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Photograph by Grant Wernick

'What's Up Wit' That' host Andrew Willyoung interviews UFO expert Matt DeBow.

Cable Crusaders

De Anza College program challenges the mainstream media

It's the first Wednesday night of the month, which means it's meeting time for the crew of 'What's Up Wit' That,' a student-run cable-access show with unconventional topics. The crew members, composed of De Anza students, have a few smokes outside the studio before getting ready for the night's discussion--UFOs and the paranormal.

Every other week, the television studio, tucked beneath the Flint Center, is home to the students who contribute to this 30-minute question and answer session show. The show is a 3-year-old labor of love for host Andrew Willyoung, whose driving gospel in life is to be a sower of information.

"This is an intolerant world," he said. "Fear is based from ignorance."

This show is presently aired on the Cupertino Community Channel and the local TCI channel. Their goal is to be able to compete with the major networks.

No one gets paid at this gig, but the crew carries on with professionalism. "I have a background in journalism, and I ask serious questions. Other shows are just senseless," said Bournellis.

Willyoung adds, "We're not shooting the breeze. That's not our goal."

Skeptics have raised eyebrows and questioned the students' topics, but they genuinely take their work seriously. To quiet the doubters, Willyoung says his guest tonight is a legitimate source on the topic of UFOs.

"We find people who are credible because we want to be credible," he says. "We give our audience the information and let them make their decision. We don't try to slam anything here."

The group takes pride in the fact that it has addressed several issues that network television wouldn't devote time to. In fact, What's Up Wit' That has just won its third Wave Award--the "Emmy of cable access"--for a segment on Satan worship. Other topics have included gay marriages and water births.

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Photograph by Grant Wernick

Director Lorretta Beavers watches and works from the control room.

An open mind is the hallmark of this group, a characteristic they bear almost to a fault. For example, Satan worshippers are people who simply have a faith in a higher being, they say.

Despite a small audience of 5,000 viewers, the students see their independence as a cable show as a blessing. "That's the beauty. We're allowed more freedom from FCC regulations," said Willyoung.

To the show's credit, television enthusiasts who know what they're doing lead this nine-member group. Not only is Willyoung the host, he also teaches drama at De Anza, teaches children at Scott Lane School in Santa Clara, and is a Ph.D. candidate in film at UC-Berkeley. Bournelllis, the production manager has been a journalist for 12 years. Loretta Beavers, the director, often flips to PBS to study the different ways other directors handle the cameras.

As soon as the guest, UFO expert Matt DeBow, arrives, the crew set up to prepare. Crew hands angle their cameras properly under the guidance of Beavers, while she prepares the titles that will appear on screen. "We like close-up shots because people like to feel they're talking to them," she said.

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Photograph by Grant Wernick

Ron Mosher is one of three camera men who tape the show.

The students begrudge their hand-me-down studio equipment but agree their limitations can do wonders in the imagination department. "We have to be more creative in putting together our product," says Willyoung.

Someone digs up a bronze cymbal from the control room to double as a UFO prop on stage. That UFO must have gone through a dust belt before landing, people comment.

Five, four, three, two, one. "I'm Andrew Willyoung, and welcome to the show."

The host, properly decked out in a green tie with alien heads, and his guest, discuss recent mysterious lights DeBow has seen in the East Bay hills, among other things. In the back, Beavers cautions one of the cameramen to keep his hands steady but other than that, there are no glitches.

Thirty minutes are up, and it's a wrap. The taping finished early tonight, a luxury for Beavers who has to fine-tune the editing before the tape is sent to the TCI office. Everybody seems to agree that the show went well. "The one thing that came across to me is that we should be cautious of people who do hoaxes, but we shouldn't discount the experiences they have," said Bournellis.

As the production manager, Bournellis is already getting a head start on the research for the following weeks. On the agenda are a segment on sperm banks for a Father's Day show and a session in which Willyoung interviews participants at last week's gay pride parade in San Jose.

"This has been "What's Up Wit' UFOs." I'm Andrew Willyoung, your host, and see you next week," he says.

--Michele Leung, Cupertino Courier, June 14, 2000

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