news, but she wants to help change that.

“I love it with a passion,” she said.

Being an anchor makes her nervous, but she said that’s OK.

“You know how when you’re at the top of a roller coaster? You’re scared to go down. But, once you go down, it’s a really good feeling. That’s basically how it is,” Shiwbalak said.

Award-winning videos:
Pasco County Sheriff’s 2017 competition: Colton Bierly and Robby McLaughlin
2016 Kinder Vision — The Greatest Save — Teen PSA: First Place, ‘Gone’ by Amelia Defilippis and Sean Portillo
McDonald’s of Tampa Bay’s Classroom FUNds 2016 Contest: Emily Lorentsen and Faith Mercer

Published November 1, 2017


  1. “which is the only one of its type in Pasco County Schools”

    I teach something similar at Gulf High School.

    We also produce a daily morning news show and my students have also won awards for their videos. We don’t have all of the fancy equipment that Wesley Chapel has, but we get the job done!

    Congratulations to all of the students at Wesley Chapel High School for all of their hard work and success!

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