Senior communications major Michael Busza has some words of wisdom to impart as a convocation speaker for the School of Media and Communication: do your homework. It might just earn you an Emmy nomination.
“I’m just so over the moon,” Busza said. “It’s crazy to think that our gay little TV show could actually be making a difference somewhere.”
That “gay little TV show” is called “One of the Guys,” a six-part web series that depicts the fictional shenanigans of three gay friends and their straight roommate. Created and directed by Busza, the show earned a 2013 Mid-Atlantic Emmy nomination in College/University Production Long-Form Fiction for its third episode, and it all started as part of a class project.
Kristine Trever Weatherston, assistant professor for the media studies and production department, gave an assignment that sparked the start of the exciting road to an Emmy nomination.
“I teach a class where students get to write, produce and direct their own pilots,” Weatherston said. “Last fall, Busza pitched his show and assembled a team to produce the first episode. He approached me to help turn the show into a series. I thought the show was fabulous, so I said yes and became their executive producer.”
Busza worked alongside two student producers in an effort to establish stability for the show and work on casting and filming the production.
“When we first started, I was just looking to get an A,” student producer Jen Parmer, a 2013 media studies and production graduate, said. “I never realized how big it would become and how much work it would require.”
Parmer was not alone in her initial stance. Senior film and media arts major Jaime Sweet, her fellow student producer, was also surprised by the intensity of her commitment to the web series.
“I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into,” Sweet said. “I had to take on many roles, from keeping track of our budget to heating up the food Mrs. Busza would make us all for dinner.”
In order to produce beyond the dwindling cash availability after the first episode, the cast and crew developed a Kickstarter campaign to raise money through pledges. Within a day, their goal of $1,000 had been surpassed, and it went on to double during the following two weeks, thanks to motivated friends and faculty.
“Busza is a former student of mine,” Jeffrey Boles, another executive producer and assistant professor in the legal studies department at the Fox School of Business, said. “I learned about his Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the show and contributed financially. As a prize, I earned a guest spot in one episode.”
With the help of 58 assorted financial backers, “One of the Guys” was able to fully commit to a six-part series. The show became a certified success.
“One time, this adorable old lady stopped me on the street,” junior theatre major Matt McWilliams said. “She told me I was her favorite character and I was thinking, ‘How did you possibly find out about us?’”
McWilliams, who portrayed the character Alex, said that he could never have anticipated the recognition he and the show’s cast received. His fellow actor Stephen Fala, a 2013 theatre graduate who played the character Madison in the series, said he was also surprised.
“Stereotypical bros would come up to us in the gym and tell us they love the show,” Fala said. “It’s exciting to know that our audience reached beyond the gay community.”
The overall message of “One of the Guys” has been fueled by the intentions of the cast and crew to create a series that speaks to everyone. Above all, the show has been praised for starting the conversation about the true representation of gay characters in the media.
“Sure, there [are] gay characters on TV, but you never really see honest, straightforward interactions,” McWilliams said. “The truth of it is, gay people have straight friends. There’s a very interesting dynamic there and our show normalizes those relationships.”
This vision of normalcy came from Busza’s personal feelings of neglect and lack of understanding.
“As a gay man, I frequently feel underrepresented or misrepresented by the media,” Busza said. “I really wanted to show the different facets of gay culture that exist in real life. It became increasingly important for me to essentially eliminate sexual orientation as a primary defining characteristic.”
Senior music theory and theatre double major Aaron Palmer, who plays Jonathan in the show, said that he appreciated the capacity for outreach that was ultimately one of the defining aspects of “One of the Guys.”
“It isn’t only relatable to the LGBT community,” Palmer said. “Everyone has dealt with feeling like an outsider at some point in their life and had to adjust, compromise and stand their ground to fit in.”
Win or lose, the Emmy nomination has been a dream come true for the Temple students and faculty involved.
“Most graduating seniors ask themselves, ‘Did I do enough?’” Fala said. “And you know what? I actually did. I have something to be proud of.”
The experience brought staff and students together in a unique partnership. The bond established by creating the web series was clear in the excitement that staff producers Weatherston and Boles expressed about the nomination.
“It’s the greatest honor in the world to see my students’ work come back with accolades and awards,” Weatherston said. “It validates every life decision that I’ve made to get me here as a professor.”
With the final two episodes shot this summer and premiering in the fall, Busza sees no possibility of a second season. Instead, he is content with the experiences that the past year has granted him and the lessons he has learned.
“If you have something important and honest to say, people will value that and listen to you,” Busza said. “If you find something you care enough about to lose sleep over or spend every waking moment on, you can do anything. You’d be surprised how far you can get on nothing but passion and pure will. And a lot of coffee.”
Jessica Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org