COM student sitcom goes into production
Pilot and reality show to air on mtvU next spring
What happens when a young, pampered New Yorker’s mother marries the hot dog king of the Jersey Shore? Ask Elizabeth Coopersmith (COM’05), who’s guiding the course of this fictional character’s life in her sitcom pilot Roller Palace.
Last May, Coopersmith was one of the students in the College of Communication’s Advanced Television Writing class who submitted a pilot proposal to a panel of expert judges. In August, she learned that Roller Palace was going to be produced at COM and that mtvU would document the process for a reality TV show. Now, with production about to begin, Coopersmith – who based some of the pilot on her experience as a roller-skating waitress in New Jersey – and the other students involved are learning how a show comes off the paper and onto the small screen.
“When you imagine a sitcom pilot, it’s got a $2 million budget and you can be as flamboyant as you want, but converting it into something that’s going to be produced is a different story,” Coopersmith says. “I’m really excited. It’s an interesting process.”
The judges who selected Roller Palace from among the dozens of pilots included 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.
When Coopersmith’s sitcom was chosen, she flew out to Los Angeles to meet with Harbert and a development executive at MTV. “They were really helpful and gave me advice about how to do this as a career,” she says.
Since then, she’s been writing and rewriting, working with Paul Schneider, a COM associate professor, who teaches the television writing and production workshops, to ready the script for production. The casting was completed early in the semester, and shooting is scheduled to start in early November.
Schneider will direct the show, which features a cast and crew of more than 30 students. Local professionals will come in on a temporary basis to help train students in the more technical aspects of the production. “It’s a very unusual situation here, since we’re training people at the same time they’re doing the job they’re being trained for,” Schneider says. “We basically tried to assign people to positions that they were both interested and experienced in.”
A crew from mtvU has been filming the process for a documentary miniseries, set to air next spring, and Coopersmith has been keeping a blog on MSN, a sponsor of the project. But she’s happy that she’ll remain behind the scenes for much of the process. “I just want to be a writer,” she says. “I don’t really have the desire to be seen.”