Don’t call Eero Johnson a teacher. Johnson likes to think of himself as a helper.

For three years he has been helping Bellingham residents learn the basics of video production, so they can be part of the public access programming on the city’s public cable television station.

“I am just here to help people achieve what they want to achieve, to make what they want to make. To help other people’s visions come true. I am the smallest part of this machine,” Johnson says.

The station BTV is city-run and can be found on Century Link and Cablevision stations, and every Sunday night it presents Access Bellingham, a program where local residents can offer their own segments.

In order to encourage more local residents to participate, the city received a grant to hire Johnson to train potential participants. The classes are free of charge and take place every Tuesday at 6 p.m. Johnson uses his 20 years of video production experience to teach students how to edit and shoot a movie, how to use storytelling techniques, how to work video equipment, and about various other video topics.

The class is open to everyone over the age of 17 in the Bellingham community, but only after they go through two separate certification classes in camera and editing. Each certification takes two days and is offered only every three months. Afterwards students have access to equipment and to the Tuesday night classes, everything they need to create their own piece of art or communicate their own story.

For long-time Access Bellingham students, this was the most valuable part of the class.

“I think a lot of people have stories they want to tell and they think they would like to produce video but they don’t know how to get started. That’s how I was when I began,” says Carol T. Baker, a student. “Just through taking this class, you come away knowing how to operate a camera, knowing how to get good sound, knowing how to shoot for a story, and how to edit it.”

Videos shown on the BTV channel cover a wide range of topics. Every week different videos are shown, from hooping to Whatcom County parks.

“In terms of our art, our recreation, our interests, we have a really unique community. We have great theater,” Johnson says. “…Video captures those moments and makes them part of our communities’ shared experience.”

Whatever your passions are, there is a way to incorporate that into a television program. Be warned, though. It’s not as easy as it looks.

“We are creating local pieces that can be anything they want to be,” Johnson says. “Here is a freedom of experimentation that unless you allow yourself to experience failure, you are not going to grow.”

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"'I am just here to help people achieve what they want to achieve, to make what they want to make. To help other people’s visions come true.'"