When she was 17, Fairmont teacher Laura Hutchens gave her sister a ride to Centerville for a meeting about a new television program starting up in the area. Little did Hutchens know that day would change her life.
The program would be something like MTV, or how it used to be when it actually played music all the time. Hutchens thought she would just drop off her sister and drive around since she had just gotten her license. Instead, she decided to sit and listen to the meeting.
Before the meeting, Hutchens was interested in a career in biology, but after the meeting her world had changed. Now, 25 years later, Hutchens teaches the Interactive Media classes at Fairmont High School. But she didn’t decide to begin teaching until after 15 years of working in the “real world” of media production.
Getting started meant getting coffee
While earning her bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Wright State University, Hutchens started to volunteer for the new television program “Southside Video.” It played music and it received positive feedback.
Hutchens was just starting out, so she didn’t have many job options. Eventually, Hutchens was hired as part-time staff person at Miami Valley Communication Council. She did anything she could to stay behind the camera. “I started out as a production assistant, which means getting coffee, cleaning things and getting stuff,” said Hutchens. Once she got into the building, she could then meet everyone and show them what she was capable of doing.
That strategy worked for her, and she recommends it to her students. “Take an opportunity you don’t always want because the experience will only help you,” she said.
While working at MVCC, Hutchens got many interesting opportunities. One of the coolest things she did was shoot footage from a hot air balloon. “I literally raced this kid down the hallway to tell my boss I wanted the assignment,” Hutchens said. “Create the opportunities you want. People won’t always come up to you.”
The media is such a huge part of Hutchens’ life, it even played a role in her 1990 wedding. Hutchens and her husband, Todd, had been brought together through their work in media, so she convinced him to get married in a studio, and the whole thing was produced like a sports broadcast.
“Todd and Laura, Live at the Altar” aired on the MVCC channel.
When viewing the video later, Hutchens was surprised to discover it included her husband singing the song “Laura” from the movie “Laura.” “Looking back on it, it was a little embarrassing, but it was so much fun bringing back all our friends from the studio. It was a great ending to our time at MVCC,” said Hutchens.
Working at Cartoon Network
One of Hutchens’ most famous jobs was helping launch the Cartoon Network in Atlanta, Ga. In 1992, Hutchens found out the vice president of the Cartoon Network was a big fan of rock sensation Billy Bragg. She wanted a job with the network so badly that she gave away the Billy Bragg autograph she had just to get in the building. She got hired, but at that point, she was mostly getting everyone’s coffee and cleaning the floors.
Soon, however, she started to watch the cartoons and create promos.
She also got to work with the show “Tune Heads.” Cartoon Network had a vault of unique and rare old cartoons. “Tune Heads” allowed Hutchens to watch the videos in the vault and air them for everyone else to see. “‘Tune Heads’ was made from rare cartoons pulled from the vault,” she said.
Hutchens said it was easy to get the job because she showed that she was very efficient and had a background in technology. “I could get any editor I wanted because they would rather get in and out in half the time,” she said.
“When people hear that I got paid to watch cartoons, they don’t realize how much work was really put in,” said Hutchens. For a long time, she was working many hours a day on very little sleep, sometimes only four hours a night.
Still, she says it was a great experience. “Working with Cartoon Network was a blast. I was lucky to learn from good people,” said Hutchens.
While working with the Cartoon Network, Hutchens also did work for TCM, which was located in the same building. She got to meet a lot of famous people because TCM was collecting interviews with aging movie stars at the Brown State Hotel in New York. Hutchens was production assistant for the project, meaning she met the celebrities at their cars and escorted them to get food or to get their makeup done.
Some famous people Hutchens met were actors Van Johnson, Arlene Doll and Kim Hunter. Hutchens also got to meet actor Cliff Robertson, and they talked about flying for hours. “He was very nice but he insisted on doing his own makeup. He didn’t look so good,” she said.
Back home in Ohio
Hutchens traveled all over to work in interactive media, and in the end, she wound up in Dayton, Ohio. Hutchens moved back to settle down with her family. She’s been to many places, but Ohio is where she calls home.
In 2000, Hutchens came to Fairmont, where she’s worked closely with teacher Karl Bremer on the Interactive Media program. “Fairmont has a good reputation for interactive media,” she said. “The students are getting more interested, so it’s always busy in the studio.” Hutchens also teaches classes in radio and television, graphic design and web development.
Hutchens says she treats her Interactive Media students the same way she treated her co-workers at Cartoon Network. She lets her students take charge, but she’s there to help them with their projects or the promos they work on for morning announcements.
Hutchens has a huge resume, but she says she’s happy with what she’s doing now. “I just can’t believe I get to do something I love and get paid every day,” she said.