Thursday, October 14, 2010

Video Shoot for Tax Prep Volunteer Training

Tax season is several months away but now is the time that Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs start preparing.  We have to recruit and train new volunteers, call back experienced volunteers,  begin looking at changes in tax law, and get ready for the release of our certification training.  Many VITA Site Coordinators also wear other hats in their organizations, so it's a balancing act to juggle our upcoming, intense activities between January and April with our normal routine.

Yesterday was a cool change of that routine.   Five of us gathered at Malden Access Television (MATV) to shoot a video for VITA Site Coordinators and their volunteers to supplement the training materials provided by the IRS.  The major focus of this video is on the differences between the federal and MA tax returns.  These differences can make a significant difference for some people on their tax refund and we wanted to make sure that our volunteers and the general public can zero in on those areas when they prepare returns.

First, it was a lot of fun.  Second, I want to thank the MATV folks: Executive Director Ron Cox, Assistant Director Anne D'Urso-Rose, Receptionist/Floor Manager/Cameraperson Josephine Royal, and Volunteer/Cameraperson Barry Greenspan.   They were terrific, but I knew this going into the project and it's the only reason I felt comfortable saying I (and my employer, Tri-CAP) could "produce" this project.

We aimed for a 30-minute video, using a talk show format.  Hosting was done by Joe Diamond, Executive Director of MassCAP.  Guests were Bill Smitts, IRS SPEC territory manager (MA, ME, NH); Dana Ackerman, Taxpayer Advocate Office of the Mass Dept of Revenue (DOR); and Meelynn Wong, VITA Site Coordinator for Boston ABCD.  Two telephone conference calls to plan our topics and time worked; we had a smooth shoot, no stops, and at the end had extra time to add a piece on a topic we will insert into place during editing. My thanks to everyone for their thoughtful planning and execution. 

Now the difficult part begins: editing!  It's not really difficult; it's just time-consuming.  We have already set up several "dummy" tax returns in our system so we can hook the camera up and grab screen shots to overlay on the discussion we taped.  With my limited time available, we agreed to hire an experienced and fast editor for this part of the project.  She and I will have to coordinate our schedules so she can grasp the overall goal and help us put the right pieces into place.  Add a little music, take out any stammers, er's, uhm's, and all that -- and we're good to go. 

Joe wants to put it on YouTube when it's done, so anyone can benefit from the tips on preparing a return, so I'll post here when that's done.

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