Tag Archives: Jim Honeycutt

Class Of 2020 REALLY Graduates! Here’s Video Proof.

Last Friday’s drive-through graduation was a red-blue-letter day in Staples history.

The high school’s Class of 2020 was honored with decorated cars, signs, balloons, music, and an almost 1-on-1 ceremonial turning of the tassel. It was joyful, personal, meaningful and fun.

Of course, a few elements of a traditional graduation were missing: “Pomp and Circumstance,” speeches, and the chance for everyone to see all the graduates at once.

No problem!

Yesterday — the day of the originally scheduled commencement — a complete video was released. It’s as close to a familiar graduation — say, 2019 — as possible. And it will live forever.

Former media instructor Jim Honeycutt once again worked his magic. He took each element, reimagined it, taped it, and made it — just like the Class of 2020 — both timeless and timely.

John Videler’s drone video sets the scene.

Drone footage from John Videler sets the “Pomp and Circumstance” scene. Staples Players president Sam Laskin serves as emcee. Principal Stafford Thomas delivers a special welcome.

Luke Rosenberg proves he’s not only a masterful choral director, but also a technological wizard. He weaves together remote performances from 40 singers, into a stunningly beautiful “Star-Spangled Banner.”

You wouldn’t know these 40 voices were all recorded separately.

Valedictorian Ben Spector and salutatorian Benji Schussheim speak about their — and their class’s — journey.

Valedictorian Ben Spector and salutatorian Benji Schussheim.

Then comes a slide show. All 437 graduates get 10 seconds each — with congratulatory messages from their families. Orchestra and band musical highlights from throughout the year play in the background, underscoring the many talented students in the school.

No graduation is complete without official certification (from Board of Education chair and “proud parent of a graduating senior Candice Savin), and tassel-turning (by Carly Dwyer and Ben Howard).

After closing remarks from principal Thomas, the video ends with the recessional, over Ryan Felner’s drone footage from last Friday’s parade.

Principal Stafford Thomas.

A list of senior awards is shown. The final shot is 2020 class photo.

“Class” is right. This year’s seniors have shown uncommon maturity, grace and poise, in the face of unexpected adversity. The graduation video is a fitting reminder of a great group.

But don’t take my word for it. Click here, and see for yourself!

Emcee Sam Laskin.

High Honors For Staples Grads

It’s one of Staples High School’s many traditions: Every year, High Honors graduates — the top 4% of the senior class — are celebrated at a dinner.

But this is not your typical snooze-fest. Each honoree is asked to select one teacher to speak on his or her behalf. Each instructor has just a couple of minutes. But in that time they manage to be insightful, poignant, funny and real.

Taken individually, the short speeches give a quick portrait of some of Staples’ highest-achieving students. Taken together, they paint a wonderful canvas of a very diverse class.

This year’s High Honors dinner fell victim to COVID-19. But — showing a resourcefulness worthy of these 19 very bright young men and women — assistant principal for the senior class Meghan Ward helped organize a virtual ceremony.

Each honoree and teacher came to Staples last month. Alone, they were taped by Jim Honeycutt. The former media instructor then stitched everything together, in a video.

It was a shame that the evening could not take place in real time. The good news is: Because it did not, now every “06880” reader can honor our High Honors grads.

The video is posted in two formats: YouTube (below) and Vimeo. Clicking here for the Vimeo link enables you to download it and save; just scroll to the bottom of the Vimeo page.

Candlelight Concert: The Video

Couldn’t get tickets to this year’s 79th annual Staples High School Candlelight Concert? Couldn’t get there, because you live far away?

Couldn’t listen to the WWPT-FM broadcast or livestream? Couldn’t figure out how to access the Soundcloud audio either?

No problem! Jim Honeycutt — longtime Staples media teacher, now retired but still a music department fan and Santa’s-elf-like helper — shot and produced a video of the entire event.

So sit down and relax. Grab a glass or mug of your favorite holiday cheer. Then click below, to enjoy another marvelous performance by our town’s very talented choral, orchestra and band members.

 

Now Streaming: 70 North

WWPT-FM was one of the first high school radio stations in the country.

Decades later, Staples again innovated — this time with an in-school TV show.

Now, our high school once again leads the pack.

Welcome to “70 North.”

With a soft launch last week, the site — named for the school’s physical address — became a clever, irreverent, YouTube-like destination for 1,900 students, scores of staff and faculty members, and anyone else in the world who wants to know what’s going on at that active, creative and very fertile campus.

It’s a work in progress. But what a work it is.

70 North marks the next step in the evolution of television. And whether that TV is based in a high school or broadcasts nationally doesn’t really matter, says media teacher Geno Heiter.

What counts is content. “70 North” has plenty of it. Sports, features, upcoming events, guidance and college news, humor, poetry, reviews, music department concerts, artwork — you name, it will find its way onto the site.

For over a decade, the school was served by “Good Morning Staples.” Devised by former instructors Jim Honeycutt and Mike Zito, and filmed, edited and hosted by students, the show aired 3 times a week, at 8:25 a.m. Every class watched — supposedly — an intriguing mélange of interviews, announcements, sports highlights and more.

It was fun, entertaining — and static.

The television landscape has changed a lot since “Good Morning Staples” marked a fresh way of providing information. Americans — particularly teenagers — no longer sit on a couch and watch a show at a predetermined time.

TV today is all about streaming. People watch on their terms, their schedule — and their devices.

70 North is television for the smartphone age.

A poster for one of the many episodes available from “70 North.”

Just as viewers no longer have to gather around a big screen, creators no longer lug around big (or even moderate-sized) cameras. Great video can be shot on phones everyone carries.

Thanks to TikTok, Snapchat and many other apps, students are used to telling visual stories. They have a different way of telling those stories too, than even people just a few years older.

“70 North” allows them to do just that. Yet it’s hard to describe, and still evolving.

Heiter says, “It’s a platform. It’s whatever they want it to be.”

Sam Gold — a crazily creative senior, and one of the driving forces behind 70 North — calls it “School updates that don’t suck.”

Max Dorsey, shooting a “70 North” show.

Heiter likens “70 North” to Netflix. “You choose what you want, from a lot of options. It’s not one video that’s forced on you.”

But it’s not the Wild West of the web. It’s still a schoolwide communication tool. It uses server space provided by the district. And it’s as educational as it is entertaining.

Geno Heiter (left) and Sam Gold, with “70 North” on the laptop.

Heiter says he’s still “teaching skills, teaching technical ability, teaching how to use sophisticated equipment, how to cover stories, how to engage and build an audience.”

But he’s doing it in a way that meets students — those who create 70 North, and those who watch it — exactly where they are.

Which, these days, is in front of a device. Not a TV screen. Accessible any time, anywhere, by anyone.

Once again, Staples High School is at the forefront.

Just as it will be in 2029, when a new, not-yet-invented form of communication supplants “70 North.”

(Click here for “70 North.” Then bookmark it!)

Staples Graduation: See It Now!

Missed Staples High School’s 132nd commencement exercises on Tuesday?

Or just missed that moment when your favorite graduate got his or her 15-seconds-of-fame diploma?

No problem!

Retired video production teacher Jim Honeycutt was in the fieldhouse, filming the entire ceremony.

It was a model of efficiency: just 1 hour and 45 minutes for faculty and students to walk in, a couple of choir numbers, a few quick speeches, 475 graduates to march across the stage, cap-tossing, and exit.

Still, even though it’s all here, you don’t have to watch every second.

Click below for Jim’s video. Including the fast-forward button.

Friday Flashback #131

When Tommy Ghianuly died last month, Westport lost more than a great barber and good friend.

We lost a man who loved local history — and made his Compo Shopping Center business a shrine to it.

The walls of Tommy’s barber shop are filled with vintage photos. Most customers see them in the mirror as they get their hair cut. Sometimes, someone glances a bit more closely at one or two.

Each of them has a story. Tommy knew them all.

He never wrote them down. Fortunately, in 2001 Staples High School video production teacher Jim Honeycutt teamed up with Phil Woodruff, a retired SHS social studies instructor who was then serving as Westport Historical Society director of oral history.

One morning, Jim filmed Tommy with his photos. They were joined by illustrious artist and longtime Westporter Howard Munce, and town native Jim Feeney.

(From left) Tommy Ghianuly, Jim Feeney and Howard Munce chat about Tommy’s barber shop photos.

These are not talking heads. They’re great conversationalists, sharing stories about the Westport of long ago. They chat about buildings, people, trolleys, downtown, holidays, daily life, and the notorious Compo Inn. At the end, Woodruff makes a cameo appearance.

Tommy, Jim Feeney and Phil are all gone now. But Jim Honeycutt is still very much alive.

After Tommy died, he dug out the 40-minute video. Then he sent it to “06880.”

It’s a way to keep these great Westporters with us.

It’s a way too to remind ourselves why they loved this town. And why we love it — and them.

(To see the video, click below.)

Hallelujah! Enjoy Today’s Holiday Gift.

Santa has his elves. The Staples High School music department has Jim Honeycutt.

Though he retired in 2016, the video production teacher returned this month to coordinate video coverage of the Candlelight Concert.

Now — with help from Mike Phillis, Kevin Maxwell and 6 mics hung around the auditorium — Candlelight fans around the globe can enjoy the 78th annual show.

Highlights include the traditional “Welcome Yule” and “Sing We Noel” processional, in slightly different staging; a superb orchestral arrangement of “Stille Nacht”; a lovely vocal version of “O Tannenbaum”; a clever original production number, and of course the finale: the “Hallelujah Chorus,” complete with hundreds of musicians and many alumni.

Merry Christmas! Unwrap this gift carefully. It’s precious!

Emma Cataldo: Thriller Tackles Anti-Semitism

Emma Cataldo’s parents and grandparents encouraged her to get involved with photography, and other arts.

She got a camcorder, and began making short films in her backyard. With her camera, she took photos at favorite spots: Longshore, Burying Hill beach, the Saugatuck River.

Emma was just 8 years old.

As a freshman at Staples High School, she was assigned to TV Production class. She was one of only 3 girls — and hated it.

But her parents encouraged her to stick with it. She ended up loving the class so much — and Narrative Film too — that the Media Lab became her second home.

Teachers Mike Zito and Jim Honeycutt Emma encouraged her strongly. She spent several semesters doing independent studies in cinematography and screenwriting.

Zito inspired Emma to enter film competitions, beginning as a sophomore. She placed well at the state level.

Honeycutt gave her the chance to film school and community events, as well as commercials and short films for local businesses. She built a strong portfolio. Here’s a director’s reel from high school:

She also discovered a passion for post-production work. Emma hopes to pursue that as a career.

Emma’s mentors encouraged her to apply to the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts — a film school with a 5% acceptance rate.

She got in. Now — entering 2nd semester of her junior year — she is double majoring in cinema and media studies, and film and TV production.

Emma has worked on student films, and interned in post-production at NBC Universal’s Syfy and E! Networks, during school years and summers.

At USC she has established herself primarily as an editor and colorist. Recently, her friend Evan Siegel — director and co-writer of “Ivver” — pitched that film to her.

Emma Cataldo, doing what she loves.

A psychological thriller about the horrors of anti-Semitism, “Ivver” is close to Siegel’s heart: He faced prejudice and hatred growing up Jewish in Texas.

Emma grew up in a Christian family. But, she says, she learned a great deal of Jewish history in middle and high school.

At Staples she took classes like “Mythology and Bible Studies,” which included the Old and New Testaments. She was exposed to Jewish culture through talks by Holocaust survivors, and books like Elie Wiesel’s “Night.”

Many friends were Jewish too.

After the Pittsburgh synagogue shootings this fall, Emma knew this was a project she wanted to take on.

The story follows a high school history teacher who suddenly faces the aggressive prejudice of his students and colleagues, once they find out he is Jewish.

Like Emma, many of the team working on the film are not Jewish. Still, she says, it resonates with all of them.

“When it comes to social issues, we believe the most important thing we can do is start productive conversations,” Emma says.

“Anti-Semitism is still around. Yet for some reason it is often left out of the conversation about social reform.”

With a diverse crew from many backgrounds, they hope to raise awareness of the continuing threat of anti-Semitism around the globe.

She calls the film “heartbreaking. But the message needs to be heard at a time like this.”

Emma and her fellow students have assembled a strong cast and crew. They’ve scouted locations. Now all they need is funding.

This is the time of year when we’re all asked to contribute to many worthy causes. This sure is one of them. Emma hopes you’ll check out the video below — and if you can, click this link to contribute.

Honoring Our Vets: Y’s Men Who Were There

In 2002, Bruce Allen and Jack Schwartz contacted Jim Honeycutt.

Members of the very active, wide-ranging Y’s Men retirees’ group, they asked the Staples High School media instructor for help with a project.

Both had served in the military during World War II. They wanted to produce a video, filled with memories and reflections of 18 WWII combat veterans. Already, the ranks of service members from that war were thinnning.

His father was in the navy. Honeycutt was happy to help.

Plaques, memorials and a statue fill Westport’s Veterans Green, across from Town Hall.

As he interviewed the nearly 2 dozen veterans, Honeycutt was stunned. One man had waved at a low-flying airplane. The pilot waved back. Then he torpedoed a battleship in Pearl Harbor.

Schwartz himself bombed Japan, at the same time an atomic bomb was dropped to the north. He saw the sky filled with colors.

“The stories are so important to remember,” Honeycutt says.

So earlier this year — now retired from teaching — he took the DVD, re-edited it, and uploaded the finished product to his personal YouTube channel.

There’s almost 3 hours of content. As Veterans Day approaches, Honeycutt invites “06880” readers to honor all who served America by hearing their stories. Just click below.

 

Youth Concert Excites, Inspires And Awes

For decades, the Youth Concert has been a wintertime highlight — for performers and audiences alike.

Over 200 Staples High School students present a multimedia, interdisciplinary thematic show for every Westport 3rd through 6th grader.

Elementary and middle school music teachers prepare their students well. Their kids are engaged and excited.

Many of the Staples musicians on stage remember well their own excitement, sitting in the audience a few years earlier. For some, it sparked their passion for music and the arts.

This year’s theme was “Global Cultures.” And — for the first time ever — there was an encore performance at night, for parents.

Jim Honeycutt — who retired 2 years ago as a Media Lab video production teacher — loves the Youth Concert. He came back this year to tape the evening show.

He produced 2 videos. One includes the multimedia video shown above the performing musicians, on a screen. The other is without it.

Enjoy either (or both). You’ll be amazed at the talents of our high school students.

And — like their young audiences — inspired by the power of music.

(Staples’ Youth Concert musicians were led by Adele Valovich [orchestra], Nick Mariconda [band] and Luke Rosenberg [vocal].)