Ryan Fisher stops for a photo at the City County Building, his place of internship, and where the
City of Pittsburgh Department of Innovation and Performance delivers the day-to-day
workings of local government to the public.
“Someday, I’d like to make a movie. Not just any movie or one that makes a lot of money, but one that moves people… so they can say ‘I went to a theater, I watched this movie, it was amazing, I felt like it was an experience I can take home with me.’ One or more of these movies would be nice to make,” says City Charter High School Senior Ryan Fisher.
But to think Ryan might never have set this goal if he had chosen another high school. He says it best himself, “The best thing about City High? I think there are a lot of opportunities to do things. I might have never have done a musical in my life. But because there’s a musical here and my teachers encouraged me to try out. Now it’s something I just love doing.”
Acting was not Ryan’s career ideal, but he definitely liked it, ever since middle school. He even took some basic acting classes when younger. But at City High (and in his internship), he got exposure to scriptwriting. He’s written for the school musical all 4 years, but only started acting in 10th grade.
And even though this 4.0 GPA student is leaning toward filmmaking, and has already applied to a few colleges, like Point Park, LMU and CMU, Columbia for scriptwriting and filmmaking and Loyola Marymount in LA, (which is top rated for scriptwriting), he attributes his initiative to City High. “They don’t have to give the students all these opportunities. They could just say, ‘Here’s your work, here’s your homework, go home, get an education…’ But instead, they really want to make students thrive.”
As Ryan says, “Like, I would never have gone to a whole new country without City High. I would never be in a musical without City High.” The new country was Costa Rica, as part of his junior year service learning experience. Once again, it was inspirational. “I always wanted to go to a new country,” he admits. “I always saw myself as some world traveler in the future. And Costa Rica did kind of tune down my expectation of that, but I do see myself as somebody who can respectfully go to another country and learn about that culture and try to help out. Because this was a service learning trip, I got to learn more about other people – What do other peoples’ world look like? What are their daily experiences like? And since I have some personal experience with it and I can talk about that.” Quite possibly, in a future script or film project, as a result of his 151-hour internship at City Channel Pittsburgh, a division of the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Innovation and Performance.
Ryan with his some of his mentors in the control room.
From left to right: Joy LeViere, David Finer, Ryan Fisher and Alex Fisher.
Ryan Fisher discusses changes for the 2019 City High senior class yearbook.
Ryan Fisher rehearsing his role as Detective Sherry Lockwood. Ryan has also served as a Young Playwright for three years, including for this year’s yet-to-be-titled show.
Thanks to the perceptive Internship Managers at City High, this turned out to be the best option for Ryan’s internship requirement and perhaps nothing has influenced Ryan more that this experience. At the City Channel, Ryan was anything but a gofer. “I could help with some of the technical aspects of setup,” he recalls. “I could work on using the equipment they had there. This was a real game-changer for me.”
Ryan’s mentor was a seasoned TV man, David Finer who insisted on this being a learning experience for the high school student. “I let him direct city council coverage. He sat in the control room and 300,000 potential people saw him making decisions live on the air, switching between cameras, deciding where the cameras went, handling the graphics… all during a live broadcast.” Talk about baptism by fire! Mr. Finer insisted this be a real-world experience, so, “On his second day, I put a seventeen thousand dollar camera in his hands. There’s this moment when he wanted to drop it, but he knew he wasn’t allowed to. Yeah, the equipment is very expensive, but he’s not going to learn to use it unless I put it in his hands. And he was extremely, extremely excited to learn from people who had been doing this a long time. He’s not going to learn this from a book.”
It’s this real-world experience that helps City High’s students try out their dream career before committing to years of preparation, only to find out it’s not right for them.
Not the case with Ryan. “It taught me to learn things like: how to white balance, how to edit properly (some different editing techniques), how to set mics up, how to set lighting up… so, it was amazing. I also had to do two projects: one was a little promo for City Channel internships, one was a documentary on the people there.” These projects required other skills, like scriptwriting, directing, lighting, filming, interviewing, editing, and more.
According to his mentor, “Of the 5 interns who have tackled this 10-minute documentary about us, Ryan’s is the best, by far. It wasn’t even close. For an 18-year old, what he gave to us… I wasn’t doing a fraction of that when I was 18. He knew how to use the software and edit videos, and he learned everything else.”
Mr. Finer added, “I want interns to walk out of here with something tangible, something they can say that they did (that I had nothing to do with). So now Ryan can take the two projects he worked on and go to colleges and say, I did this… I shot it, I edited it, I wrote it, I hosted it, I asked the questions, I did everything… this is mine.”
So keep an eye out for Ryan Fisher in about 10 years. As he puts it, “I’m either going to be working for a filmmaking company or maybe I would have gotten enough money to have made some of my own films already. That’s kind of where I wanna to be.”
About the City of Pittsburgh Department of Innovation and Performance
Ryan with his mentors from left to right: Bill Lamar, Ryan Fisher, David Finer, Joy LeViere and Alex Fisher.
The Department of Innovation and Performance is tasked with improving the adoption of technology and is home to the City Channel Pittsburgh, a government access channel providing local information from an unfiltered and local perspective.
Today, government communications channels provide a convenient and cost-efficient way for local government to reach citizens and inform them about day-to-day workings of local government.
Unlike public access channels, government channels are granted editorial rights to choose the manner, format, and type of information to be disseminated to the public with a goal of attracting viewers to learn more about their local government and to encourage greater citizen participation.
A partner with City Charter High School for the past 5 years, City Channel Pittsburgh gives its interns first-hand, real-world experience in TV production, script writing, filming, editing and even graphics – just about everything that goes into making TV content.
“I feel it’s important to have interns and for interns to have these experiences,” believes David Finer, Communication Technology Manager for the Pittsburgh Dept. of Innovation and Performance. Mr. Finer brings more than 20 years TV experience to this endeavor. And his most recent experience with City High’s Ryan Fisher has been an unbridled success.
According to Mr. Finer, every student has the same twofold assignment: A quick promo for the internship program and a 10-minute documentary about City Channel Pittsburgh. “Of the 5 interns who have tackled this documentary, Ryan’s is the best… by far. It wasn’t even close. I am convinced that Ryan had a great foundation when he came to us that allowed him to make the project as good as it was. When I look at what he gave to us… I wasn’t doing a fraction of that when I was 18.”