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Week of 19 May 2005· Vol. VIII, No. 30

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Sitcom produced by students to air on mtvU

By Jessica Ullian

Move over, Friends and Seinfeld: Boston University is taking on the sitcom, and giving television viewers a behind-the-scenes look from start to finish.

Next spring, mtvU will premiere a sitcom pilot created entirely by BU students along with a documentary miniseries that takes the audience through the full creative process. The collaboration between the network and the University began in January, when members of Associate Professor Paul Schneider’s Advanced Television Writing class began brainstorming and camera crews from the network began filming the process. Now, faculty from the film and television department of the College of Communication are reviewing the scripts to choose five finalists. A winner will be selected for the pilot, with preproduction to begin in the fall and students from the College of Fine Arts school of theatre arts as actors.

“This partnership with mtvU is about unlocking an educational opportunity for our students and creating an exciting and unique platform from which they can showcase their creativity and talent,” says Schneider, who proposed the idea to mtvU. “Some of the students have made pretty remarkable progress from what they started with to what they finished with.”

At the beginning of the semester Schneider, a former television director who has worked on Beverly Hills: 90210 and JAG, asked each person in his class to pitch a sitcom idea. A variety of comedic concepts have emerged: ideas included a family involved in the witness protection program, a bridal shop that sells used wedding dresses, and the day-to-day action at a campus police department. The competition was also open to students outside of Schneider’s class, and approximately two dozen scripts were submitted.

After the five finalists are chosen prior to Commencement, their scripts will be reviewed by a panel of judges, including actor Jason Alexander (CFA’81, Hon.’95), Ted Harbert, president and CEO of E! Networks, Rob Reiner, director of Sleepless in Seattle and This Is Spinal Tap, Gary Newman, president of Twentieth Century Fox Television, and Ruthanne Secunda of the Endeavor Talent Agency.

The project is sponsored by MSN Messenger, an instant-messaging computer program that will be used as a communication tool by the students. When production begins, participants will post a weekly Web log of the process on the Boston University, mtvU, and MSN Web sites.

“The moment Professor Schneider contacted us about his class,” says Ross Martin, mtvU’s head of programming, “we knew this project embodied the very premise upon which mtvU was built. We’re thrilled that, together with Boston University and MSN, mtvU is providing college students with yet another unprecedented opportunity to showcase their talent, creativity, and passion on a national scale.”


19 May 2005
Boston University
Office of University Relations