Groningen Telefiction Initiative presents Scholarshop Small Screen Series\\\\\\//////

Scholarshop Small Screen Series is a non-commercial non-profit online televisual documentary conceived as a project of personal interest in dealing with subjects surrounding the Humanities, more specifically in the domain of arts studies. In this first episode installment, the series tackles a broad question of the so-called ‘crisis in the Humanities’ by conversing with a prolific Humanities scholar Prof. Dr. Barend van Heusden from the Arts, Culture and Media Department of the University of Groningen to discuss what the crisis is really about. Or simply to examine whether there is such a ‘crisis’ and what the remedies are for overcoming it.

|Scholarshop Small Screen Series| Produced by:

Ari Ernesto Purnama//Direction+Script+Camera+Editing

Vincent Ros//Camera

Gert Jan Harkema//Boom Operator

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ScholarshopSmallScreenSeries//Episode 1//Is there a Crisis in the Humanities?//A Talk with Barend van Heusden//Part 1

ScholarshopSmallScreenSeries//Episode 1//Is there a Crisis in the Humanities?//A Talk with Barend van Heusden//Part 2

ScholarshopSmallScreenSeries//Episode 1//Is there a Crisis in the Humanities?//A Talk with Barend van Heusden//Part 3

ScholarshopSmallScreenSeries//Episode 1//Is there a Crisis in the Humanities?//A Talk with Barend van Heusden//Part 4

The Walking Dead: Zombies in Transmedia Storytelling Age

Following the pervasiveness of transmedia storytelling trend in this age of media convergence, Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) transforms Robert Kirkman’s much appraised comic book series The Walking Dead into a long form serialized television fiction, thus perhaps expands this re-telling of the original story material to a more than just an adaptation. So far, only four episodes have been brought out; nevertheless, a lot of talk has been circulating within the popular press and the grapevines of television aficionados about this revamped zombie narrative. Here is a review of the three episodes by our friend, Vladka Maggie Bačová. Maggie is a student of the Arts, Culture and Media program of the University of Groningen with specialization in theater and film.

 

The laying potential – The walking zombies – The running profit

A Review of The Walking Dead: 3 episodes so far

By Vladka Maggie Bačová

Filmmakers do not know what next to shoot. So many sequels and remakes appeared that if we should count the original ideas, it will not take so much effort. Recently, even comic books as film source explore its end – when Kick-Ass (Matthew Vaughn, 2010) launched onto the cinemas, film critics said it is almost at the bottom of what we could still use from comic genre. But then Frank Darabont came and showed us that there is still something to work on. Yes, I am talking about The Walking Dead (Frank Darabont, AMC, 2010—present ). I did not read the comic book series which the story is based on, unfortunately, but I have seen so many zombie movies in my life, that I feel adequate to make some comments on this serial. Until now, only three episodes have been made, the fourth one is planned on the 21st of November.

The pilot “Days Gone Bye” introduces us to the main character, the policeman Rick, who wakes up from a coma in the hospital and finds out that the world is occupied by zombies – the walking dead – and there are only a few “normal” people left.  Of course, the plot is classical; we will not see anything new and shocking. Darabont is following the simple schema, clichés (little zombie girl, a father and a son survived, the main character is going to find his family, because he does not believe that they are dead). On the other hand, I have to say that this episode shows how well made this series is. Zombies are made more realistic, camerawork is done highly professionally, actors act more believable. The plotline of the son and the father is spiced up by their zombie mother/wife; the scenes when the father/husband is trying to shoot his ‘zombied-up’ wife is one of the bests.

Second episode, “Guts”, is the actionist. Rick is coming to a big city, we are the witnesses of great fights and our eyes are amazed with huge amount of great created zombies. In this episode Rick meets a group of living people, so we could start to enjoy relationships, which are giving more thrills to the action. In my opinion, this episode is the worst, in spite of what I mentioned before. The most of this hour I could not stop comparing it with The Dawn of the Dead (Zack Snyder, 2004) because of the big store and the relations between people closed together, facing danger. I do not have to add, that The Walking Dead went not so well in this comparison. Also some logical mistakes appeared (the scenes with Rick under the tank, wanting to commit the suicide while exploring the door to escape).

The third episode, “Tell It to the Frogs”, is the best one. The director is focused on human relationships more than on simple killing; he is expressing shifts in behavior and character, people pushed by circumstances, desperation, bravery, cowardice, love, hatred. Zombies are used just to stress the whole situation and we can identify ourselves to the main characters, because they are not just zombie killers any more. To sum up, the atmosphere which the show creator made in this series is oppressive, heavy and deadly. I can say I have not seen such well made serial for a long time, especially when it’s based on comic books and about zombies. If they did not use so many typical scenes and think about logic a little bit more, I could say it was almost perfect. I would inscribe this serial with the potential of a movie. I cannot wait for the next episode.

 

NORTH: Groningen’s Own Student-Produced Television Series

It’s really energizing to see creative output coming from this northernmost city in the Netherlands that sometimes seems floating under-the-radar when it comes to moving-image fiction production. On the contrary, there’s an abundance of creative forces producing independent works that are worthy of attention and critical assessment. If not, at least deserved crucial support from the film/TV enthusiasts out here. North is an exemplary of this. An ambitious project of putting television series that centers on the international student life here in Groningen. So far there are two full length episodes that are waiting to be launched once the entirety of the season is produced. I hope we shall be able to witness this sooner rather than later. Here is the plotline as it’s described by the production house of the series, Stranger Things Have Happened. Below that is a short interview I made with the man behind this project, Thomas Mook.

North follows a group of international students in the city of Groningen as they struggle against the half Irish, half Scottish mob boss McSeamus, all the while trying to survive university, make friends, and experience all that student life has to offer. There’s laughter, there’s tears, there’s bad mustaches and Spanish lovers, there’s four leaf clovers and two faced liars. But most of all, there’s friendship and a shared international grudge against living in a city where no one can pronounce its name. [http://strangerthings.nl/north/]

 

First of all, as generic as this may sound in an interview, but do you mind telling me a little bit about yourself and your background?

I was born in Groningen, and I’ve been active in the theatre scene for about a decade. For the past four years, I’ve been involved with English theatre, specifically. In late 2009, I wrote and directed a play called “Our Father.” By then, I was a member of Stranger Things Have Happened and had established enough contacts to start a film project.

 

Could you explain to me what Stranger Things Have Happened is? Is this a production house that you run at the moment or more of a collective unit in producing moving image fiction in Groningen?

Stranger Things Have Happened functions as the production house for North, but it is generally a collective of people who write, direct and perform in the English theatre and improv comedy. It was founded in the summer of 2009 and has found success with its weekly and monthly improv comedy shows. This success was partly what has helped me attracted the right people to the series.


Now, how did this idea to produce North come about?  And why television series? Specifically for Groningen context, do you think Groningen is pretty quiet when it comes to projects such as this one?

I’ve always had a fascination for international students, and those who come to Groningen specifically. We’re seen by the west* as a kind of ‘outback’ – almost like a quiet frontier town. That, to me, was an interesting backdrop for a group of people from various cultural backgrounds. I felt that making a short film wouldn’t do the scope of the story justice, so a mini series was decided on. The only way you can pull off something as ambitious as ‘North’ is by surrounding yourself with the right people, and the USVA Film Collective and Stranger Things came together in a wonderful way.

[*Editor’s note: West as in Western region/cities of the Netherlands, in case for you international readers who are not familiar with this 🙂 ]

 

Could you elaborate how the process of the making of North unfolds? Technical details will be valuable here [e.g. is it shot in a single-camera system or two-camera? Film or all digital? And what software did you guys use for non-linear editing?

It’s a single-camera show, shot digitally and in High Definition. Technically, for a show of our budget, we were pretty blessed with dollies and cranes. Jeroen Meijer, our director of photography, is one of those wonderful film nuts who tinkers and builds his own equipments. He practically had a whole film studio in his suitcases. For post production, we had access to Final Cut Pro. Our music is put together on a Mac Pro workstation with Pro Tools. I prefer the whole workflow to be OS X based, but that’s a personal choice, and the team that works along with me feels the same way.

 

How much time did you guys need for pre-production, production to editing and finalizing the whole two episodes, and most importantly how will the series be launched? Is it going to be broadcast on local or regional television networks?

We started pre-production in January 2009, and filmed for two weeks in July. Post production and editing is scheduled to be completed this December. All in all, it took us one year to go from absolutely nothing to having two full length television episodes. I suspect that future episodes can be put together in a fraction of that timeframe, now that we have our team together and we’re a little bit more settled into the routine of doing television. We have contacts with a regional network, and the plan is to launch North on television, but since no contract has been signed yet I prefer not to comment. We’re also looking to expand and see if other local stations are interested, and if we can get coverage at film festivals.

 

As far as the narrative goes, what makes North interesting and different than any other student-theme fiction, be it a feature film or TV series for that matter? What kind of responses do you anticipate from the viewers? And if you are concerned at all if the show will be critically received?

The narrative frequently switches between comedy and more dramatic moments, and I like to think it does so successfully. It borrows a lot from typical Stranger Things humor, and intercuts with flashbacks, imaginary sequences, and the likes. North is a little strange in a good way, and I don’t think you can compare it with anything that’s on the market right now. It’s also shot beautifully – in an early meeting with my director of photography, we decided that the extra work that would go into making this a truly filmic experience would be worth it. We shoot digitally, but other than that I like to think we have a pretty classical style – depth of field adaptors, and so on. To realize we pulled that off with our budget on that time limit is pretty cool, and it’s a testimony to the talent of our film crew, most of which came from the USVA Film Collective. Obviously, I hope the series will be successful. I like to think the audience will come to identify with our characters and care for them even while they laugh with or at them: I think North has a lot of heart, and that’s infectious.

I guess for the last question, what is the next plan for North or Stranger Things Have Happened in general? Any more potential projects? And what do you have to see happening in Groningen as far as film or television culture is concerned?

Aside from our many improv comedy shows, we’ve had several theatre plays under our belt. This December, we’re performing “Osama The Hero” in the OUT Theatre, which is an existing play written by Dennis Kelly. As for North, we’re gearing up to acquire sponsors for our new episodes, which we’re looking to shoot next year. Any more information can be found on http://www.strangerthings.nl!

As for the film and television culture in Groningen, and this may be a very biased opinion, but keep a close watch on the student community. Groups like the USVA Film Collective are coming out with material that’s more original and daring than what you can often find on regional TV right now, and that’s a good thing. You can find screenings of these projects at Vera, Images or USVA. Hopefully they’re a sign of good things to come!

Thank you for doing the interview and success to Stranger Things Have Happened!

Thank you for the interview!

 

Interview by Ari Ernesto Purnama.

Photo credits: North/Stranger Things Have Happened.

 

[Check out their website as well as their North teaser below:

http://www.strangerthings.nl/north; http://www.facebook.com/northseries]