No doubt locals noticed the tall figure of Jonne Trees filming at community events during the last few months of 2019. He was there as the returning station manager for BRTV Media Center/Channel 1301. Neither Trees nor the Media Center’s board of directors could have predicted his return.
In October 2016, Trees decided to step down as station manager after eight years. He recently recalled being “stressed out, burned out, tired, and ready to move on” then. He was working with talented videographers Cody Mitchell and Ryan Leighton then. Mitchell first created with Trees as a student – one of the first volunteers from Boothbay Region High School.
Trees felt it was a good time to go: He would be leaving the station in the capable hands and fertile imaginations of the next generation, with Mitchell as station manager. With Trees’ return, Mitchell has become board president.
In a recent interview, Trees reflected on his eight years at the station, his adventures in video with Mitchell and Leighton, and his vision for the station’s future.
So what’s Trees been up to for three years? He’s a professional independent media producer, something he became unexpectedly when the house he and girlfriend Janet “J.J.” Moller had been renting in East Boothbay went up for sale. Trees saw the photos of the house on the realtor’s website and thought they could be improved. He took a free online course, “How To Do Real Estate Photography.” As it happened, Trees already had the camera and lens specified and started taking practice shots with the focus on H(igh) D(ynamic) R(ange) photography.
Eventually, he showed a few people at Tindal & Callahan Real Estate some of his work, which he said they liked, and made a pitch for taking images for them. He did some photography for Tindal and Callahan and other agencies in Maine. But to get his new media producing business up and running, he created a Go Fund Me page that raised just enough for him to buy a new computer and other start up gear including a drone and more lenses.
Trees and Moeller’s need for housing led them to become house and pet sitters through trustedhousesitters.com. They preferred gigs lasting one to six months. Between sitting jobs, there’d be the occasional overnight at an Air B n B, they might have to go to a hotel, or spend a night or two with family or friends between assignments.
“We both have freelance work we can do anywhere and house and pet sitting helped us not to need full-time jobs,” Trees shared. “But that all changed when I accepted a full-time job here. We found a place to rent in Damariscotta.”
Trees said the timing of his return to the station was good: It was before basketball season. “Neal (Verge) started the station to cover local sports and it remains dedicated to that coverage. Now with our technical advances we can stream games live – except for one caveat: Tournaments can’t go live … network agreements. In the past I’ve had to wait 48 hours before I could broadcast those events.”
Trees reminisced about those first eight years … before drones even. There was the time Trees and Leighton were researching how to get cameras in the air and had BRHS students try to come up with ways to get a camera off the ground – attached to helium balloons. This method didn’t work out too well, but fun was had by all.
Trees said they also tried attaching a go pro to a remote control helicopter. “We crashed a few of those,” he said, laughing.
And then the DGI Phantom Series drones came into the picture. That first station drone could fly for 12 minutes up in the air 200-400 feet via remote control and an iPhone. Trees said the year Gardens Aglow opened at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, the team knew it had to do better. And that took an equipment upgrade. The station bought a DGI Inspire 4 that had a special lens that could capture images in low light, Trees said. “It created a gorgeous video.”
Using drones and multi media went on to be a real game changer for the station. A well-known and acclaimed example is Leighton’s “Walking Home” feature film following the father-son Appalachain Trail hike taken by Steve and Karl Berger. The film was done in collaboration with, and funded by, the station.
Back to 2019 … Eventually, one of Mitchell’s texts asked Trees to come by the station. “That story ends with him asking me if I wanted to come back. After about a week I said OK. It feels good to be up here now and with more space. The studio is better organized and … cleaner.”
Today, Trees is looking for more videographers – experienced and newbies ready to learn right at the station and for people with creative ideas and/or a story to pitch to come by the station – and you needn’t worry about your idea being too avante garde or downright crazy. Remember Trees and Leighton had the idea to film a remote control mini-car on the frozen harbor and blew up a gingerbread house? Chuckling, Trees said, “We were trying to push the limits ... and looking to do something atypically entertaining.”
Trees is also looking for members of community organizations to film their meetings for Channel 1301. For example, Bigelow had someone filming its Tuesday talks for broadcast. Andrew Gudroe and Tom Norton do the major work filming high school sports. Robert Jordan is another major volunteer filmer. Ed Crocker is the announcer for the girls basketball teams, and Sarah Caron and Page Brown have both done it. Trees would love to have a student involved in announcing on a regular basis.
And speaking of students, one of Trees’ goals is to bring back the Student Film Festival. He’s also excited to let people know the studio is available to use for shooting personal creative video projects and/or photos/portraits. Just call to schedule a time.
Trees invites community members to drop by the media center at Boothbay Region YMCA, 261 Townsend Ave./Route 27, Boothbay Harbor to check out the station and learn about the myriad of creative opportunities. The center is open Monday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m.