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Making connections

Popular TV series introduces new neighbors

Created date

July 24th, 2012

Equipped with state-of-the-art video and editing equipment and a closed-circuit TV studio, members of the Ashby Ponds video club create quality programming that not only entertains their neighbors but also makes them the stars. The popular resident-produced Meet Your Neighbor series highlights the impressive accomplishments and backgrounds of the community s members in a way reminiscent of This Is Your Life, a national television program of the 1950s and early 1960s. However, unlike the pop culture favorite, Meet Your Neighbor does not surprise the guest of honor but works closely with each interviewee to present an informative and fun-filled hour of programming. There are so many fascinating people at Ashby Ponds that it makes my job easy, says the show s host, Carl Hemmer. The difficult part is deciding who to interview first.

Brilliant idea

The idea for the series and the video club came from a discussion amongst members of the community s drama club, the Ashby Ponds Players. While working on our first play,Frank s 75th Christmas, we decided that filming the performance and airing it on our cable station would enable more people to enjoy the show, says Phyllis Lynne, Ashby Ponds Players founder. Staff members taught us how to use the video equipment. In addition to filming the play, we began filming various club speakers and performances by the Songbirds [the campus choir]. When the drama club discussed the possibility of interviewing community members as a means of introducing them to their fellow neighbors, Carl s ears perked up. I think it s important to make connections when you move to a new home, he says. And for all of us, Ashby Ponds is our new home. We all move in as strangers. I really felt that a show that introduces a community member to their neighbors would help people begin to make personal connections.

The nitty gritty

In order to get their programming into their neighbors living rooms, the newly created video club began recruiting volunteers to learn how to use and operate the video cameras. Community member George Menassa works diligently training a team in the art of videography. Others help plan and interview. I immediately began learning the art of interviewing, says Carl. I ve found that it s important to select interviewees who enjoy carrying on a conversation. I carefully select questions that will encourage them to lead an informative discussion. Many of our programs are taped in the person s home. I think that helps the viewers get to know a little about the interviewee, and it makes the interviewee more comfortable. Once the program is videotaped, George edits the film and prepares for its premiere on the in-house channel. Overnight, the interviewee becomes a celebrity on the Ashby Ponds campus. You very quickly get a sense of the richness of the personalities that make up our community, says Carl. All of theMeet Your Neighborepisodes air repeatedly over the course of the month, enabling as many people as possible to enjoy the show. Meanwhile, the video club s programming committee meets every two weeks to update the list of upcoming interviewees and to decide on the timing of future programming.

Growing to-do list

Our goal at this time is to tape at least five to eight interviews a month, says Carl. With over 700 people living at Ashby Ponds, we will never be short on subject matter. Based on the popularity of theMeet Your Neighborseries, the video club is currently exploring the idea of a new series that will highlight staff members and various activities. This fall our resident advisory council will hold elections for the next year, Phyllis says. The video group plans to interview all of the candidates running for a position. It s another way that we can really utilize the benefits associated with having our own TV studio to reach as many of our neighbors as possible. The video group has also begun taping meetings of the recently formed Ashby Ponderables, a forum in which neighbors come together to discuss a predetermined hot political issue. These discussions are quickly becoming a popular addition to the studio lineup. Working with the video group is exciting, says Carl. We ve only just begun tapping into the extraordinary lives of our neighbors, but I already feel like I m walking amongst giants. There really is no limit when it comes to what we can do. Our only limits are those we give ourselves.