Talkin' 'bout my generation
CHAMPAIGN – Watching dancers strut their stuff onscreen, Tamika Jackson looked completely exhausted – and very proud.
The pride was because, on the afternoon of Jan. 31 in the University of Illinois Art and Design Building, the UI senior in communications was putting the finishing touches on the first episode of "Inside Out," a half-hour television program she dreamed up last semester.
The exhaustion was because she had been up all night editing that episode, scheduled to air Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. on Urbana Public Television (UPTV-Channel 6).
"Our goal is to make our show a model of young adult life," said Jackson, the show's director and executive producer.
The show targets people 16-24 and tackles a range of subjects. This week's episode is about local dance groups, next week's covers gay bashing and the week after is titled "Single and Loving It." All three shows were taped around Champaign-Urbana, with major filming done at the Independent Media Center in Urbana.
"Inside Out" cohost and UI sociology student Mike Conley feels the topics reflect events and issues facing his generation. "Those things are prevalent in our society – heavy issues along with the lighthearted ones," he said. He hopes the show can "facilitate an informed discussion."
The show's title came from Jackson's feeling that "issues that you go through, you deal with it on the inside first," she said. "That'll help you to deal with it on the outside."
For the first show, the crew of about 25 students wanted to cover a lighter subject to help draw viewers in. They settled on dance.
On air, Jackson and Conley spoke with members of several local troupes about types of popular dancing and heard from dance experts like UI Professor Cynthia Oliver.
Interspersed with the interviews are loud, vibrant dance scenes from each of the groups and a few brief lessons on how to do the dances.
For the crew, it's not only the content that's educational.
Though Jackson and several other members had helped out on productions before, they've never had the kind of responsibility they do now.
For each show, they recruit and interview experts, research topics, write scripts, operate a variety of equipment and edit hours of tape into 30 minutes of show. And they plan to do this each week through early May, without pay and – for many – without college credit.
"It's basically just me, Tamika and a bunch of students putting this together," said Alan Davis, the show's associate producer and a UI senior in rhetoric. "Just to have a finished product already is good."
Getting that product to television screens was another hurdle. The first show was originally scheduled for Jan. 31 but, as Jackson wrote in an e-mail the day after the original airdate, "the equipment that we were using would not allow us to properly print the episode."
The director said the glitch isn't stopping the crew's momentum, and is eager for audiences to see the show on Tuesday.
"We learn a lot as we go, which is fun, but it's a little scary," Jackson said. "We try to make everything as professional as possible."
Jackson said she hopes the show helps young people strike up conversations about real-life issues.
"We sit here and talk about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie like it's personal to us, when really, it's not," she said. "I would like people ... to have a broader sense of dialogue ... that we can relate to in everyday life."