The grads of the most recent NY Travel Channel Academy speak for themselves!



  1. Framing, focus and lighting three things obviously not taught at the travel channel.

  2. Everybody’s a critic. 🙂

  3. Give it a rest pencilgod.

    There’s enough negativity in the world to go around – why add to it – for your ego’s benefit maybe?

  4. Seriously Michael look at what you’re advertorial says about you. A bunch of happy blah from satisfied clients still high on the course kool-aid but if a picture is worth a thousand words what does the shot say?

    “We are too lazy to look around the room for better light.”

    “We are so incompetent we can’t tell the camera is focused on the back wall instead of the person.”

    “We are so intimidated by the camera we are too afraid to move it when someone leans to the side of the shot.”

    “We don’t understand depth of focus or how moving the person away from the wall would have helped separate them from the background.”

    “What is a white balance?”

    Look you have gone to the trouble of editing and putting up captions but none of it matters because you didn’t do the basics. You keep saying shooting is easy, a nine year old can do it, well this looks like it was shot by a nine year old and if I was looking for a course to train me obvious stuff like that would put me right off.

  5. Hey Stephen
    I am sure you are right.
    That having been said, the courses are pretty popular. We have 24 scheduled for 2008, including 3 adavanced ones, and I would say we’re gonna be filled on all of them.
    As you can see, people had a great time.
    And of course, we’re not running a course to create professional shooters. We’re creating a course to coax amateurs into using their cameras to tell stories for The Travel Channel. There’s a difference. I don’t want to set up lights and mic them. I want this to be kind of run and gun. Easy. Relaxed. Just what they will do after 4 days. And its good enough for the web and good enough for Travel Channel online because it just tells a good story. If they can do that, I will buy their stuff all day long. This is online video, and while I certainly agree it could have have been better lit with a better depth of field, at the end of the day it does not matter much.

    Meanwhile, many thanks for posting it on b-roll. I don’t expect to get too many applications from there, but you never know. Anyone does come from that referral, and I’ll be cutting you a small check for commissions. How’s that?


    All is well! R is making a buck and who cares about anything else!

  7. Dear $
    Seriously, you remind me of my ex-wife.
    (that isn’t you Glenda, is it?)

  8. Wow, Michael, it seems like Mr. dollar sign ($), Nino and the Pencil dude have the same opinion of you as my wife has of me.

    My wife claims that there are only 2 things wrong with me:

    1. Everything I do.
    2. Everything I say.

    Other than that “it’s all good”.

    Either they have some huge axe to grid (perhaps for some injustice you inflicted on them, in another life?) OR you really are a low down, rotten carpet bagger.

    Personally, after laying down the cash for the TCA, meeting you and participating in the Academy I don’t understand their motives. Could it be that they feel threatened?

    I feel like I got more than what I paid for and the door opportunity is swinging wide open for me and most anyone who will “step up” and put into practice your methods.

    But, I gotta admit, in some sick way I like reading their criticisms. Guess it’s like slowing down to look at a car wreck; strangely attractive.

    Oh yeah, I’m just kidding about my wife’s opinion of me… (she made me write that)

    Avery (examples of some of my stuff here)

  9. Let’s see. These people had no grounding in video before the four day course. Now, some of them are having pieces purchased for “What’s Your Trip?” Others are being commissioned by The Travel Channel for videos that support programming. Still others are selling videos to other on-line sources.

    This is the “video revolution” at work, and the best you can do is critique a down and dirty testimonial video?

  10. HI Avery
    The bottom line here is that their whole world is being threatened. What used to be a very private and secret society – the cult of TV makers – is now open to anyone, and boy does this annoy them no end.

    Well, tough luck.

    Go make make some great stuff man.

    The world is yours for the taking.

  11. (Damn slow news days if you must Cliff, nothing to do but surf.)

    So the part on the website that says “Introducing Travel Channel Academy – the only professional-grade, travel-focused digital filmmaking bootcamp on the planet.”
    is wrong?
    So it should read: “Introducing Travel Channel Academy – the amateur-grade, just good enough to put home video on the internet a for $2500 fee”
    How many sign ups would you get with that line?

  12. Ach stephen
    So much time and effort on your part devoted to my little business. Maybe you want to take the nz franchise?

    Yes, after 4 days good enough. Good enough for travel channel. Good enough for the web. Good enough for What’s My Trip. I’ll take it. They’ll practice. They’ll get better…in a year. Two years. I am patient. Just like you once, they are starting. I am sure your first work does not hold a candle to your later. You improved and so shall they. But both the channel and I are here to both help them and to buy their work. I think that’s a pretty good deal.

    Ps. Any enrollments from b-roll yet?

  13. Michael I got paid to learn. Not great money but I started with a two year internship learning the proper way to make TV with a regular salary plus overtime and it cost me nothing.

    Avery, do me a favor. Come back in a year and tell us how many stories they bought and if you still think you got value for money.
    Also how many who do the course never do a story? There must be some even Michael rejects. He is no John West’s but surely they have some standards?

    I now wish to confess my dark secret motive for posting…
    Its fun debating with Michael. He responds quickly and lets face it he is a very bright guy. I don’t agree with him but I do get to check my assumptions and I like to think that is a good way not to get stale. I’m sorry if that upsets the kiddies but its summer programming TV over here and it sucks, too many badly shot reality shows, so this is the best thing in town at the moment.

  14. Hey stephan
    Always a pleasure to banter with you man. No kidding, I have a great deal of respect for you, and maybe, if they’re real lucky and they work real hard, one or two of the students will one day get close to your stuff. But it takes time and hard work.

    In the meantime, if I ever get to nz, we’ll go for 3 or 4 rounds of the local brew. On me.

  15. pencilgod said:

    Damn slow news days if you must Cliff, nothing to do but surf.

    Know what you mean. 🙂

    Projects have slowed for me as well – trying to come up with some self generated portfolio mayerial as well as some small paid commercial video work.

  16. Don’t confuse A slow news day (its all happening in another center) with a slowing industry. I’ve got bookings through to March already.

  17. Maybe some of us are still ‘high on the course kool-aid’ but don’t knock what was an amazing experience for many. You got paid to learn. That’s nice. Many of us hone our skills (and get paid for it) while on the job, too. And, for those of us who do work 60+ hrs a week, this was a great way to try out something new, something different, and with someone who knew what he was talking about and told us how it was.

    I, for one, plan on taking these skills and applying them as often as I can. That means practice (and isn’t that the way we learn…..practice?) and hopefully signing up for a class or two at a film school to learn about lighting and balance and framing. Will I break into the business? Probably not. Will I use these techniques for small, personal ventures….like many of my fellow classmates? Yes.

    You don’t need to have pieces purchased by a station to have ‘gotten your money’s worth’ from the class. A class is worth what you put into it and take away from it. I know I got my $’s worth and so did many of my classmates.

    Banter is great. Bantering with someone like Michael is, I’m sure, a thrill. But downing a course that many do enjoy and learn from isn’t completely necessary, is it? 😉

  18. Tanya the problem I and many of the others have is the “someone who knew what he was talking about and told us how it was.” part of your post. Michael is a fantastic salesman and a very good speaker but can he and his team the right people to be teaching you how to shoot? A twenty to one ratio, welcome to amateur hour.
    How would you feel if you saw someone setting up a flying school saying “I can teach any idiot to fly in three days then it’s up to them.”

    I’m glad you had a good time and feel you got bang for your buck, will you still feel that way in six months?

    For all that Michael portrays us camera types as a crusty bunch protecting our jobs with a wall of secrecy I bet with three phone calls and the right attitude you could find someone willing to take you out for a week’s camera work experience for free. In fact if you still want to learn I’d recommend it.

  19. Dear Stephen
    No one has ever said that the Academy is the end of the educational process . But it sure is a good beginning. The students are all encouraged to continue working on their skills, and if you want to offer an advanced shooter course, I think they might like that.
    As for the value of the course, bear in mind we are not only teaching the skill set, we are also making a very important long term connection for them with a network that has a real interest in this and in them.
    The President of the Network is at every academy and meets with every student and sits and listens to their pitches. He also screens all their final projects. There is a network rep on site 24.7. And there is a staff devoted solely to Alumni Relations.
    You have to admit, you don’t get that very often, if ever.

  20. I’ve had a desire for both filmwork and travel since I was using my mothers little 8mm back in the late 70s. We also moved quite a bit so I developed quite a passion for being on the road.

    After spending years filiming, hosting, and producing cable access TV programs (and all that implies) as well as pulling stints as an on air personality and Program Director for a university radio station and later a 100,000 watt Top 40 radio station, I have found that I enjoy hosting. I really enjoy hosting.

    While I do enjoy the behind the scenes work and I love to edit as well, like many I imagine, I love to host.

    I have 2 ideas for shows that I think would work very well. Of course how many other people feel that way about their “great ideas”?

    Because my wife and I have spent much time getting bounced around by the military and raising our 3 children I have never had a chance to learn much about REAL filmmaking for TV. Everything I’ve done I’ve taught myself. I shoot what I think will look good to the viewer. I film the stories that will make for great TV (even when that meant as the host I was going to walk away from the shoot a bit worse for wear than I was when the shoot started).

    So at the end of the day I know next to nothing about “Real” filmmaking. But I want to learn. And I want to host. And I want to travel the world and tell the stories that I think people will be interested in seeing.

    The USAF has seen fit to station my wife and I in Europe and I feel that this is the best time for me to be out there shooting. I have a go anywhere, do anything for the shot type of attitude and I have more ambition in my trigger finger than most people have in their entire bodies.

    So now here I am in Europe with this passion for travel, a passion for film, a passion for storytelling, and really no idea what I’m doing.

    The TCA seemed like a good way to get the ball rolling. Although if things with TC didn’t work out there is always the internet. I just want to learn how to shoot right and shoot well and the TCA seemed like the best way for me to do that.

    I am looking into getting into the April 2009 class but now I am having second thoughts.

    By April I’ll have a new video cam but no Apple. So I will be spending at least $2500 clams.

    I want to learn how to do what I already love to do. I know nothing about lighting, or depth of focus. I only know how to make something that I think looks good. But I want to learn to do it RIGHT.

    I don’t want to learn what’s good enough. I don’t work like that. Never have. I want to learn what’s GREAT. I understand that there will be much time spent in the field perfecting the basics. And for me that is where the fun is. I’d rather be in the field than sitting on my couch or in a cubicle. But I need to learn the basics.

    So I’ve said all that to ask this…..(and please don’t give me a sales pitch [i’ve worked sales for nealry 20 years. I know a sales pitch] or advice based on a distaste for the TCA course)

    Can the TCA course teach me the basics I need to eventually develp good filmmaking into great filmmaking?

    IF I do take the course I do not expect to walk out of there with a contract and my own show. What I do expect to walk away with are the tools and/or knowledge I need to get where I want to go.

  21. Personally I have considered going to the TCA for myself and my 17yr old daughter…..Bottom line it might just be a fun trip and I could get some hands on training that could help her as well and perhaps inspire her to do more with it. And I could drive less than a mile from my house and probably pay a guy $500 to spend a couple of days with and get gobs of training as well…I dont see what all the knock/fuss is about personally….I embrace the technology…Seems the video world has been hit like the photography world, like the recording industry. The tools are affordable to most people now and can learn a lot from any course offered..The TCA seems like a great thing to us, not to mention, if it was up to me, out of 4 0r 5 channels on my TV, the Travel Channel would be one that I could not live with out!

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