Students produce comedy mini-series
Molly Madden | Friday, October 9, 2009
Meet Spot. He’s a junior English major who has dreams of becoming a writer. Unfortunately, it’s not going so well. He’s in love with a girl who doesn’t seem to know who he is and his best friend might be having feelings for him. He’s the quintessential loveable loser. He’s also fictional.
Spot is the title character of a six episode comedy mini-series “Spot On” that airs on NDtv on Tuedays at 11 p.m. The series, which was filmed last year, was written, directed and executive-produced by juniors Paul Dechant, Javi Zubizarreta and Lora O’Shaughnessy. The three Film, Television and Theater majors, who also act in the series, came up with the original idea for “Spot” during their freshmen year.
“I really wanted to do a TV show that would have a strong story,” Zubizarreta said. “Paul and Lora got involved with me and we wrote the episodes over the summer before sophomore year; there was a lot of iChatting involved.”
After casting the nine actors for the series, the show went into production at the beginning of the fall 2008 semester. The three producers did not realize how much work that they had in front of them.
“We thought that we’d have it all done by Fall Break,” Zubizarreta said. “We were still filming as we began spring finals. On the days that we filmed we’d be filming anywhere from four to 12 hours a day with each scene taking us about two hours to film.”
Dechant said the amount of time it took to film the show took him by surprise as well.
“We were new to the experience,” he said. “When you watch a show you don’t realize how much goes into a two-minute scene; you have to re-shoot it several times from different shots. It took time but we got what we wanted.”
The three all share writing credit for the episodes and the characters. While they all said writing was a rewarding experience, it didn’t come without its own set of frustrations.
“I think I now understand the saying that goes ‘you sit down, open a vein and that’s writing’,” O’Shaugnessy said. “But it was so exciting to see our ideas come to life, especially the first time we heard the actors read what we had written.”
The producers drew on real experiences and people in their own lives to help create situations and characters for the series.
“There’s a scene in the first episode where Spot has a bad meeting with his college advisor,” Zubizarreta said. “This was based on a meeting I had with my freshmen advisor who told me film was a waste of time and if I wanted a job I should go into business.”
Some of the characters in the story are also based on real people or the producers themselves.
“I think we all put a lot of ourselves into Spot,” O’Shaughnessy said. “All three of us had our own ideas and the they combined to make the final product.”
Dechant said some characters started with a specific attribute that developed into a fully fleshed personality.
“Each character started with a little quirk that we drew from real experiences,” he said. “Felix, the character that I play, is always wearing a knitted cap; that little trait is part of his bigger personality.”
Zubizarreta said developing the characters and making them into “real” people was his favorite part of the whole “Spot” process.
“We got to see these characters go through a whole evolution,” he said. “Every character changed so much; at one point I wanted Spot to be on drugs but that got thrown out.”
A year after beginning filming and a week after watching the first episode air, the three executive producers can look back at their work on Spot On and reflect on their creation.
“I’m excited that it’s now finished and that we have people that enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed making it,” O’Shaughnessy said. “I can watch it now and see the little things that we put into it.”
Watching the first episode with friends was something that provided a sense of accomplishment for Dechant.
“I think my favorite thing was that the viewers laughed at what we had meant for them to laugh at,” he said. “That’s something I proud of. We put a lot of work into this because we wanted it to be a quality product.”
Zubizarreta said hopes that “Spot” will not only entertain viewers but also allow the audience to identify with the characters on the screen.
“Hopefully people watch it and hopefully they’ll laugh,” he said. “But I hope that they identify with the characters and the relationships. I hope that they can take something serious out of it along with the comedy.”
On the other hand, Dechant has a much smaller desire of the audience.
“I just want everyone to think that Felix is the sexiest man alive,” he said.