So now that the production for episodes 1 and 2 of “Off University” has wrapped and episode 3 production is rapidly approaching, Rene Ciarmataro, the co-head writer of the first episode, is looking back on her experience! In our next guess post for the blog, check out what Rene has to say:
As a freshman at UF, I had no idea what I wanted to do or who I wanted to eventually be in life. I was an industrial systems engineering major for a semester before I realized it wasn’t the right track for me. In the spring of 2013, I changed my major to Telecommunication with a track in production.
I quickly realized that the college focused A LOT on news; everyone I met had their hearts set on reporting on-screen for a station, and I was constantly urged to get involved in WUFT. Though I was willing to push forward in that direction, I knew it wasn’t quite what I wanted to do. My interests had always been writing creative stories, and so focusing solely on news seemed bland to me. So instead of getting involved, I tuned out. I went to class and back to my dorm, every single day, the way I expect plenty of freshmen do. I couldn’t understand why, in a school of over 30,000 students, I couldn’t find a group that I could really connect with.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I started branching out. I got involved in sketch comedy, which I’ve always dreamed of doing, and started meeting some like-minded people. Then one day, while browsing through Facebook, I saw an event titled “TV/Film Writing and Producing Project” that was being hosted through NBS. Luckily for me I was smart enough to go to the meeting. I remember seeing the 90+ people in attendance and thinking “Wow, there are actual, living people who want to get involved with television, and they go to UF. They exist.” It was as if someone brave was willing to build this production group and, like the saying, the people came. The people surged.
I signed up to be a part of the writing team and, as a second option, the art direction team. Later I got an email saying I’d be one of the writers, and I remember being excited and a little nervous. I’d never written a full episode before and had certainly never had to show one to a group of people to be critiqued. During our first meeting, my idea got picked to be the central idea of the show, and so I was made head writer of the pilot episode. Stressed was an understatement. The other head writer and I sat down one day and created four characters. We fleshed out their likes, dislikes, relationships, hobbies, pet peeves, histories, favorite foods, bands, directors, and decorated their apartment in our minds. We threw them in a room together, and so began our script.
I’m not saying it was easy or that this just flowed perfectly out onto paper. We were on a two-week deadline to have the pilot written to begin shooting. We sat in Weimer for hours on end creating plotlines and distracting ourselves with pizza and cookies. Our first script finalized only to be thrown out two days later in a writer’s meeting. Let me tell you, throwing out a script feels like someone kidnapping your newborn baby. It hurts. But I agreed with the group and so we trekked on. We spent some 12+ hours over two days writing a second script and guzzling Starbucks to keep ourselves awake. I was sick with a cold and had to schedule time around work. And through all this, we had to be funny. And we were. We finalized the second script with the help of our writing team and had it set to begin shooting on time. We held an episode one team meeting and met some really passionate people eager to send the script through the production process. I went to auditions and had my dialogue read out loud by actors and actresses that had their hearts set on making these characters, the characters that we’d created, come to life. And it was the most fulfilling feeling in the world. Every laugh heard in that room on the third floor of Weimer Hall made those 12+ hours of writing more than worth it. Looking back, I wouldn’t have done it any differently.
The creation of Chompics and this amazing 1st show has been the greatest experience in my college life so far. Never have I been around such a large group of amazing, talented people who want nothing more than to see each other succeed. Every single person I’ve met in this journey has their own creative spark that helps this show mesh into the wonderful work that it has. We operate as a team and as a family, through the good days and the bad days. And every bit of work that I put into this is done with serious passion for writing and producing stories, and I know that everyone else feels the same way. I’ve grown such confidence in my own writing and learned more than I could ever imagine about the production process than I ever would sitting in a classroom. This experience has only further justified my dream to one day be a part of creating Television and Film. And the best part is, the writers, the technical directors, the producers, and the whole episode one team have become some of my best friends. I feel at home when I’m sitting in a writer’s meeting, discussing what characters are having for lunch or what they’re doing downtown on a Tuesday. The environment on set is like nothing I’ve seen before and I’ve fallen so in love with it. Chompics has truly made my experience at UF so much more fulfilling. If you’re thinking about joining the Chompics family, I’d say jump right into it. Join a team that you’re interested in or passionate about, and don’t look back. I promise you it will be the greatest decision you make.
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