Amandeep ‘Singh’ Babra
After immigrating to the states in 2004 and moving right into a small, close knit town called Olney, I immediately fell in love with the possibilities prevalent within Montgomery County. Utilizing the full potential of the resources available to the public and leveraging the benefits of the local community, I managed to start my own business and further travel the world to scour and expand the opportunities available for financial growth and to acquire distinct clientele who later become a niche for survival. Currently, residing in the rural town of Damascus and acknowledging the negative economic climate for small, community owned businesses, I decided to join hands with fellow access users who have a similar vision and dive head first into starting productions that would utilize the resources of MCM to highlight the local community and generate passion in the youth to learn the art of telling stories via moving pictures. As a Visual Artist, I create works that are a reflection of the world around us, satirical by nature, extravagant by choice, but working with the ethics that were instilled in me since I were a child growing up in a remote village of Punjab, India; I love to share my knowledge and teach my skills to anyone who is willing to learn, which in turn excites me to continue on my path. Working as an advertising photographer, I have been introduced to various indigenous ingredients from remote parts of the world and my curiosity has led me to discover some secrets palatable only by a limited few. Blending my passion for food and culinary arts with my world escapades as I travelled to unknown territories, even with a language barrier, yet managing to communicate simply by way of intrigue and respect and an unnerving desire to learn and acquire information. Occasionally, I question my wasted undergrad years spent trying to break apart organic molecules, but, in retrospect, that exhausting era of working towards, and successfully acquiring, a degree in Biology have enabled me to view the world subjectively, collect substantial data, and continue with a pessimistic hope that a handful of like-minded individuals can bring about positive change.
I started my journey at MCM in 2013 and have worked extensively since as a Field and Studio Technician on various ongoing productions. In 2015, after considerable research, I started my first individual field production, “The Food We Eat”. The series draws inspiration from my travels and my love of cooking with the idea of highlighting the various types of cuisines, and cultures, prevalent right here in Montgomery County. Collaborating with another access user, I became a part of another production, “The Future Generation” where we talk about trends within various industries that will help viewers to maneuver their current undertakings in order to compete with the current and forecasted market growths. Quickly after starting my productions, I realized that there was a lack of enthusiasm and retention within the youth community and to encourage and engage their participation in our projects, along with two fellow producers, I am working on creating an umbrella project by way of which we showcase the teen technicians the various possibilities that they have at MCM. Our project has since evolved into fielding questions from students and others via social media and guiding our youthful crew members to create content to answer those questions as they continue to learn themselves and we take on the roles of guiding them with our experience.
Currently working as a lead customer consultant for a fortune 500 hundred corporation and with my previous experience in marketing and PR for a startup, leveraging the contacts that I have made while setting up my own business, I will certainly add to the networking ability of MCM and the Board to lure funds, But, my primary objective is not only to generate revenue for MCM and instead promote the use and the wonder that is the medium of public access. Networking is not only a term important for the Board of Directors, but also for access users. Given my continued presence at MCM, I intend to act as a liaison between the volunteer content generators and technicians and the board as, in the years that I have been here and based on what I have witnessed as a producer, technician, and editor, is to open up a channel of communication for when there is a roadblock between the working of the production department and the volunteer service providers, the community as a whole can have a second voice that will be heard at a higher level. MCM is an essential and vital part of our community which has for long been neglected, or so it seems to the many with whom I interact with on a daily basis, even with the budgets, grants, and publicly sourced funds that are generated by various campaigns and are rarely seen in person by the access users for whom the campaigns are run. If the needs of the Board are for a diplomatic candidate who will bring to the table additional avenues of revenue generation, then yes, I have leverage in that field as well. However, my intent for leveraging those contacts for revenue and a promotion for MCM will only occur if the current issues are taken seriously and the questions posed answered by the Board as, being an access user, I believe we have earned that right.
I failed to understand the fact that even after running various funding campaigns in the garb of providing upgraded equipment and facilities to access users and other youth programs, we users never got to see any of the funds being used directly towards our assets, or even the ones that were promised. Due to the amount of time that I spend in the studio and on the field I get to meet and talk to various technicians and producers, myself included, and I am well aware of the issues that we face at the moment in terms of obsolete and dysfunctional equipment. I do not intend to lead with a vision of utopia, but MCM, given all the resources we have at the moment, at the minimum we should have working equipment and not have to deal with ancient relics. Further, we have to upgrade the educational system that we have in place. I love the fact that it is hands on; however; I learned barely 30% of the information in class and acquired the rest by shadowing and bothering staff members outside of class and searching for answers online (And Kudos to the staff for putting up with my plethora of questions and taking the time to answer them). Lastly, and this is my primary objective regardless of the position on the board, we must also start to retain the youth population that enter MCM, primarily for SSL hours for school or just because they get dumped here by parents to keep them out of trouble during summers. At the moment, it feels as if the youth classes, even the tech classes for that matter, are being used just as another means of making money with no actual interest in retaining the younger technicians. The trainers do the best they can with the resources they have, it appears to be an issue at the core of MCM where change or certain recommendations made by people who are new to the establishment seem to be blatantly ignored. The youth whom I have met and work with are either overwhelmed with idea of starting their own a production or just don’t seem to find anything exciting to work on as technicians, which, sadly, I agree with them. So, to reiterate, upgrade equipment to compete with the leading media providers, appropriate utilization of studio space and equipment to maximize user created content, engaging and retaining the youth media producers and technicians with improved educational content, that’s my vision.
I am an access user and I understand the need and relevance of an establishment such as MCM to the local community first hand. Access television provides an avenue for content providers to independently produce, with the help of the community, and distribute via MCM the generated content to share with the viewer’s the messages and information contained. It is about having an outlet for people who are not interested in big budget productions, primarily because we do not have those massive budgets, and it is a way for the community to come together and help each other, and while doing so, engage in conversations with people whom we may never choose to meet otherwise. The content of programming is not important, the ability for a recent college graduate to create a program and have it televised for feedback, or for religious organization to distribute content to members who may not be able to attend processions in person, for local charitable organizations to spread the word about community events and other activities that they are helping with without having to pay large sums of money to buy advertising time on major channels, for a recreational hockey league to be able to record and televise a tournament that its players will have a chance to see with family, and the list goes on. In a nutshell, MCM and all other Public Access networks are a fundamental part of a community to maintain Media Relations within the community and with each other without whom the essence of being a community will become another illusion created by a Hollywood production. MCM is a community outlet that enables a community to stay local; Community content, made by the community, for the community.
The position on the Board is not my concern or a primary motive, the answers that I have given to the questions asked prior are not just accusations on my part or a drunken rant, my team and I are already working on the aspect of changing things around and having a say on the Board to raise questions that may die out at a lower level will be an additional help for the team, access users, the employees who work directly with volunteers at MCM, and will also allow us to figure out what goes on with the infrastructure, specifically the money raised by public campaigns, and promises made in those campaigns because I have personally not seen much of them kept.