“So that’s it huh? You’re just gonna let the bullies win? Give up? Really? Well I’m not gonna sit here, let them make fun of us, play beer pong, and get women with their flat bills while they’re stealing people’s scooters, okay?”
- Michael Bunker as Colt Rivers
The University began in the Fall of my freshman year at Central Washington University. I was working at a local television station at the time, and had asked if it would be okay for me to create my own content for the channel. Seeing as how I was new at the school, I didn’t really know any of the actors or other film students, so I decided to just cast some of my closest friends at the time.
The first episode was filmed using one of the library’s older tape-based cameras, and had to be imported through an actual tape capturing system. We ended up filming the majority of this pilot in and around the library itself, mainly because I didn’t feel comfortable enough going far with all of the equipment. I’m pretty sure we were the reason that the library now has a form you need to fill out to record inside.
After filming the pilot and putting it on air (and online), we were all pretty excited to keep the show going. That week I asked my mom if she could get me a camera for a pre-birthday present, and amazingly I got one! Nothing fancy mind you, but the fact that it said HD on the side of it was all I cared about. And it was digital. That meant I didn’t have to spend time just at work editing or filming the show, we could do this whenever, and wherever.
So naturally I started coming up with different plots and ways we could use more varying locations around the campus and town. The second episode we traveled to Trent’s house to use as Mrs. Teapot’s abode. Trent was one of the actors who, if you couldn’t guess, played the Dean’s “Assistant Trent”. This wasn’t the only time we used our own names within the show.
In the third episode, Colt Rivers has a professor in one of his classes named Mr. Bunker, an homage of sorts to the actors actual last name. We did it again as a joke in Episode Four for Ms. McGehee as well.
It was this fourth episode that really started getting us into the swing of things. I actually got to use one of the Theatre Department’s auditoriums to hold a fake “Man of the Year” competition. Despite only having fifteen or so people there, this was still the biggest crowd we could (and I believe ever would) achieve.
By Episode Five everything ran like clockwork. The actors knew who the characters were, I was getting better at writing, framing shots and editing, and finding music to fit was getting easier and easier. We had come up with a pretty solid process to pump these things out, and people were starting to expect this as an actual thing. I even had a friend who was also interested in filmmaking from highschool write up the script for Episode Six!
It wasn’t until Episode Seven that I realized I was editing and filming things completely the wrong way. I started to notice that we weren’t really getting reactions to things, or showing them in opposite shots; I was only focusing on filming the line that was being said. So I started to hone in more on this, and began thinking about what else I might have been doing wrong. This was also the episode where I finally found an intro sequence that I felt fit the show perfectly.
We had successfully pumped out three 24 minute episodes Winter quarter, which is absolutely impressive considering we had classes on top of that. Fall quarter we had made four episodes, but those weren’t nearly as long, nor had we gotten the formula down yet. So, approaching our final freshman quarter of Spring, we decided we would go all out on just making a two-part finale.
It was very sad to see the show come to an end. I wanted to try to get everyone who had been in it before to at least make somewhat of an appearance during these final two episodes, just to give us all some closure.
The following year we all decided we would be too busy with classwork to try and accomplish something of this magnitude again. So I still kept in touch with a lot of the cast, but we all eventually did go our separate ways. Every now and then I would show the show off to different people I’d meet the following year. My girlfriend at the time was in the theatre department, and we suggested that perhaps I could try to do it all again.
So, somewhere mid Fall quarter of my sophomore year, we tried to start up a second season of The University. The plot was set four years after the events of the first season. It was a brand new cast, full of all incoming freshman who were attending the same University, Ellensburg School of Technology and Dance (ESTD).
We had a lot of fun, and managed to make about four episodes before things got out of hand. I can’t remember one way or another what triggered our show to end. It was most likely from the multiple break ups between different cast members. Needless to say, the overall quality and content of this second season had clearly benefited from me creating the first one.
All in all, this was a very fun ride, and I learned almost everything I know about film making through doing this process. I’ve since taken a lot of acting classes, and created a lot more, better stuff, but we all start somewhere. This was a process that I encourage any would-be creator to go for! Whether you’ve got a television station to run your show or not, the internet is always a thing. Most people don’t watch TV anymore anyways. You’d be amazed what you can learn by just going for it.