This past Interterm semester saw all kinds of exciting productions, from the Dodge College sound stages, to local “on location” films and TV pilots, to international destinations from London to Korea. Today, I have some updates from the Television faculty on their teams’ projects, small changes to the program, and some history of how successful these projects tend to be.

Stay tuned later this week to see many more photos from the projects than I can include here!

On the set of the Chapman pilot SHARP LEFT TURN

A scene from “Sharp Left Turn” with key creatives and production assistants surrounding the actors.

Writing the Pilots Prof. Ross Brown

During the January 2014 Interterm we shot two half-hour pilots:
, about a group of young people with special abilities (like hearing thoughts and getting flashes of the future) who have been shunned by society because they’re different and they fear them. And
Sharp Left Turn
, about a young man who quit high school, invented a multimillion dollar gizmo, only to have the company tank, blow through all the money and be forced to move back in with his parents in his thirties.

The projects began life during Spring of 2013 in two sections of FTV 362 Writing the Dramatic Series. One section was taught by Professor Ross Brown, the other by Professor Brad Buckner – both veteran writer/producers with extensive experience in TV and in creating series. Each of the 15 students in each section of the course pitched a series concept and set of characters, pitched a pilot story, wrote an outline, then wrote and revised a draft of the script. Brown and Buckner selected 3 semi-finalists from their sections, exchanged scripts and shared all 6 scripts with Professor James Gardner, who teaches the production leg of the course. The 3 professors compared notes and selected the script to be shot from each writing section, evaluating not only the quality of the script but its production challenges.

The two pilots were shot during January 2014 and are now entering post production for completion by May.

The pilot writing and production sequence has been around for 6 years and the produced pilots have received tremendous acclaim on the festival circuit.
Kate So Far, Rising Above,
all received nominations as Outstanding Drama at the New York Television Festival in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Higher Education
was a 2011 nominee as Outstanding Drama at the ITV Festival and
Called To Serve
was the 2013 winner of Best Pilot at the same festival. And
Two Close
received the 2012 award from the Caucus of Writers, Producers and Directors as Best Pilot, which included a cash prize of $3500 for the student creative team.

On the set of the Chapman pilot PERCEPTORS

Cast, crew, and spectators gather in the Piazza to watch the shooting of “Perceptors”

Producing the Pilots Prof. James Gardner

Pre-production began on our two interterm pilots last Fall semester in a new course named TELEVISION PRE-PRODUCTION. Twenty students undertook the task of finding locations, casting, filing for permits, ordering equipment, etc. On the first day of Interterm, we were off and running at full steam.

The Interterm Pilot Production class features four sections of twenty students each. We employ both grads and undergrads, upperclassmen and freshmen. We feature both professional SAG (Screen Actors Guild) actors and student actors from both our Screen Acting program and the Theatre Arts program. Our cast and crew totaled over ninety people this time.

We attempt to mirror how a professional television show operates on a day-to-day basis; we have three camera on the set, two on Fisher dollies, and one on a steadi-cam. In fact, the television program has its own camera stabilization rig (brand name Movcam) which we used for the first time this Interterm. We shot on new Sony F5 cameras, and used all of the same equipment that a prime time show would use in production. We work twelve hour days and abide by all SAG and IATSE rules.

We have two directors per pilot to better simulate the process of having many different directors on shows. We shoot each pilot for six days, averaging the completion of six pages of dialogue per day. This class allows the student to experience life as a television professional. Early 6AM call times, hard work both on stage and on location, and shooting two shows back-to-back makes (or breaks) the student’s desire to do this – television production—for a living!

We begin the post-production process tomorrow — Friday! We look forward to this next step, the final re-write! It’s a challenging and time-intensive process to bring all the elements of the planning, writing, and shooting stages together cohesively. It’s fascinating to see how projects morph as students encounter unforeseen challenges, learn new skills, and discover tighter and more impactful ways to tell their stories.

We will screen our two projects,
in the Folino Theatre at the end of the Spring semester, just as our next two scripts are being chosen. The cycle of Television Life continues!