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New 'media lab' in Port Angeles will train students for theater, film jobs

A Peninsula College program will offer students training to work behind the scenes on theater and film jobs.

PORT ANGELES, Wash. — A little bit of Hollywood is coming to Port Angeles. A first-of-it's-kind "media lab" will soon train stagehands and technicians for work on theater and movie sets.

For young people like Riley Baermann and his best friend Avery Saul, the project is a spark of inspiration.

"I see an opportunity to make Port Angeles bigger than it ever has been," said Baermann.

The two recent high school grads are currently working at a local restaurant, but they have much bigger dreams. They both want to work in the theater industry, either behind the scenes or on stage.

On Thursday they got their first look at the city's brand new Field Arts and Events Hall.

Starting next July the hall will host conventions but its star attraction is a 500-seat theater. Alongside that theater will be a "media lab." 

"I've really been waiting for it because I knew this thing would be crazy," said Baermann. 

"It's going to be incredible," said Saul.

As part of a new Peninsula College program, the lab will offer certificates in everything from theater production to carpentry and set design, as well as lighting and sound technology for stage and screen. 

They are fields you'd have to move to Seattle to study, which can be out of reach for many people.

"Moving to Seattle or California just isn't realistic," said Baermann. "The housing prices are astronomical."

Organizers say the hall will bring $2 million into Port Angeles during the first year alone, setting the stage for years to come.

"Sixty-seven cents of every dollar spent will go back into the local economy," said Field Hall Executive Director Steven Raider-Ginsburg. "That's money that's going out to support restaurants, parking, gas, babysitters all the other things that surround Field Hall. That's where we will see this mushrooming out."

The hope is that students will stay local and help build a bigger entertainment industry on the Olympic Peninsula, but the certificates will allow graduates to work anywhere from LA to Broadway.

It's an exciting prospect for Baermann and Saul, as their worlds open up.

"Knowing that people like me are gonna have an opportunity like this, it's a game changer," said Saul.

RELATED: Proposed 'Seattle Film Commission' would aim to increase film projects, living-wage jobs

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