Teacher, entrepreneur, video producer
By Irene Sherlock
It’s been a long time since JC Barone has suffered from career existential angst. He does not question the meaning of his professional life. It’s all about media, specifically digital media, and how the culture makes use of it.
“There’s never been a time when we’ve been this connected to one another,” says Assistant Professor of Communication Dr. JC Barone. “Much of it involves digital media and we keep raising the bar on ways to make this happen.”
Digital media refers to all kinds of electronic media, content created in digital (as opposed to analog) format that’s accessed via the computer, phone or Internet.
Barone ticks them off. “E-mail, text messages, Mp3 files, podcasts. People are sharing photos on iPhone. Now video has exploded. Even grandma knows about YouTube. We’re blogging, creating websites, sometimes with audio and animation.”
The Internet, says Barone, has transformed the way we share, transfer and store information. “Think about it. Digital media allows us to communicate almost immediately in specific, even artful, ways.”
Said like a master of digital media production, a course he teaches at WestConn. Another favorite class is video production.
“Film is chemical; it’s frame by frame. Video is immediate. It’s there when you shoot it. And today, the quality is amazing.” In “Avatar,” he observes, you have a movie that utilizes the latest advances in digital technology. “You couldn’t create that computer imagery five years ago. The whole industry is changing and growing.”
Barone has taught at WestConn since 2008, the year the communication department introduced its new Bachelor of Arts in Media Arts program, with concentrations in media production and media studies.
“JC has been a shot in the arm for our media arts program,” says Department Chair and Professor of Communication Dr. Bill Petkanas. “He has a tremendous amount of talent and –– most importantly –– the ability to inspire. Frankly, the quality of work his students are producing is really amazing.”
Last year, Barone’s students earned second place in the Student-Produced Video Commercial for Alcohol Awareness Public Service Announcement Competition. The message asked viewers to consider the consequences of serving alcohol to minors. “I was happy to see their talent rewarded and recognized by members of the profession,” Barone says.
An independent video writer, producer, and director of commercial, corporate and educational media for more than 20 years, Barone is the recipient of four prestigious Telly Awards, as well as the Communicator Award of Distinction and the Videographer Award of Distinction.
“It’s very nice to be recognized by your peers.” Barone indicates the four statuettes on shelves in his office in Higgins Annex. “I’m fortunate to be where I am. I love the students. It’s great to see what’s coming out of them. I can’t wait to see what they do next.”
Barone has a B.A. in Drama – Performance from Hofstra University and an M.S. from Syracuse University in Radio and TV Production. He earned a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction in Media from the State University of New York at Albany.
“Dr. Barone is incredibly knowledgeable,” says Kevin Jones, a student in his Media Production course last semester. “He’s committed to his students and goes the extra mile to help whenever he can.”
In addition to his work at WestConn, Barone owns and operates Barone Media, a production company that creates Web material and communication and pubic speaking videos for Pearson Education, the global leader in educational publishing.
Students are invited to participate in Pearson projects. “They’re paid and sometimes even earn credit. Mostly they get invaluable hands-on experience that they can take out into the world when they graduate.”
Students are involved in every phase of these projects. “From conception to scriptwriting to acting to editing, then post-production. It’s truly a collaborative experience,” he says.
Sometimes faculty guest star as actors, as did Professor of English Dr. Margaret Murray last spring. “I was amazed at JC’s patience and how thoroughly professional he was. What seemed to be chaos to me was like oxygen to him. In the over eight hours I was on the set, he was constantly in motion: arranging, organizing, rehearsing, blocking, shooting. I was there and I still don’t understand how he did so much in such a short time.”
Barone also donates time and talent to a variety of community service projects, many of which involve WestConn students. Presently, he and students are wrapping up work on a Quadricentennial documentary for the Newburgh-Beacon Bay area, a grant-funded video that documents the history of the region. “We’ve done an educational film for the Women’s Center of Danbury and we continue to do educational outreach for the Connecticut Ballet,” he says, illustrating the variety of projects his company is involved with.
"I love being in JC’s class,” says Marina Coddaire, who has participated in two Pearson Education projects. “His passion for teaching is all-encompassing. He’s challenging and intellectually stimulating. I’m more enthused about the field because of him.”
Barone admits that his ongoing collaboration with students is mutually beneficial for everyone involved. “We’re creating material that’s intended to appeal to college students,” he says. “The script should reflect their sensibilities –– their vernacular. Who better to participate than college students?”
He understands his students’ passion for media. “I made my first film in high school. I shot on Super-8 mm.” He smiles. “In a graveyard, with a Pink Floyd soundtrack.” He pauses. “What can I tell you? It was high school. I thought the whole thing was very cool. I was hooked.”
Barone, who thought he would study acting, ultimately decided to focus on media production. He would be the one behind the camera, instead of the one in front. He’s also worked behind the scenes as a deejay, film soundman, TV writer, film editor, director, photographer and many times a producer.
“That’s what I’m doing today. Producing the life I want.”