HOLLIS – The wide shot, Patrick Bonsant told me, should be my “safety shot.”

He told me this as we sat down in front of a camera control panel before the taping of “Saco River Chronicles,” a show on Saco River Community Television.

The show would include volunteer Lloyd Metcalf sitting in a chair while asking questions of chef Sebastian Carosi, who would talk about his Shaker-inspired cooking and his forthcoming job on the Gulf Coast cooking for oil cleanup workers.

So all I had to do, Bonsant said, was press one button for a shot of Metcalf to show up on screen, another button for Carosi and a third for the “safety shot” of the both of them. Oh, by the way, one button is broken, Bonsant said, don’t push that one, the one marked B, because nothing will appear on screen.

Just dead air.

The filming started with Metcalf introducing the show and asking a question of Carosi, so I pressed A to call up the shot from the camera focused on him. When Carosi answered, I pressed C for a shot of him. Then A for another question, and C for another answer.

At some point, the questions and answers became relatively short, like “Tell us about the season at the apple orchard,” and I started feeling like I was playing Ping-Pong with my shots, two seconds on one man, three seconds on the other.

And then, as I knew I would at some point, I pushed the broken button, B, and got a shot of nothing but gray screen.

“Go to the wide shot,” Bonsant whispered, so his voice wouldn’t be picked up by the studio mics.

I quickly pressed D and remembered that that was my “safety shot.”

So for the rest of the 25-minute taping, I went with a wide shot when I wasn’t sure how long a question or answer would be. I still mixed in some single shots (especially when Bonsant whispered for me to do so).

When we were finished with the filming, Bonsant said I had done fine. He could edit out my B button gaffe, and maybe use extra footage of Carosi cooking or something to cover the spots where my cuts from one shot to the next were too choppy.

“If I would have done anything different, it would have been to use the wide shot a little more,” said Bonsant, being kind in his assessment.

Bonsant has practice at being kind, and patient, when it comes to teaching the ins and out of TV production equipment. That’s because as station manager for Saco River Community Television — and the only full-time employee — he has to train, help and give guidance to anyone from the community/public access station’s six-town service area: Buxton, Hollis, Limerick, Limington, Standish and Waterboro.

Part of Bonsant’s job is to let people in those towns know that anyone can come in with an idea for a show, and he’ll help them make it a reality.

The community station’s most popular show right now is “Garden Thyme,” a gardening show put on by two sisters who had never handled a camera before. But they’ve had so much fun, and so much positive response, they are planning to do a show on local bean suppers when gardening season ends.

“I believe very strongly that television — especially at the local, grass-roots level — can and should be more a participatory than just a passive endeavor,” said Bonsant, who has worked at various Maine public access or community access stations since the early 1990s.

Fitting in with the rural nature of the towns it serves, the station is housed in an old farm stand on Plains Road in Hollis. The building was donated by the Poland Spring Water Co., which has a bottling plant nearby.

Part of Bonsant’s job is to make sure schedules are followed and that the Hollis selectmen’s meeting is airing when it’s supposed to. If there’s a problem with any of the town channels — the audio wasn’t working exactly right on one of them recently — Bonsant has to try to troubleshoot the problem and get it fixed.

Much of his day is spent editing footage shot by volunteers. He also gets programs from sources that aren’t local — documentaries or news shows, for example — and puts them on the air.

He also posts Saco River Community Television shows online, at vimeo.com, so people in the area who don’t have cable TV can still see the programs.

“A lot of people out here have satellite,” said Bonsant.

The day I was with Bonsant, Metcalf brought in some footage he had shot of pop singer Lady Gaga at a political rally in Portland. Metcalf runs a fishing tackle shop in Buxton and works in social services. But through the station, he has gotten very interested and involved in public access and is now back in school studying media.

While getting ready to tape the episode of “Saco River Chronicles,” Bonsant gave Metcalf ideas for questions.

As we started to set up the studio, Bonsant showed me how to attach the video cameras to tripods, using little screws. I thought I had the first camera screwed in, but I didn’t. Bonsant secured it for me.

Then we sat down, and the filming began.

The show will be airing this week, Bonsant told me, and it will air every day.

So if you want to see how badly I did, you have five chances. 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]