FORT MYERS, FL. (August 5, 2009) – Shell Point Retirement Community has many surprising features that the public may not be aware of, and on Tuesday, August 4, the organization’s communications team opened its internal award-winning television studio, SPTV, to visitors for behind-the-scenes tours.
More than 250 guests toured the studio facility during the SPTV Open House where they were able to view multiple sets, observe demonstrations of technical video and editing equipment, and meet the staff who write, shoot, edit and host the various productions created for SPTV, including a daily half-hour show called Shell Point Today.
“SPTV is just one of many examples of how Shell Point is breaking the mold when it comes to retirement communities,” said Lynn Schneider, assistant vice president of marketing and communication for Shell Point Retirement Community. “We decided in 2005 to create an on-site television studio and a daily television program to provide residents with information about the daily activities here on property, but it has become so much more than that. This informational program has grown to a 30-minute daily show with community news and information, interviews conducted by and about residents, special education and entertainment segments, and stories that give our audience a glimpse into the lives of others living and working here. Each day’s show is like a slice of life at Shell Point,” she added.
A recent “Extreme Makeover” renovation transformed the SPTV studio, and Shell Point residents were the first to receive a backstage tour. To accommodate the number of residents who wanted to see the studio, five tours were scheduled throughout the day and SPTV staff members took the residents in groups of up to 50 through the studio facility.
“This was a great way for us to interact one-on-one with our resident audience,” said Rochelle Cherniawski, communications coordinator for Shell Point. Cherniawski was one of several staff members on hand to discuss not only the TV studio, but other communications initiatives of the community including the monthly magazine Shell Point Life, and the two websites hosted by the organization for the public and the residents.
Following the resident tours throughout the day, the Shell Point team shifted its attention to guests from outside the community. Visitors from local businesses and the media, as well as community leaders, were provided tours of the facility and a demonstration of numerous programming highlights. In addition to a tour of the studio, these individuals were also provided information about Shell Point and its various services and amenities. A 30-minute narrated bus tour of the community was also available for those interested.
“The TV studio here at Shell Point looks amazing, and is very impressive,” said Melinda Isley, owner of the local public relations firm m.creative. “I thoroughly enjoyed touring the studio as well as hearing about the other aspects of Shell Point through the various booths set up and the staff members.”
“This was my first visit to the Shell Point TV studio,” said Kathleen Taylor, public relations coordinator for LCEC (Lee County Electric Cooperative). “I am sure that the residents and employees both enjoy this communications tool, it is definitely something you don’t see in many places outside of a regular TV station.”
Heidi Davis Taulman of Lee BIA Builders Care agreed, “I was glad I attended and I was thoroughly impressed with the transformation process of the SPTV studio.”
In addition to the studio tours, guests were able to view a variety of the shows and segments produced by SPTV and broadcast to the more than 2,000 residents of the community. “I was pleased to see the number of segments in the community’s programming that focused on environmental issues,” said Molly Meadows, project management analyst senior with the South Florida Water Management District. “Older adults are very concerned about the environment and want to stay informed about issues that affect this area, including intelligent use of water resources, controlling environmental pollutants, recycling, and a variety of other key issues. Shell Point’s television program appears to offer a great deal on these subjects and I was impressed.”
Fort Myers attorney Craig Hersch utilizes video on his firm’s website to help educate his clients and the public about estate, tax, and probate issues and was impressed by the quality of the programming offered on SPTV. “Video is so useful in being able to reach people and give them the information they need as they are making important decisions about their lives. The daily television program at Shell Point increases that ability because residents of the community are able to view information every day that can help them improve the quality of their lives.”
Included among the guests for the evening were a number of representatives from local commercial television affiliates. “All of the local stations opened their doors to us when we were planning to build our studio,” said Schneider. “As a non-profit we did not have the financial resources to hire a professional studio and set design company so we relied on professionals within the industry here in Southwest Florida to help teach us. We learned so much by going to each local station and touring behind-the-scenes. So many of the ideas we incorporated into our studio came from observing theirs.”
“This studio and its capabilities are incredible,” said Roberta Voelker, local sales manager for WINK-TV who attended the event. “I couldn’t believe they were able to accomplish a project of this size in such a short time frame, and with such a limited budget. It really is a very professional television studio and on a smaller scale compares to any commercial facility in terms of design and capabilities.”
“They have really done a phenomenal job,” said Terry Brennen, director of community funding for WGCU, the PBS station located at Florida Gulf Coast University. “WGCU has had a long-standing relationship with Shell Point for many years and I am always impressed by the community’s commitment to excellence. This studio is just one example of their willingness to go the extra mile for their residents and we have already done several projects together combining our resources with theirs. Plus, a lot of folks don’t know that Shell Point also has one of the major program venues in Southwest Florida. Their community auditorium holds more than 1,000 people for performances. WGCU has sponsored several concerts and speakers in the facility, which is open to the public.”
“I didn’t have a pre-conceived idea of what to expect but I was surprised,” said Cindy Burgess, Marketing Communications Manager for The News-Press. “I did not really know the scope of the facility and I learned so much about the depth of the organization and its in-house abilities.”
The initial launch of SPTV in 2005 left many facets of the television operation in need of further development; however, managing, writing, filming, and broadcasting the daily show required constant attention, leaving no time for process improvements. For several years, the studio’s responsibilities grew to include broadcasting the daily show, plus live services from the church on Sunday mornings, filming special events and concerts, and creating training and corporate videos for staff and management. To maintain pace with the growth, the Marketing and Communications team decided to take a one-month hiatus to overhaul the studio and install improvements that would help take it to the next level in production capabilities.
“Just as commercial television programs periodically go on hiatus so that writers and actors can take a break and production companies have time to create new concepts, SPTV took a planned break to provide those same creative opportunities,” said Schneider. “We had a schedule of projects that included re-engineering the equipment in the studio, redesigning sets, and revitalizing the format of the show with new graphics and images.”
The entire communications team participated in benchmarking trips to all four of the major network stations in Southwest Florida (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX) and the local PBS affiliate at Florida Gulf Coast University (WGCU). At each station the team toured the studio facilities, met with various staff members, and witnessed live broadcasts. The tours provided the team with insights into production, equipment options, lighting and sound, and numerous set design ideas for the revamp of the studio.
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the hiatus was the task of transforming the studio from a black room with minimal lighting, mismatched furnishings, scattered set design pieces, and one area open for filming, into a more professional studio space. Estimates from set design companies were too expensive. So, instead of hiring a professional set design firm, the team netted substantial cost savings by completing each step of the redesign in-house. Utilizing ideas from their benchmarking trips to network studios, the team took measurements of the space, formulated their own design plan, strapped on their tool belts, and picked up their paint brushes to get the job done. The group worked together with help from friends and family members to paint the studio and build the sets. Each element was installed by members of the communications team who worked weekends and nights to complete the basic design, construction, and painting of a majority of the sets in just three weeks. In addition to creating permanent sets, a lighting grid was designed to pre-light each set, and additional light kits were ordered. When the lighting kits arrived, the SPTV crew installed the lights to provide instant lighting for each set with the simple flick of a switch.
During the hiatus, the team also worked together to investigate and test new reporting and editing styles and a new format was created to include two anchors delivering the daily news at the opening of the show. And to keep it fresh, a team of four men and women began rotating as anchors on a weekly basis.
Prior to the hiatus, a great deal of content for the show was derived during monthly communications meetings attended by representatives from all of the departments at Shell Point. This organization-wide involvement continued to be important to the show’s success as information was exchanged about upcoming events and activities. This group helped brainstorm topics that would be of interest to Shell Point residents and sought additional ways to improve the content of the show. Plus, resident volunteerism increased as additional opportunities were created behind and in front of the cameras such as shooting at community events, interviewing, recording voice-overs, studio organization, and much more.
“Residents were very patient and understanding as we spent the month incorporating these major improvements,” said Schneider. “When we came back on the air, the entire process was significantly enhanced.”
Shell Point Retirement Community is a not-for-profit continuing care retirement community located in Fort Myers just off Summerlin Road, two miles before the Sanibel causeway. Shell Point has received national accreditation from CARF-CCAC, and is a nationally recognized leader in the retirement industry. The community offers retirement living in a resort-style environment with an 18-hole championship golf course, deep water boating access, and recreational and fitness facilities. To learn more about Shell Point, visit us at www.shellpoint.org or call 1-800-780-1131.