‘Beyond Three Quarter’ documentary in works, explores influence of 1980s video course on lives of group
Chris Verdugo, J. Scott Hayden, Guy Stark (on ladder filming), Randy Wynn, Ronn Carter and Scott Birmingham meet recently at the CCTV (Contra Costa Television) building in Martinez to work on their documentary titled, “Beyond Three Quarter.” The film looks at how the Antioch High School video production class they took in the early 1980s led all of them to their later work in television.
By CHARLEEN EARLEY | Correspondent
PUBLISHED: August 27, 2021 at 10:10 a.m. | UPDATED: August 27, 2021 at 12:18 p.m.
A local documentary titled “Beyond Three Quarter” is in the making — the work of five guys who took a video production class almost four decades ago at Antioch High School that changed the course of their lives. “We were kids with cameras and became adults with careers,” said Randy Wynn, of Sacramento, who was born and raised in Antioch.
A graduate of Antioch High’s Class of 1983, Wynn said this documentary is their story, that of Wynn, Chris Verdugo, Scott Birmingham, Ronn Carter and J. Scott Hayden, with Guy Stark, who, at the time, managed the public access and local origination cable channel for East Contra Costa County.
Contra Costa County natives and local television industry veterans Chris Verdugo, from left, Scott Birmingham, Randy Wynn, Ronn Carter and J. Scott Hayden have reunited to work on a documentary titled “Beyond Three Quarter.” The film looks at how Antioch High School’s video production class that they took in the early 1980s led all of them to their later work in television. (Charleen Earley — for Bay Area News Group)
“This documentary is the telling of how a few kids, some without life plans, happened upon a class that taught, inspired and launched them into a whole new world,” according to their film’s website.
After high school, Wynn attended San Mateo Junior College for a semester to learn television production, but when he discovered that the class was more textbook than hands-on, he dropped it.
“Why read when I can do?” he said. “So I quit school and came back to Contra Costa County, where I immediately resumed working in video production, part-time at the County Office of Education, GE Cable, Livermore Lab and back to the video store and more weddings.”
Production of “Beyond Three Quarter,” also called B3Q, recently got underway with a release date coming soon. Each team member, none of whom is being paid, will have his hands in everything: producing, directing, camera, lighting, screenwriting and working on camera.
“Unlike film people, TV people don’t get caught up in position titles, we do whatever needs to be done regardless of titles,” said Wynn. “But for the first time ever, I decided since this is a ‘film,’ I’d call myself the executive producer.”
Antioch High Class of ’81 graduate Ronn Carter talks about the role he’ll play in the documentary.
“I’m going to play the rock star! All kidding aside, I’ll take on this project like I take on any project — I’ll pull out all the stops,” said Carter, who was born and raised in the Antioch/Pittsburg area. “Randy invited me aboard, and I’m so grateful to be among the original students who learned this art from scratch.”
Carter first started with Viacom (Comcast) as a producer, director, editor and every duty in between.
“It started out as public access, but within a year I convinced my boss (Guy Stark) to expand into more community events and sports,” said Carter. “Previously in 1990, I produced the first ever live ‘Big Little Game 72’ with Chris Verdugo. When I joined Viacom in November of ’93, I convinced my boss to air more sports — so we did.”
Carter had no idea the places video production would take him.
“Some of the other networks I’ve appeared on or worked with are KRON/Chronicle Sports Show, MTV, CNN, CCTV, WCTV, Viacom, Comcast, TCI, AT&T, Vanilla Ice New Year’s Party SF, Wayne Newton, California Music Channel, Black Entertainment Television and the Oakland Athletics,” said Carter, who went on to produce two award-winning productions awards with a First Place in BACE (Bay Area Cable Excellence) and a First Place in WAVE (Western Access Video Excellence).
Verdugo, of Pleasant Hill, who has also won a BACE Award (“Best in Show”) and a number of WAVE Awards, was born and raised in Walnut Creek and graduated from that city’s Las Lomas High School in 1982. His connection to the team and the documentary is the Antioch High class.
“I drove to Antioch High every morning of my senior year to attend the Video Occupations ROP (Regional Occupational Program) class,” he said.
That one class sent him on his career path.
“Right out of high school I took a demo reel from class and got a job at Channel 6, GE Cablevision in Walnut Creek,” said Verdugo. “I worked my way up to program manager by the time I was 21. I worked for a year at KOFY TV20, where I was the producer of the Fifties Dance Party, among other things.”
He hopes this documentary will inspire students in this industry.
“I’m hoping that the younger generation is inspired to learn more about what they’re interested in, pursue a vocation or just know that there’s much more than film and TV industries,” he said. “With journalism under attack or threatened, communication with a purpose is important.”
J. Scott Hayden, of Antioch High’s Class of ’84, took the school’s Video Occupations ROP class his senior year and continued taking it a full semester afterward, since the course was open to the public. His teachers were Mark Chaney the first year and Mitch Boyce the second. The class opened doors for him as well.
“In 1985 I was hired by Brian Birkland, a former student of the class, to work for the Contra Costa County Office of Education in the Media Services Department,” said Hayden. “That same year I was hired by the teacher, Mark Chaney, to work in the video department at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab.”
Adding, “Also, from 1994 to 1996 I taught the ROP video class at Acalanes High School, which was interesting because the first year we had absolutely no equipment.”
Scott Birmingham, of Antioch High’s Class of ’83, went a different route from the rest of his friends, by taking the Acting for TV class with teachers Chaney and Theresa Rossi.
“I didn’t get into TV professionally until after I graduated Diablo Valley College in 2002,” he said. “I relocated to Reno to get a photographer job for CBS. I spent five years there — I went from photography to news video editor. I was at NBC for 13 years as editor and briefly at ABC.”
“I ended up being a film critic and being on air with it for about 10 years,” he added. “Because I produced, wrote and served as talent, it was my baby to do every week. It enabled me more access to film screenings; certain memberships gained me opportunities to meet celebs and go to their awards shows. I’ve been involved in film festivals, have been on and moderated panels and won awards from film festivals for my own shorts.”
His goal for student viewers with this documentary is to make them think.
“I want students to ask themselves if this is something they want,” he said. “Being in TV is no different than any job, but is it ‘just a job,’ or do you want a career?”
The common threads for all were the ROP class at Antioch High and Guy Stark, of Concord.
As the local origination manager for Viacom Cable, Stark served Antioch, Pittsburg and the unincorporated areas of Contra Costa County and was producer with Comcast and Comcast Hometown Network from 2009 to 2017, when he retired.
“Back in the early ‘80s and ‘90s, I recruited students like these guys,” said Stark. “Because they were trained through the school programs in Mark Chaney’s and Lorraine Weiss’s classes as volunteers for community productions — football, election forums, telethons, etc., I often interviewed and hired students from the program to work at Viacom.”
Stark said he enjoyed working with them then and now — since his role in the documentary includes being “interviewed to fill in any memory gaps about their experience and offering perspective.”
“They were all really excited about creating video back then, and they were creative kids who wanted to imitate the movies and TV shows they had seen,” added Stark. “I felt the same energy when I walked into the room and met them again after many years. They’re the same bunch of guys.”
In the early ‘80s, Wynn made copies of many of his videos, not knowing he’d be using them again one day.
“On graduation day in 1983, I was working well after school finishing editing the last episode of ‘Spotlight,’ the regular magazine show we did. Mr. Chaney was standing in the edit room doorway trying to get me out of there because I was graduating in two hours and didn’t have my cap and gown in my car,” recalled Wynn. “I suddenly realized this was it, the last day in the class I loved for two years. I thought, ‘someday, I’m going to make a movie out of this.’ ”
To follow the documentary’s progression, go online to www.beyondthreequarter.com or https://www.facebook.com/groups/beyondthreequarter.
Charleen Earley is a freelance writer and journalism professor at Foothill and Diablo Valley colleges. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 925-383-3072.