How One UCLA Class Created an Entire TV Pilot
The first of its kind, doubleblind is a pilot conceptualized and filmed by a collective of students at UCLA's School of Theatre, Film and Television.
Marcela Santibanez-Gomez has lived in the U.S. for less than a year. In that time, she's already co-produced her first TV pilot, doubleblind, a sci-fi thriller. But this pilot isn't for a network -- or even cable -- and Santibanez-Gomez didn't do it alone.
Instead, doubleblind is a pilot for UCLA's first-ever Advanced Dramatic Television Workshop. In the workshop, 47 students worked together on doubleblind over the course of 37 weeks. The course is an antidote to a typical film school curriculum that too often focuses on individual cinematic vision versus the more collaborative world of TV development.
Spearheaded by Rod Holcomb, a TV director who has directed episodes of ER and Elementary in the past, and Beau Marks, a feature film producer, the final version of the pilot will screen at UCLA's 22nd annual film festival on Wednesday, June 12. How the pilot is received will likely have a huge impact on the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television curriculum.
The pilot was shot entirely on UCLA's campus and involved students studying everything from production design to writing.
UCLA is "branding a television discipline more than any other school in the world," according to Holcomb. The workshop was designed as a complement to the existing UCLA/TFT curriculum, not a replacement, and as a way for Holcomb to express the kind of work he does in a hands-on way.
"Television is so quick, and yet you have to be as brilliant," Holcomb said of the medium's difference from film. "And the idea of collaboration, of all departments working together for the same piece of art, was essential [during this course]."
Unlike when student filmmakers have to go find collaborators for their solo projects, this team worked together from the outset. Students studying everything from directing to costume design to cinematography had the chance to join the course.
"So this seemed like a great way to meet the people at school that we never get the chance to work with," said Catherine Dewar, a second year graduate student and the director of the show's third act.
That collaboration was also a big draw for Santibanez-Gomez, who produced the pilot's third act (out of five total). "We all collaborated in the production of the other acts, too," she notes.
Joint meetings with all the students helped keep the acts cohesive despite five different creative teams taking on each segment.
"We all worked together to create one style that would encompass all of our hopes for the show, and the best way to realize that," Dewar said.
doubleblind, written by graduate students A.J. Marchisello and Teresa Sullivan, is a thriller about six graduate students taking part in a social experiment that takes a sci-fi twist. Holcomb said the decision to do a thriller "had a lot more challenges" than a more straightforward script would, adding to the gratification level.
While the workshop took place over three quarters, the filming itself was tight -- six weekends, with each act being allowed three days and 12 hours each day. No overtime was permitted. "We really spoke about discipline on the set," Holcomb said.
The workshop looked so professional that according to Holcomb, when filming outside one of UCLA's library, the students were mistaken for a professional set.
Though the pilot has yet to debut, the professionalism and collaboration of the workshop is a clear sign of a successful program -- and as such, Holcomb said, UCLA is likely to offer the course once again. Should the university do so, a familiar face to the program said she'd love to be one of the first in line to sign up.
"If I had the chance, I wouldn't think about it," Santibanez-Gomez said. "I would do it again for sure."
Check out an exclusive teaser trailer for doubleblind below:
doubleblind will debut at the 22nd Annual UCLA Film Festival on Weds., June 12. For more information, visit the festival's website: legacy.tft.ucla.edu/festival.
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