BRCTV, the local non-profit television station in Boothbay Harbor, has gone through some changes.
After nine years at the helm, station manager Jonne Trees has left, and Channel 7 is now being manned by two Boothbay natives, Ryan Leighton and Cody Mitchell.
The board of directors at the station has recently undergone some transitions, too, going from four members down to three — President Tom Dewey, Treasurer Anya Heyl and Secretary Lori Reynolds.
According to Trees, the board members told him that letting him go was something they had struggled with for weeks, but they felt it was in the best interest of the station to move in a different direction. Trees agreed, stating that he no longer could keep up with the job due to stress the job entailed, and ongoing health issues.
"The board at Channel 7 is a small and dedicated group of individuals ... working hard to maintain a non-profit organization that is growing in many positive ways," Trees said. "Cody and Ryan are incredibly smart guys ... very skilled in their areas of talents. Cody can do almost anything tech, media, or computer related really well, and is one of the smartest guys I've ever known. Ryan is creative and a great story teller, with lots of enthusiasm for creating the best shows possible."
"Being the station manager is a difficult job," Mitchell said. "What Jonne did was really impressive. You have to be everywhere at once, and you're usually here until 8 or 9 every night. You don't really have a home life."
Mitchell and Leighton, who both started at the station as volunteers, grew up in the Boothbay region, and both are committed to making Channel 7 not only survive, but thrive. "Cody and I have what it will take to take over the helm," Leighton said. "Cody can handle everything technical at the station, and I can be the public outreach voice, and help produce material."
During the past summer, the two developed a department making promotional and informational videos for local businesses and nonprofits. "We started building back the foundation of sponsors and underwriters, making commercials to pay the bills," Mitchell said.
Now the team is in the throes of producing a new TV mini-series, "TV Starring Us," a documentary about inspirational local people. "We're interviewing them and getting their life's story," Leighton said. "Why they're here and what they do."
Mitchell, who admits to not being a 'people person,' said he and Leighton make a good team. "It works. Together, Ryan and I cover the spectrum of film making," Mitchell said. "We're two very different people who get along very well. It's a cohesive relationship where I bring the technology and he brings the people and his creativity, and when we meet in the middle we're able to produce something incredible.
"The camera work, lighting and audio are my area, and Ryan's job is to get people to show up, and do the interviewing. Then we both work on the editing."
Now 21, Mitchell said he has been a freelance cinematographer since he was 11. He began his career at Channel 7 at age 14. "I'd just come here and hang out with Jonne, all afternoon and evening, instead of doing homework," he said.
Leighton, 31, has been with the station since 2012, after having acquired some of the necessary skills as a journalist at the Boothbay Register. "My storytelling skills come into play when we produce," he said. "But as far as the shooting, the lighting, the color grading, and all the post production, where you bring all the pieces together, that's all Cody."
The two agree that they're learning something new every day about film production. Leighton said it has been an ongoing process since the day he signed on with the station. "My learning curve, my understanding of how film production works, went through the roof and it's still accelerating exponentially."
"This place is an incubator for that kind of field knowledge," Mitchell said.
They recently produced a short video about who they are as a channel. "We got into the archives to see what the station was made of," Leighton said. "We discovered that this was a people-oriented station, and we really wanted to reinvigorate that sense of community." They put together a film called "Who We Are.”
Leighton and Mitchell are now in the process of digitally converting the entire VHS archive at the station. Their goal is to make a searchable online video archive for everything that's ever been recorded in this region. "We want people to reach out and ask us for a certain game or event from the past," Leighton said.
"Ryan and I have a real passion to run this station," Mitchell said. "Our mission is to inspire people and bring national and international knowledge into the community." One of the programs they're working to bring to Channel 7 is "Ted Talks," an educational nonprofit that features talks by inspirational people — from scientists to psychologists — all over the world. "We will air them on our station, and it's all free," Mitchell said. "It's designed to inspire people. I want kids to start watching Channel 7 and to find engaging material after school.”
Leighton is also reaching out to educate students and the public about video production. He will be teaching a class at the high school about making a promotional video.
The station is always looking for people willing to volunteer, and for financial support and donations. Mitchell said much of the equipment used in their video productions belongs to him, not the station.
Trees is confident that Channel 7 will continue to thrive under Leighton’s and Mitchell's leadership. "Both of them are from the region and I'm sure will strive to do their best at creating the best BRCTV can possibly be, hopefully with more and continued support from all the awesome towns and people that they serve in the Boothbay Region."