Monday, April 04, 2011



JESSE: Before we go any further I think I should write something about CIRT, seeing as how a lot of our adventures before Florida revolved around this place. CIRT is the Center for Instructional Radio and Television. IPS had their own public access channel back then and CIRT made the shows for it, like IPS Weekly and so forth. On top of that they also had their own classes for television production and radio. In order to get into CIRT Dar and I had to go through an interview process with a gentleman named Alan Oliver.  

Oliver was the school’s instructor. He was a tallish fellow with a full head of white hair intermingled with gray and he wore a pair of Buddy Holly glasses without the tape. He had a hankering to fling his loose wrists around when he walked (I’m not saying he was gay, just weak-wristed).  We all thought he was a tad weird, and that’s saying a lot.

Now, in order to be approved you had to meet with Mr. Oliver and he’d ask you questions like, “So what do you want to do with your life? What do you see yourself doing in the future?”  And we’d say we wanted to be filmmakers and stuff like that. He wanted us to read a copy from a news program. Then he wanted us to rewrite it so we could read it in our own words. Only after all of that would he decide whether or not he wanted us in his class.

Oliver was hardcore on us learning every aspect of television production. He would start us out on what he called the hardest part and move us to easier parts later. Most days we sat in our classroom wondering what the hell we had gotten got ourselves into.

DAR:  We learned how to do broadcasting. We had access to all sorts of equipment, and we had access to an editor, or at least what they called the Toaster. It was this effects machine. And we thought it was, like, amazing special effects. Like “Imagine what we could do with this!”  They had these big ol’ 8 ½ inch tapes that we used to record everything on.

JESSE: On our first day at CIRT we were shown our classroom. It was a small, square room with assorted desks for the students. There was a window on the left side that looked into a small radio studio. Oliver had his desk at the front with a TV and video deck hooked up behind him. The room was rather dull with mustard colored walls and lifeless tiles beneath our feet. It looked like something out of the early works of David Cronenberg.

We were then taken for a tour of the building. It only had five rooms; the first being a huge producing studio/radio studio. It was quite impressive. I could’ve spent all day there playing with knobs and all the other cool shit. Oliver explained the basics of the room and said we would be spending our first six weeks here. That's right; we would be starting with Audio. The next six weeks would be a living hell in this room. I still have nightmares.

Our next stop was the tape library where we were shown the useable tape section. These were the tapes we could use to film with. He also showed us numerous tapes filled with shows CIRT had made over the years, including his own little feature, IPS DIGEST (I took IPS DIGEST home with me that night and watched it. Total suckage. Technically good but content-shitty). He then went through the labeling system and other boring crap.

The next room was Studio One. I must admit, the big studio cameras and the massive lighting system above me sent a chill down my spine. It was a wonderful sight to see. Oliver looked at me and smiled. I knew something was up. "You won't be seeing this room again for a long time," he said. I now hated this man. These were the toys I wanted to play with and he was holding them from me.

Next we entered the control room for Studio One. We were shown all the controls and given a brief run down on how to use them along with the teleprompter and other assorted toys. Oliver repeated the same loathsome sentence from before. We wouldn’t be seeing this place again for a while. This man wanted me to slap the fuck out of him. He saw the hatred burning in my eyes and hastened us on to the next room. This was the broadcast center, where they sent out the signal and where the studios recorded into.

We met a gentleman named Scott here who was a helluva nice guy.  He told us to hold on and went into another room. He returned a moment later with a case. Inside was the most beautiful 16mm film camera I had ever seen. It was fully functional and, to my surprise, they were getting rid of it. I asked how much it was going for. Scott said they were planning to auction it and they expected around three hundred bucks. I had five in the bank and I told him I'd give him four now. Oliver said they would take their chances at the auction. He pulled us out of the room and took us to our lockers to give us our books.

This was our first day and it was good and shitty at the same time. I never did get that camera. I heard they sold it at the auction for about a hundred fucking bucks. My dislike for Oliver was intense from that moment on. I know Scott would have sold it to me in a sec. Oliver, though, looked down on all of us as scum. And you know what, I may be scum but I was scum with four hundred bucks and an eagerness to buy his camera.


Shortly after this Darren asked Mr. Oliver if he had a preference for men. Mr. Oliver turned all red and asked him why he would ask such a thing. I was standing there at the time and also asked Darren how the fuck he could ask that. Darren was under the impression that this was a normal question to ask somebody. I grabbed him and pulled him into the hallway. I then had to explain why this was an embarrassing question to ask a person, especially when that person was your teacher.

Darren finally realized his mistake, so the next day we went back and Darren apologized, but not in a normal "I'm sorry" way. Instead, he goes all crazy about it, falling to his knees, thrusting his hands in the air and begging for forgiveness. The evil in me couldn't resist and I shouted out, "For a guy you think is gay you sure picked the right way to apologize."

Oliver turned red and hauled Darren to his feet. I turned around and walked out. Darren hurried out after me, laughing his ass off. Like Darren, I was a natural asshole, but unlike Darren I felt no reason to apologize for my little outburst and just kept on going.


Oliver started us out with heavy doses of book learning. Every day we had to read one chapter of a book and answer the questions at the end of that chapter. Darren, his friend, Mike Wallace, and I would always go into Studio One to work. Nine times out of ten I read the chapter while they discussed Apathetic Zealot (a little ’zine Mike started in order to piss off the school). I would answer the questions afterwards and they would copy me.

DAR: I liked Mike Wallace. He was an alright guy. Wallace did most of the writing on Apathetic Zealot while I did the artwork. It was just a bunch of rebellious retro-punk scribble.

JESSE: We would break sometimes to do audio work. Oliver showed us how to use every piece of equipment in the radio studio. The hardest thing to learn was the reel to reel stuff, mainly because I have poor hearing from an ear infection as a kid. It's why I talk loud, and it's important to listen when recording something on reel to reel in the middle of something already taped.

After showing us how to use it Oliver would let us play around with it for an hour. The three of us happened to record five minutes of Darren and Mike arguing about how to operate it. This was my fault for letting those two do it instead of me. I wasn’t great at it but I still did better than either of them combined.

Oliver showed us the various microphones and what made each one different. This stuff I could handle so long as it had to do with filming. I excelled in anything that involved taping. It also gave us a chance to see the field camera for the first time. We had to learn how to hook the audio equipment up to it. I loved this portion of the class.

We had five straight days of testing during our final week of audio. The first day was our paper tests. The second and third days were all radio/audio work. The fourth and fifth days were all television audio. Needless to say, I failed every test when it came to radio/audio. The other three days of testing I did really well in.

Everyone in the class received an F on the first six weeks. I was told, though, that I received the highest F. I asked him how we could all possibly fail and he said that if you failed two tests you failed them all. So we all failed, and miserably at that.

On the last day of testing Oliver had an announcement. He would no longer be our teacher. He had taken a position at Tech's new television production class. The older students (who didn’t have to suffer through any of this book learning crap with us because they were out making segments for an IPS show) were distraught because they liked Oliver. They had grown accustomed to his ways. I was happy as hell, my only concern being that the new teacher was less of a tool.

Oliver apologized to the older students, explaining that it was all about money. My only question was who the new teacher would be. He said his name was Mark Watness, but he was only temporary until they hired a new guy. It all sounded good to me since I was just happy to see Oliver go.


Mark Watness’ first day of class was the following Monday. No one showed up that day but me. Mark arrived wearing a huge winter coat. He took it off and revealed a grungy look, which was popular at the time, though his was due more to a state of poverty than keeping up with current trends. He looked like Toad from the X-men comics, if Toad wore glasses.

He was shocked by me being the only one there. I asked if I could order a pizza and if so I would share it with him. I swear I saw the drool running down the corners of his mouth; this guy was starving. We ordered a pizza and sat around talking about movies

DAR: Mark Watness was a great individual and a great teacher. He kind of looked like what you’d get if you mixed a comic book nerd with a troll. He had a really good attitude and he was soft spoken. But he was also really poor and always hungry. We kept the guy well fed. We’d go to the Dairy Queen down the street nearly every day and get him a Sunday. We respected him. It was like having the mentor of our dreams, or at least a mentor who let us do whatever the hell we wanted.

JESSE: Mark told me he planned to give the students a bit of free reign around the place. He also wanted us to shoot things about the Indianapolis Zoo for a promo video (he worked there with the dolphins). I loved the idea of free reign. He said the only way to learn something was by doing it, screw all that book work. I laughed and said "Well okay, then give me a camera."  That night I went home with the camera and the light kit. Mark Watness was the answer to my prayers. A very cool teacher.

The next day Darren joined me in class along with Mike Wallace. We started planning what kind of project we wanted to do. I had written some scripts that Oliver told me were crap (but only because he didn't like me). Darren wanted to use the equipment for a short feature he was cooking up called Laugh a Little. And Mike—Well, who gives a flying fuck what Mike wanted. Mark told us we could use the stuff for whatever we wanted but we also had to do the zoo promo as well as shoot a segment for the school.

We all agreed to go the full nine yards on it. But what kind of school project could we do? Darren came up with an idea to film the ballet class in Broad Ripple. So that would be our school project. We just needed to figure out a promo. Mark said he would take us all to the zoo the next day to do field work. That night Darren and I took the equipment home to familiarize ourselves with it.

We spent the rest of the year running around shooting stuff. We would be at the Zoo one day and working on our own projects the next. Every night we were checking out the equipment and I finally figured it all out. We never did anything at the zoo. Well, we did get some animal footage, but that was it. I started helping out around the studios after school when I had a day off from work. I operated the camera on the Math Tutor show and worked with Scott (who had taken over Oliver's show), doing most of his camera work.

Darren and I also worked cameras for a Model UN project. They had a professional behind every other camera but us. I was told I did a great job and we both got a credit for it and the other shows I worked on. I had a damn good time doing all of this while I learned how to handle all of the equipment.

Then came the day I had been dreading. It was about six weeks before the end of the year. I went to class, hoping to order a pizza and work on my various projects. When I entered the classroom I saw a light-skinned black man sitting at the desk. Oliver's permanent replacement had been found. None of us ever saw Mark again.


Earl was the name of our final teacher. He wasn't a very cool guy at all. We were never allowed to borrow the camera again. So for the rest of the year we sat around in class shooting the breeze, bored out of our skulls. Earl could've cared less about the class. This was the last year for students at CIRT. So all Earl had to worry about was his show. He was a rich kid and it showed. He wore the most expensive stuff you could find. He acted all superior and shit too.

We constantly made fun of him. After a while I showed up at class maybe twice a week. We were all bored by him and his lack of teaching skills.  Hell, he gave everyone A’s at the end of the year. Not too long after that I graduated and left CIRT behind.

I loved my time there learning to use the equipment. If it wasn't for CIRT I wouldn’t have met Darren and the rest of the dominoes would never have fallen into place. I also loved that time when we had free reign over the place. We shot so much stuff and had so much fun. And, of course, there was the story of our adventure at the Broad Ripple ballet class, but that's another chapter.

Next: A Side Adventure To Broad Ripple


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