Making Media Accessible: Plunging Into CMAC

Aug 10, 2013 | 2013 Articles, Arts & Entertainment, Strolling The Town, Tom Sims

by Tom Sims

Tom Sims has been covering the Tower District and Downtown Fresno for KRL for the past couple of years so we have decided to turn this into a monthly column which will go up every second weekend of the month. We are also adding to the mix articles on Old Town Clovis. We feel these are three areas in this Valley that are filled with history, culture and interesting stories. So join us each month as Tom goes Strolling Through Town!

By now, CMAC (Community Media Access Collaborative) is not fresh news to the people who live and work in downtown Fresno and pass by the old Met Museum building daily. They know something is going on and they know it is big.

The Met by Night

It was months ago when I attended the CMAC orientation and tour and was deeply impressed by the vision, professionalism, equipment, setting and competence reflected in the facility, program and staff.

CMAC is “a membership-based non-profit created to help individuals, independent producers, non-profits, schools, public agencies and others better connect with our community through the use of media–primarily television and the web.”

Built in 1922, the “Met” building originally housed the Fresno Bee. Most recently, it was a museum with a whole different story to be told. Now it houses this joint project between the cities of Clovis and Fresno, funded by outside sources and available to community members for rates as low as $25 a year for students, $50 a year for other adult individuals and $150 a year for non-profit organizations.

Using the facilities, equipment, educational opportunities and coaching of CMAC and its resources, aspiring producers can create and distribute high-quality video from documentaries to drama. CMAC’s tools are extensive and complete and its state of the art facilities include a 900 square foot studio.

Some of the equipment at the CMAC building

Once a project is approved and produced, it is aired on one of CMAC’s three channels on Comcast, AT&T U-verse and the Internet. After that, the video is owned by the producer and can be widely distributed on the web or any other way.

All sorts of people are flocking to CMAC including screenwriters, actors, activists, business people, artists, retired persons and technicians. No one can make money for working on these projects. In fact, members are encouraged to volunteer on the projects of other members and a list of volunteers is kept by the front desk.

Of course, you cannot touch the expensive equipment until you are trained and certified. Once that happens, you can even be credentialed to take out mobile units to do field work. Space and equipment are available for use by all members on a reservation basis. Most classes are covered in the basic membership cost.

I had the good fortune of attending a class on the subject of production by long-time local personality, retired Fresno State professor and department head, Don Priest. Don’s laid-back style, easy communication and clear application made the material accessible and inspiring.

For those who do not know, he is also “The Hound Dog” on Fresno’s KFSR, 90.7, serving up “The Blue Buffet” on Saturday from 2 p.m.–4 p.m. His credentials as Program Manager at CMAC are indicative of the quality of the staff beginning with Executive Director, Jerry Lee and others.

Of the quotes I gleaned from Don’s garden of wisdom were these tidbits:

“Every project begins with a script.”

“Feed your crew.”

That is pretty good advice for a prospective producer!

I first heard about CMAC from fellow Toastmaster and City of Fresno representative on the CMAC board, Randy Reed, an accomplished communicator and producer in his own right. He challenged our clubs to join CMAC and take our goal of improving our oral communication skills to the next level.

I have been trying to get around to joining ever since. Finally, I decided to get on the train before it got too far down the track.

In spite of the momentum of CMAC’s growth, there is much room for many more participants and far more creative expression. In the heart of Fresno’s downtown arts district, across the street from Valley PBS and diagonally across from Arte Americas, CMAC is extremely accessible and provides ample parking in a safe environment.

Walking in the door, one feels lifted by the bright and modern décor and the smiles all around. One is quickly caught up in the energy and creativity of the place, but not overwhelmed. We were quickly reminded that there were many beginners in the room.

Last night’s class was fast-paced, but I think I wrote down all the pertinent points. It did not matter though; the information will be reviewed, made available in other forms and built upon in subsequent classes. As the class progressed, I was taking notes for my production future as well as for this article. It occurred to me that making a video was similar to organizing and writing an article–except that there is more time, money, planning and personnel involved in a video.

We learned about licenses, responsibilities, development of ideas, and formatting, script-writing, budgeting, enlisting people to help and how to find music for audio tracts. CMAC policies and procedures were reviewed. We learned that a producer is the person in charge of everything from pre-production to production to post-production. The producer needs to be a good manager with excellent communication and people skills and that person must also be a creative problem solver.

Part of the "Producing" class outline

Don led the group through the development of two different random concepts from idea to completion of the project in brainstorming. As a result, the class members could envision what it might be like to actually produce a project.

Some questions that I come away with are similar to a business plan:

• Is there a big idea?
• Is there a need?
• Is there an audience and who is it?
• What are the desired reactions or outcomes?
• What is our format to present the idea?
• How will we lay out the steps and organize the process?
• Who will we get to help?
• How will we pay for all of this?
• What other resources are available?
• How will we stay in compliance with laws and regulations?
• How will we pitch it?
• OK–let’s do it!

It sounds daunting and it is except for one thing: CMAC is a learning institution with teachers, coaches, partners and advisors, as well as a community of people who support each other and learn together.

To get started, a new or prospective member must first attend an orientation. Then, he or she must attend the Producing Class. After that, there are classes for use of the equipment that the member would like to use as well as other classes. Next, he or she will submit a proposal. When that is approved, work on production and use of equipment and resources can begin.

Of course, if a producer does not wish to do the technical work herself, she can “hire” CMAC to provide those services. What kind of fun is that?

For a list of classes, consult the website. They cover three areas: screenwriting, studio production and field production. Many people specialize in one of those areas. Advanced courses are offered in editing for those who have strong computer skills.

The Met is a landmark building in Fresno and CMAC has been on track, since opening last year to become a landmark institution. There is already a strong community gathering around CMAC which is strengthening the larger community radiating out from downtown and the Tower. It can only grow.

The next orientation is Tuesday, September 3rd, 3 p.m. – 8 p.m. Call (559) 266-2622 for information and reservations.

Two Video Sample of CMAC’s work:

Over the Edge

Produced by the City of Fresno and shown on CMAC’s channels:

Downtown Fresno

Mon – Fri: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Sat: 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

555 Van Ness Avenue
Fresno, California 93721
(559) 266-2622

You can also find CMAC on

And on Facebook:

And Twitter: @CMACTV

You can find more of Tom’s column here. Keep up with Tom’s writing and “strolling” by following him on Twitter @tomsims

Tom Sims is a local pastor (and Grandpa!), writer, and blogger. His congregation, “The Fellowship of Joy,” is part of a larger collaborative called “4141 Ministries,” of which he is Executive Director & he is an active Toastmaster. You can also find him on Facebook.




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