Welcome to the limited series return of BETWEEN THE PAGES, running Mondays and Wednesdays now through mid-December 2020! Dubbed BETWEEN THE PAGES: FINDING MY VOICE, follow Shannon’s journey as she learned and grew to become more of a public speaker, and how she’s still learning today! Today is Installment 4, “Radio and Television Collide”.
While I did spent time in the radio part of the department, the television side of our department still was in its infancy stages regarding creative programming. The curriculm had until recently before my arrival emphasized broadcast journalism, and elements of that could be seen in the weekly live evening shows we produced. One focused on anything remotely related to sports called THE SPORTING EDGE, which actually was the first television production I worked on while still in high school while running the lighting board from upstairs while everyone else worked on the floor below. Just like Radio Free Cheney, this was a case of following my boyfriend where he went because he worked on THE SPORTING EDGE; I wasn’t inherently a sporting aficionado.
The other major live show was a one hour weekly interview program called YOU’RE IN GOOD COMPANY, which featured four segments and two hosts – campus, community, arts, and cooking were the areas of focus. YOU’RE IN GOOD COMPANY was administered by my favorite professor, Dr. David Terwische, and I would work on that show several times. However, “Dr. Dave” (as we all called him) also had a special workshop he taught in the summer called SUMMERSTOCK that was worth 10 credits. This most closely matched what I desired to learn and I would be involved with Summerstock for three summers (the last done via registered me via a directed study with more limited participation), as well as involved in a later workshop Dr. Dave tried with a limited episode soap opera that ran two trimesters.
The first time I took Summerstock, I’d just gotten out of high school. I got a chance to write one of the four scripts, but due to inexperience and time constraints it really wasn’t a good script; my classmates shot it anyway, and no surprise to me it just conveniently disappeared from the archives a couple years later. What I learned from it was where I needed to improve. Under a directed study with Dr. Dave, I worked with Dr. Dave during the school year to work on a script with the goal that it would be shot in SUMMERSTOCK for the Summer of 1991.
We actually worked on two half hour scripts, but in the end only one was put forward. The half-hour script, FROM THE FATAL HEART, followed the story of a DJ on Valentine’s Day haunted by the mysterious death of his wife who finds himself held hostage at gunpoint by the nurse who befriended his wife who’d been getting cancer treatment at the hospital. One thing that made it easy to shoot came from the fact we used the currently closed Radio Free Cheney booth as our primary set, and just butchered over the window that looked into KEWU so we didn’t have to worry about about editing issues with the KEWU-FM DJs, instead making it a decoration for the studio set with its fictional call letters. Before you ask, I had never heard of Clint Eastwood’s PLAY MISTY FOR ME at this point and would not for several years; that letdown came later, and honestly I don’t like that film. That year’s crop of students seemed to enjoy working on this script more, and I know I really enjoyed seeing it come to life. This was a far cry from my first experience.
At some point later in the school year, someone heard that the Radio-TV Honor Society known as National Honor Society-Alpha Epsilon Rho added a new category for scripts to their student production awards, and I received encouragement to submit FROM THE FATAL HEART. I went for it, and didn’t expect to hear anything. What happened is found out that I was nominated and invited to be at the dinner banquet at Washington D.C. even though I wasn’t a member. The Radio-TV department generously helped me out with airfare to get to Washington D.C. That night was the first time I saw my name projected on a screen, and my name and the script I wrote read aloud.
I didn’t know how to craft an acceptance speech, so I suspect it’s good I didn’t win. I also didn’t know how to dress for an awards banquet, and still remember finding out last minute what was expected for the level of dress and plunking down a couple hundred dollars on my first ever shopping trip to a Macy’s in the Pentagon Square area.
Though I wasn’t named the winner that night, it was still a thrill to be announced, and I came home motivated. I learned our school used to have a chapter, but with the decline of the broadcast journalism program, it closed down. So, I decided to try and reactivate the chapter, collecting together an initial group of people I trusted to be officers. We got reactivated with the Associated Students, and I also learned the Washington State Coordinator position for the group was also vacant. To help give me leverage to get partnerships going with the other universities in the state, I also took that position.
For the next school year, I decided to submit the other script Dr. Dave and I worked on, but deemed slightly too complex to shoot in the summer program. SHATTERED followed a woman who wakes up in an alley that can’t remember who she is and ends up assisting under the table in a bar, and we come to learn over the half hour the person she’d been trying to get away from was an abusive, alcoholic husband. Again, I was nominated, and this time the Associated Students bankrolled flights not only for myself but for the chapter Vice-President in order to represent the school chapter in St. Louis, Missouri. For the second time, I did not win.
I also had the experience of overhearing a conversation on an escalator the last day between two people about “how easy it was to get nominated in the screenwriting categories because so few people entered”. I do not know if this was fact, or if some of the other people at the conference just said it to get under my skin, but it seems too pointed to be coincidence. I decided I would continue my obligations with the honor society for another year until I graduated, but I would not return to the conference. This choice turned out to be interesting because it meant I was not present in New York City the following year when they awarded me State Coordinator of the Year for the work I’d done bringing the Central and Eastern Washington State chapters into closer communication. However, it was probably a good thing that I wasn’t in attendance because I would have seen them probably incorrectly announce me as being from “Washington University” (which is what the plaque said that showed up, that traveled to the winning school from year to year). My school was kind enough to have the plate replaced and correct the error, even though I did not ask them to.
All that said, the impact writing, making, and receiving some recognition for FROM THE FATAL HEART cannot be underestimated. I think the things I learned along the way.
At some point, people leave college behind to step foot into the real world. For me, at that time, the road only led one place – Los Angeles. I’ll talk more about that in the next installment.