From the set to the classroom

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By Samuel Finch / Staff Writer

Still rolling (Kathryn Shepherd / Staff Photographer)

By Samuel Finch / Staff Writer

Retirement is merely another step in a long journey for Bud Tedesco.

After 23 years of teaching television and film production at Riverside City College, Tedesco retired to part time teaching at the end of the last academic year in June.

His days starting off as an adjunct instructor in 1988 were not his first at RCC, however.

Tedesco, a Riverside native, first walked the grounds as a student in 1957.

“At that time my focus was an acting career. Big mistake,” he said with a grin. “Even though I thought I was pretty good and I won a lot of awards and scholarships, it’s really tough trying to break into the Hollywood scene as an actor.”

Still he studied and acted in productions such as “Oklahoma!” on campus to further his dreams.

Then he landed the role of male lead in the play “The Seven Year Itch” where he met his wife of 55 years, Melanie, who was the female lead until an accident forced her to drop out.

Despite the separation, they were soon married and Tedesco transferred to the Pasadena Playhouse to continue his studies while Melanie worked to keep them afloat. Times were tough but they persisted.

After graduating from the Pasadena Playhouse, Tedesco was contacted about an opening on the page staff at ABC, a great opportunity to network and make contacts.

He applied and was interviewed by another graduate of the Playhouse who promptly asked when he could begin.

“They kind of give you two years to do that and if you haven’t really made any contacts, nice working with you,” Tedesco said with a laugh, “and you’re let go.”

Fortunately, Tedesco was able to secure a position after about a year and a half in the film editing department where he worked his way up the ranks from apprentice to assistant to full-fledged film editor, a position he held for roughly 10 years.

From there his focus shifted from acting to working behind the scenes.

And then another opportunity arose.

“At that time they were looking to replace a weekly children’s show at ABC, so I submitted a story idea that we thought would make a cute little children’s show and it was accepted,” he said.

No longer a stranger to the process of producing a television program, Tedesco began work with other professionals with whom he had established contacts over the years.

“We got the show under way and by the time our first air date was scheduled, we had about five or six shows in the can,” he said.

The show, entitled “Domingo,” began in 1972 and featured the adventures of several marionette puppets, including a goat who ran off to join the Navy in one episode shot on an aircraft carrier. Another episode starred one of Tedesco’s childhood heroes, Roy Rogers.

“Domingo” ran for roughly seven years. In the meantime, Tedesco worked on a variety of other projects, including a documentary on aging.

During his time at ABC, he and Melanie purchased a plot of land in Idaho on which they designed and built an A-frame home over the course of eight years.

They have now spent approximately 42 summers enjoying the Idaho wilderness, riding ATVs and fishing.

In 1981, after nearly 20 years at ABC, Tedesco decided it was time for something different and stepped back.

He spent more time with his wife, who had also spent many years working on movies and television shows, and began working on his hobby of restoring old muscle cars.

After some time off, Tedesco took the next step in his journey in 1988 when he was invited by RCC’s drama coach at the time to speak to students about television.

“He asked me if I would be interested in teaching because they were trying to start a television department here and I thought it sounded kind of interesting and I said OK,” he said.

“I was hired about six months later,” he continued. “There were one or two classes in television production at that time and since then we’ve developed about 25 classes in television production. We offer a degree and two certificates.”

It was difficult to adjust to the public sector at first.

“In the private sector, you have to make a profit and things are done on a timely basis because everything is based on ratings and money,” Tedesco said.

“Since time is money, you don’t have a lot of time to sit around and contemplate and take forever to make decisions. You make decisions quickly. You learn to do that and you become much more proficient.”

In addition to the change of pace, Tedesco’s new coworkers were an adjustment.

“It’s different when you work with students because they’re still learning and you have to kind of keep that in mind,” he said.

“I used to take students on a tour through Warner Brothers,” Tedesco said on teaching students punctuality. “One of the studios, just above their sound studio, has a little plaque that reads ‘You’re late once, it’s only human. You’re late twice, you’re history. That’s the way it is.”

Through it all, however, Tedesco worked to build a department that would produce skilled workers.

“The most important thing is that we want to turn out students who can be employed,” he said.

Among those turned out by the program stand individuals such as Clayton Sandell, who now works as a reporter for ABC News.

“I think the greatest satisfaction is when you get phone calls from those like Clayton Sandell saying ‘I’m working at ABC’ or my two former students who are now employed at MTV or students who have started their own production companies,” Tedesco said.

“Then I know what we’ve done in the past is working and it does change their lives because they’re either able to go and work in the industry or they can transfer to a university and be so far advanced.”

Many former students remember Tedesco’s warm personality, especially his perpetual offer to buy pizza for those who can film their weekly news programs in one take. This reward has been amended slightly over the years.

“What I do now is taco night,” he said with a smile. “We go to El Torito for taco Tuesday and if they can do the show in one take, the tacos are on me.”

Retirement is certainly not the end of the road for Tedesco.

“Probably as long as I can find my way to class,” he answered when asked how long he hopes to continue teaching. “I do enjoy it, I really do. I get a lot of satisfaction seeing story ideas submitted at the beginning of the semester on the screen.”

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