What happened to that cadaver? Students, faculty, staff collaborate to film College's first sci-fi thriller TV series.
Nykko Vitali will soon be buried in books at the University of Pennsylvania, studying psychology and cognitive science, up to the challenge after graduating in May from Community College of Philadelphia with an associate degree in Psychology and a 4.0 grade point average.
But during the summer, he was Caleb, the fictional newly-appointed editor of a student newspaper, playing a lead role in Strange College, the first-ever fictional television series to be shown on CCPTV. In the role of Caleb, he’s busy uncovering why a torrid affair between two faculty members has the campus in an uproar. And, by the way, what happened to that cadaver that used to be stored in the biology lab.
Over the spring and summer, 30 to 40 students, alumni, faculty and staff served as actors and crew as scenes were filmed around the Main Campus. The production created quite a buzz as crowds often gathered to gawk and get a sneak peek.
The series stems from a year-long collaboration between Allan Kobernick, director of Multimedia Services and producer of CCPTV, and Dr. Frank Fritz, assistant professor of English, and the author of the script, a blend of sci-fi, alternate reality, thriller and mystery. The first two of 10 episodes will air this fall on the College's 24-hour television channel (Comcast Channel 53, Verizon Fios Channel 21).
At a recent shoot, Kobernick guided Vitali and admissions recruiter Joseph Corso, who plays an administrator, endlessly through a short scene. The scene took two minutes. The shoot took nearly two hours. Every detail mattered. Parts of the scene had been shot earlier, so Corso needed to wear the same clothes, carry the same clipboard and even make sure the writing on documents look the same, and official. "I want the production values to be extremely high," Kobernick said. "I don't want it to feel like a student play. I want it to feel like a television show you'd watch on any network."
Fritz also sees it as a way to expand the student learning experience. Moving forward, he hopes to model a class on the “writers’ rooms” used in Hollywood, such as the one on the television sitcom, 30 Rock. Students would brainstorm and draft episodes of Strange College. “They could share the magic of creating this universe,” Fritz said. “TV shows are really a communal construction.”
The push to perfection matters for Vitali, who says his participation will help him at Penn. "The social cohesiveness that you build with other people, the need to be flexible, these are traits that will translate anywhere in life, including at Penn." Vitali said he had been a bit of an introvert, but Strange College brought him out of his shell, which will also help at Penn. He'll continue to return to the College to play his role.
Kobernick agrees. Besides just being fun and weird. "I think a project that involves people on all levels of the college is a morale booster," he said. "It energizes people to be working on something interesting. "
Kobernick also hopes Strange College will draw more attention to CCPTV. Students and staff produce 90 percent of the content, including the Emmy-nominated Drop the Mic, Car Corner, The Chefs Cook, Show Off -- the Student Quiz Show, Yoga and Entre Nosotros.
Besides being nominated for several Emmys, CCPTV has earned 64 awards since 2011.
"My goal is to bring something to the Philadelphia community that is unique to the College," Kobernick said. "When they are watching CCPTV, people are watching what they can only get here. When we do this, with all these people, what we're delivering to the community is us. The cool us."