SWD Band Parents:
The below article is in the current issue of CrossRoads:
SWD's marching band subject of reality series
Southwest DeKalb High School band members
have been under constant
scrutiny from television film crews.
SHARON ADAMS / CROSSROADSNEWS
By Sharon Adams
For the past month, members of the Marching Panthers of Southwest DeKalb
High School have been under a microscope -- well, sort of.
To be more accurate, the 265 band members have been under the cameras - literally.
A team of camera operators and sound engineers has been all over them, whether it was in the band room, at rehearsals, at football games, as they prepare for the debut of "Drumline: SWD," an eight-episode reality television show chronicling the fall season of the marching band on Peachtree TV. The show, which will air in one-hour segments, premieres at 8 p.m. on Nov. 20.
And the cameras are catching everything - great moments and, well, some not so great ones too.
Clarinet player Motrinna Stryker remembers the day they were on the ground in shame.
"We got in trouble and had to do sit-ups and the camera was all in our face," said Motrinna, who is also the clarinet's section leader.
The show will be the firs t original series on Peachtree TV, which launched on Oct. 1 as an Atlanta-only station when Turner Broadcasting decided that WTBS-TV would no longer simulcast the national TBS feed.
Music mogul Dallas Austin, creator of "Drumline: SWD," originally wanted to create a sequel to his 2002 blockbuster movie "Drumline," which also featured the Marching Panthers. Austin said 20th Century Fox refused to do a full-budget sequel, so it never materialized.
Austin said he then thought about doing a marching band competition show, but when he saw MTV's "Two a Day," a documentary-style program about high school football players, he decided reality television would be a better route.
Back in April, when a random young man who identified himself as being with Dallas Austin's studio first approached band director James Seda about the show, he said his main concern was about the students.
"Dealing with the [television] industry you never want anyone to exploit your kids," Seda said last week. "I just wanted to make sure everything was legitimate and that their intentions were good."
Two weeks into taping, Superintendent Crawford Lewis stepped in to ensure the same thing and some people thought the show would not go on.
Seda said that at that point the school system was still in negotiations with the studio and the production company. The parties agreed that the School System gets to sign off on anything that is aired about the band. Seda said it's a completely different dynamic when you're dealing with under-aged kids.
"Our protection of them is paramount," he said. "Once they [the studio] understood that, there was no problem."
A more detailed waiver was also sent to parents to bring them up to speed.
After four weeks of taping, Derrick Barnes, the story producer, said he has met some interesting students with stories he wants to tell.
"We try to connect with the students so the viewers can get to know and love them personally," Barnes said.
But in the midst of telling those stories, Seda, who has been band director for seven years, also wanted to make sure their practice regimen was not compromised.
"The film crew pretty much managed to learn our routine and know when to step in and when to step back," Seda said. "And they did it in a way that was not distracting. The T.V. show is great but we still have work to do."
Christopher Reed, a 12th grader who plays the trumpet, said the idea of being on T.V. is pretty cool. Based on his past experiences, the eye of the camera is a piece of cake.
"I don't feel pressured at all," he said. "Mr. Seda has been pressuring us since ninth grade so everything else is easy." Christopher said his first thought about the show was, "my mother's gonna see me on T.V."
So far Seda, who has been behind the band performing in prominent parades such as Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, the Carnival of Flowers in Nice, France, and the 2006 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., is as proud as a papa of his team.
"Anytime a recruiter gets to see you, especially on a weekly basis, that's almost like an audition in itself," Seda said. "This is just an extension of what they do all the time. They're not out of their element simply because the camera is here; it is more intense, but their composure is great."