By Marc Kaliroff
Two rows of large computer panels that look like a set of props scientists would control in a sci-fi flick are sitting in a studio. As a student enters, he walks back-and-forth between three rooms, he meticulously places various keys and knobs into specific positions that change the colors and messages appearing on the consoles located in the main room.
“Mic-check in the meantime … white balance is perfect … cameras are already set to 2.8 aperture. You can start the audio,” he says into his headset to the local crew, who are on camera and working floor management in a large soundproof room next door.
Around him, seconds after starting an audio recording, multiple students race to their positions before he can start a countdown to begin filming. Doors shut, buttons click and the room ever so slowly begins to lose its sense of sound as it dies down to the point where even a pin-drop can be heard.
“In five … four … three … two … Cue fade-in” are his final words before the room falls dead silent under his grasp, as two newscasters take over on three LG-branded television setups.
This is only the beginning of a Wednesday routine for Jason Monto, a senior communication studies major and the technical director of the College’s Lions Television, as well as the president of the Student Film Union.
Monto officially began both of his leadership roles this semester and now aims to take the two entertainment organizations into a broader direction as he sees the curtains close during the final act of his last two semesters.
On the Lion’s Television YouTube page, dozens of videos entirely created by the student body can be viewed, such as game shows, comedy sketches and music videos. Green screening, camera cuts, high-quality audio and — every so often — impressive computer-generated effects that are usually found in standard television broadcasts and independent films can be discovered throughout their overwhelming amount of content.
While their videos have always impressed and entertained students on campus, the studios strive to continue producing even higher quality content in both their current lineup of ongoing series and new originals approved by the board in charge with Monto at the helm. Expanding the studios’ range of students along with its relationships to upcoming multiple clubs and events has become a major priority this year.
“We are attempting to expand LTV and SFU by giving more production opportunities to students within the organization,” Monto said. “For LTV, we are going beyond our mainstay shows that we’ve had for years, and producing more one-off content, such as interviews with speakers on campus.”
Currently, Monto and the rest of LTV are seeking to create more original shows to add to their lineup of ongoing series. Monto has been open to the idea of adding more content each week to their filming schedule, but there is a process that students have to go through to allow their visions to become a reality.
“There is a pitching process that we are internally creating to make sure we take the best of the best ideas and put them into production,” Monto said. “In my opinion, the more, high-quality content, the better.”
Last year, the students involved in both organizations took a bow like no other, as they brought home several awards, including the Lifetime Achievement and Best Comedy award after being invited to Campus MovieFest’s national filmmaking tournament in Atlanta, Georgia — a competition that oversees thousands of college students creating five minute films in less than a given week of production time.
Campus MovieFest has become more important to the students in LTV and SFU than ever before, leaving Monto with the job of bringing not only the film festival back to campus for another year, but ensuring that the students are prepared to bring back another batch of awards if their efforts can pay off.
“Jason has already started to contact CMF and we’re excited that we have date and place set,” said Rebecca Silverman a junior communication studies major and secretary of Student Film Union. “He’s also always talking about the event to our SFU and LTV members to get them super excited too.”
Without alumni like Kevin Walsh (’19) and Tyler Law (’19), the award-winning short filmmakers and creators of West 19 Productions, the task of creating original hit short films again like “Marvin the Magnificent,” “Milkman” and “Ordinary People” may seem difficult, but Monto strongly believes that the knowledge inherited from the previous students and new talent will leave a significant impact on this year’s competition.
“As much as we will miss our alumni, this year is a huge opportunity for new talents to emerge,” Monto said. “CMF this year, is a time for filmmakers from all across campus to step up and show us what they got. There are plenty of experienced filmmakers from previous years excited to shoot for the top four this year, and I can’t wait to see what they, and newcomers, create.”
While Monto is excited to work on this year’s newest ongoing series, such as “Life At TCNJ” and, of course, Campus MovieFest, his younger peers have bittersweet feelings in regard to working with him during his final two semesters.
“There isn’t a single person here that doesn’t respect him,” said Jason Thorpe, a junior history and secondary education major and producer of his own original LTV production, “Thorpe’s Sports.” “I’m sad he’s graduating. It’s a lot of knowledge and experience going out the door,” he said.
Other students, such as Faris El Akbai, a junior communication studies major and creator and producer of “Faris on the Street,” said that Monto has been a mentor to him when it came to filming and editing, but most importantly, he made him think generally more positive about college.
Monto leaves behind a legacy at both clubs with two main intentions — bringing the two campus entertainment organizations closer together and ensuring that both stay on a path to monumental success.
“I want LTV and SFU to work in tandem,” Monto said. “They should both be environments where students can feel free to learn and create whatever art they desire. From a leadership perspective, I want both the organization’s leaders to work together so that students involved in both groups can reach their highest potential.”