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Communication Students Learn Video Production with Help from a Restored Movie Palace and a Downtown Community Center
by Russell Guerrero ’83

For six weeks this summer, seven communication students were thrust into the frenzied and hectic world of video production. 

In a course titled “Media Communication Workshop” – taught by Harry Haines, associate professor of communication, and James Bynum, operations manager for the communication department – students created video productions on a restored movie palace and a community center helping teenagers in crisis, all for six credit hours.

The course began with a two-week orientation and crash course on field production.  Next, students had an opportunity to work on all facets of production, from operating a camera, to conducting interviews, to editing the finished product.

“Our program is very concentrated.  What might take a few weeks somewhere else, our students learn in a day. That’s the thrill of teaching them,” Haines said. “If we were not working with the kind of students that we get at this place, it would not work.”

The students had one month to produce two major projects. The first one showcased a former downtown grindhouse theater restored to its movie palace splendor.

Built in 1926 by the same company that created the famed Chinese Theater in Hollywood, the Aztec Theater was constructed to resemble a fabulous (but not historical) Aztec temple.  In its heyday, the Aztec was an exotic showplace in an era when movie theaters resembled theme parks.  But time had tarnished the theater and by the late 70s, the Aztec was reduced to showing grade B movies and imported Kung Fu thrillers. It shut down in 1984.

Recently the theater was bought by a group of investors led by a Belgium Baron and, after $20 million in renovations, it was restored to its former luster and renamed the Aztec on the River.

The students documented the history and the rebirth of the movie palace, and according to Haines, the theater plans to screen the video on its massive iWERKS screen and invite the students to a special showing.

The second project was very different.

Haines had been contacted by the Healy-Murphy Center, which helps teenagers finish their education and provides early childhood development to young parents, with a request to produce a fundraising video.

“They perform a mission in this city that is unsurpassed, I think, by any other group,” said Haines. “Their faith and commitment to the community just brings tears of joy to your eyes.”

Started as a boarding school for African American students in 1888, the original teachers were forced out of their jobs by the Ku Klux Klan. The founder then formed an order of Irish Catholic nuns to teach the students.

Now the center helps teenagers in crisis.  Many of the abuse victims are homeless, and several are parents of small children. 

“It’s almost impossible to go into that environment and not get caught up in the spirit of it all,” recalls Haines.  “One of our students became a volunteer. She is going to go down there and help take care of infants.”

Yvette Nevarez, director of development at Healy-Murphy, was thrilled with the video produced by Trinity’s students. “Their professionalism in shooting footage, interviewing, and post production assured that no details were missed.  We truly believe they have captured the very core of what Healy-Murphy Center is all about.”

 “I am certain that this summer session will be one of the memories that students take with them from here,” Haines said. “I’m very proud of what they did.”

You can see for yourself.  The Aztec Theater video can be seen at while the video for the Healy-Murphy Center can be found at  

© 2006 Trinity University

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