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Allston Christmas: the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Tonight’s Cinematheque brings web series’ producers to campus

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Each year on September 1, departing renters fill the sidewalks of Allston with unwanted couches, tables, kitchenware, and clothes. Right behind them are waves of new tenants just in time to wade through the bounty before the arrival of the garbage trucks. The yearly ritual is known as Allston Christmas.

The annual event is now the backdrop of a comic anthology web series created by Jared Vincenti (COM’10), Kenice Mobley (COM’10), and Melissa Walker (CFA’10), who met while Vincenti and Mobley were students in the College of Communication MFA film and television studies program and Walker was studying in the College of Fine Arts theater arts program. Titled Allston Xmas, the 12-episode series features interconnected stories about young people juggling friendships, relationships, and moving on Boston’s most congested traffic day. When it was released online last September, the Boston Herald found it “equally sweet, sad, and hilarious.”

Tonight, series’ director and writer Vincenti will be on campus to screen and discuss Allston Xmas alongside Mobley, a producer and writer on the series, and Walker, a producer, casting director, and actress. The screening is part of the Cinematheque series, a COM program that brings filmmakers to campus to screen and discuss their work.

Vincenti got the idea for Allston Xmas while he was in the midst of a miserable move himself two years ago. “I ended up going through the five stages of moving—nostalgia, frustration, more frustration, despair, and finally, nesting,” he says. “I was with friends who had worked on my first movie (Day of Youth), and we joked about making a movie about moving, and the idea clicked. Going to BU, I realized that moving is such a traumatic experience, and Allston Christmas is like the festival of moving.”

With its 40-person team of writers, videographers, and actors, Vincenti’s project began to take shape. The group decided to structure it as an anthology film, similar to Night on Earth, which contains a series of short films and stars Oscar winner Roberto Benigni. It being 2013, the team realized an anthology series could instead be shown as a web series. The idea of producing a dozen episodes was inspired by the 12 Days of Christmas.

Episodes range from “Take Your Shit”—about unwanted subletters finally leaving—to “Too Old for Allston”—an episode exploring the moment you know it’s time to move on and leave Allston behind.

To fund the production, the team started a Kickstarter campaign, with a goal of $6,000, which was exceeded by more than $600. The campaign earned them a lot of press as well and donations from the likes of Linda Pizzuti, the wife of Red Sox owner John Henry (Hon.’05). The financial contributions were “much appreciated,” Vincenti says, as the budget was tight (everyone on the film worked for free). “The Kickstarter money went into what you see on screen and for feeding our cast and crew.”

Writers worked on the storyline for nine months. Filming began, appropriately enough, on September 1, 2013. Shooting on the busiest day in Allston was made easier because many people in the neighborhood had heard about the Kickstarter campaign and were glad to cooperate with the crew.

Vincenti’s favorite find—a once-live Christmas tree that someone had kept in their apartment for nine months until it was “tinder”—made it into one of the episodes. “That’s Allston to me,” he says, “Plan to be homey and set up a Christmas tree, but then let it stand dead for months.”

Filming continued during the fall, with postproduction taking 10 months. The series was released just before the Labor Day move-in this past September with a launch party at Great Scott and write-ups in the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, and Boston Magazine. Mobley says that they created a promotion plan for the series before it was even finished. “As a group, we sat down and discussed what audience we wanted to appeal to, and went after press outlets that appealed to those groups,” she says. “We formed connections before shooting, so we knew who to talk to and we understood their timelines before we released the project.”

It also helped that the web series’ release coincided with this year’s move-in. “Everyone who saw it wanted to share their own horror stories,” Vincenti says. Looking back, he admits there were many “unique challenges” in filming during Allston’s busiest day. His only rule for shooting his next film, he says, is that it “won’t be during moving day.”

Jared Vincenti, Kenice Mobley, and Melissa Walker speak and screen their web series Allston Xmas tonight, Friday, January 30, at 7 p.m., at the College of Communication, Room 101, 640 Commonwealth Ave. The event, part of the BU Cinematheque series, is free and open to the public.

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Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

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