Queen City Gets Real

A locally based and produced reality show debuting this July is more than a close look at four young professional women experiencing our city's arts and culture. Behind the scenes, it's a testament of the "real-world hustle" - what academics call active learning - championed by audio and visual faculty at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.

In 2004, the College spent more than $1 million to create its state of the art Advanced Technology and Learning Center, a facility that includes mixing rooms, audio and visual studios and labs (as well as the Midwest Culinary Institute). Inside the building, AV student co-ops operate cameras, capture audio and polish their work in a post-production suite similar to ones utilized at local television and production studios. Students enroll in the A/V curriculum for at least three terms, and receive two credits at the end of each as well as participate in a highly regarded A/V co-op program that provides real world experience for grads.

"The co-op experience is very important in this industry," says Paul Grundy, video production manager and member of the A/V faculty at Cincinnati State.  "It is a niche industry, you have to make contacts, you have to work co-ops, and you have to meet real clients." And he should know.  After working several years in news production with WCPO (Channel 9) and other stations, Grundy helped launch the audio/visual production program at Cincinnati State in 1998. He served as chair for nearly four years before working another stint at Channel 9, but came back to Cincinnati State four years later. He was instrumental in the design of the school's Advanced Technology and Learning Center, an opportunity he says he couldn't miss.

"What makes working at school exciting is that we're always looking at what the next things are going to be," he says. "It's fascinating to teach and talk about production because the aesthetics of things might stay the same, but the technology is always changing. We found that being legitimate on our own turf, really doing what we talk about rather than just talking about it, helps students. They're able to seamlessly jump into other jobs."

One potential employer apparently agrees. Local Fox television affiliate, Channel 19, was so impressed with Cincinnati State's facilities and A/V program that it is partnering with the school on a new TV reality show production called Queen City, which will air Sundays July 24-Aug. 14 at 11 p.m. on Fox 19. Each show will run a half-hour and will also be available on iTunes once the series concludes. Currently in production, the show has three dedicated A/V student co-ops and a handful of volunteers that work under the supervision of Grundy and Cincinnati State's in-house composer/sound designer, Bobby Gayol. Grundy says that the show is not only a valuable learning experience for the students, but a way for the school's program to find further credibility in the professional world.

"We found that being legitimate on our own turf, really doing what we talk about rather than just talking about it, helps students. They're able to seamlessly jump into other jobs," he says.

After developing the Queen City concept, Gayol and Grundy decided they wanted students to work on an adventure show rather a cat-fight-inducing drama. Think Top Gear with a chic girl overlay.

"That's one of the first things I want to dispel," says Gayol. "This show is not like The Hills or Jersey Shore, or Real Housewives. These are Cincinnati girls doing Cincinnati things. These girls have real jobs, and they're knee-deep in city activities and charities. They hustle and show off Cincinnati in the meantime."

Justin Vonderhaar is project manager of Queen City. In his third term as a co-op, he coordinates schedules and organizes legal files for the production. He says he swears by Google and its email, document and calendar functions to do his job right.

"It's a little hectic," the 29 year old says, laughing. "Trying to coordinate the schedule of four socialites in and of itself is a job, and then I'm trying to coordinate that with the production team and their schedules, as well as their class schedules."

"It's all worth it," he adds. "This merges the two things I love to do - manage and work in a creative environment."

Rob Woodward, a co-op in the middle of his second term as Gayol's lead assistant in sound design, says he was in his first week as a co-op when his mentor shared some awesome news.

"We're producing a pilot for a reality TV show," the 21 year old recalls being told. "We've been working as hard as we can since it started. But this is what I want to do. I have to impress people."  And what has he learned thus far?

"With school projects, we go into the field, but we never get to work with professionals in the field. I've learned the workflow of how things go. I feel independent," Woodward says.

Another co-op, Amanda O'Casek, is in her fourth term and works for Grundy as an assistant video editor on Queen City. The 31 year old shoots on-site and later edits the footage at the Advanced Technology and Learning Center.

"I've put in a good 40 or 50 hours so far," she says. Like the other co-ops, she previously worked on a variety of projects including commercials, music and corporate videos, but she says Queen City is a much larger project and requires not only more time, but flexibility.

"With a reality show, you kind of have to go with it, roll with the punches," she says. "There's not much of script, so you have to keep an eye out for good shots and dialogue. You have to move quickly. We definitely try to bring out the best in them."

Grundy agrees. "We're not trying to invent drama here. It's more fun letting them be themselves."

Photography by Scott Beseler.
Behind the scenes of QC, photo provided by Gus Geraci
ATLC at Cincinnati State
Hanna and Paul Grundy and Bobby Gayol
Paul Grundy
Bobby Gayol
Rob Woodward, Justin Vonderhaar, and Amanda O'Casek

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