by John Zollinger
May 5, 2008
When it started 10 years ago, Trojan Vision was short on facilities, personnel and equipment, but long on the dream of what could be. A decade later, the dream has become reality, with the station serving the university, winning national awards and providing hands-on experience that has enabled students to launch their careers.
“With all the incredible things going on at USC, it’s hard to believe there was a time when we didn’t have a showcase like Trojan Vision to bring our content to the world,” said Dean Elizabeth M. Daley. As the executive director of the Annenberg Center for Communication (ACC), Daley spearheaded the drive to initiate the station as an ACC project in the 1997-1998 academic year.
“I remember the first night we went live,” said Don Tillman, the television industry veteran whom Daley tapped to oversee the organization and operation of the project. “The kids had worked for weeks to make the first program flawless, and it was—until the power went out across campus. Talk about a baptism by fire.”
Under Tillman’s guidance, the eight-member student staff honed their skills that first semester. Making the most of the space on the Carson soundstage that they shared with film students, the crew put together their first program CU@USC, which was distributed on campus via USC’s closed-circuit television system.
Now operating out of state-of-the-art studio and production facilities in the Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts, the current line-up features CU@USC, plus 12 other original produced shows, reflecting a diverse range of programming from news, to sports, to comedies, to dramas, to interview programs and more. Trojan Vision’s reach covers all of the University Park and Health Sciences facilities and extends to nearly two million households around Southern California and select markets nationwide. The station also disseminates its material through leading higher-education institutions, such as the Research Channel and the Open Student Television Network, in addition to offering a round-the-clock feed via the Trojan Vision Web site.
Student participation in the station has likewise grown exponentially, with Trojan Vision now listing approximately 250 undergraduate and graduates. In addition to the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, these men and women come from the Annenberg School for Communication, the Marshall School of Business, the Roski School of Fine Arts, the Thornton School of Music and the Viterbi School of Engineering, as well as the School of Cinematic Arts and School of Theatre. In total, some 2,000 students have been involved with the station since it began, producing over 19,000 editions of its programs. Named the “Best College Television Station in the Country” by Spin Magazine in 2005 and 2006, Trojan Vision has also been a four-time winner of the renowned “Telly Award.”
Trojan Vision workers learn everything from production, to management, to advertising and more. Besides the experience they gain through “live-to-air” experience, Trojan Vision also offers the “Practicum in Television Production” course, open to students from all schools. (In the wake of the Annenberg Center reorganization, Trojan Vision has been administered by the School of Cinematic Arts, through which the station provides classes for credit.)
“The depth of knowledge I got at Trojan Vision enabled me to go places in my career that I couldn’t have without that experience,” said J.D. Crowley, (B.A. 2003, critical studies), who parlayed his four years at the station to become the senior supervising producer of promotions at Entertainment Tonight and The Insider.
“This past year I got a job with the Groundlings doing lighting design for them on their main shows,” said Trojan Vision General Manager Veronica Acosta, who will graduate this May with a B.A. in critical studies. “The résumé I submitted was pretty much almost all Trojan Vision work. My current boss at the Groundlings told me he took a glance at my résumé and said to himself, ‘very impressive, you’re hired.’”
Trojan Vision has also played a pivotal role in helping members of the USC community—students, professors, researchers and staff members—present their work to the public. Offering services from basic one-camera shoots with minimal editing, to multi-camera productions with sophisticated audio and visual post-production features, Trojan Vision has worked with scores of university groups, including the Department of Public Safety, the Marshall School, the Good Neighbors Campaign, the Shoah Foundation and many others.
“I’ve been in television for nearly 40 years and have seen some really amazing things,” Tillman said. “And top among them is certainly the effort, creativity and dedication these students have invested to make Trojan Vision truly outstanding.”