Making the grade

(From left) Aaron Palmer, Jeff Familetti, Stephen Fala and Matt McWilliams star in “One of the Guys,” an award-nominated web series. | Courtesy ONE OF THE GUYS
(From left) Aaron Palmer, Jeff Familetti, Stephen Fala and Matt McWilliams star in “One of the Guys,” an award-nominated web series. | Courtesy ONE OF THE GUYS

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 jessicasmith@temple.edu

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Making the grade

For many students, the transition into college is not an easy task. There is so much to do and so many choices to make that some students get a little overwhelmed. Not only do students have to deal with the course workload, but they also have to adjust to their new freedom. Since there are no parents around it is up to the students to stay on top of their studies in order to receive good grades.

Planning is key.

One way to start off the semester is by organizing your coursework. Read over the syllabus and make a note of all assignments. Get a weekly planner to keep track of all assignments as they are assigned.

Once classes are underway figure out how much time you need to set aside for studying and completing homework. For some, this could mean anywhere from two to six hours per course. When working on assignments, give yourself extra time just in case something unexpected happens. Do not get in the habit of waiting around until the last minute to do your work. Get a head start and avoid procrastination.

It is important to keep up with the reading assignments and attend classes prepared. In many classes you may find that attendance is not taken on a consistent basis, nevertheless, attending classes daily is essential to avoid falling behind. Many professors expect students to keep track of and complete the readings and other assignments, often with few or no reminders.

Try to get in the habit of looking over notes directly after class if time permits. This is helpful because the information is still fresh in your mind. Try to join or start study groups whenever possible to exchange ideas. It is also good to choose a quiet place to study. Do not cram or stay up all night reviewing material; you will end up too tired in the morning to focus.

“I’ve found that making flash cards and having friends test me is a good study technique,” said sophomore Jason Reynolds.

Seek help, stat.

Students should let their teachers know when they are having problems grasping the material. The instructor’s primary job is to help the students not fail them.

“Asking questions is the key,” said junior Jamie Cusack. “I use to question everything and even though I was not doing so good in the beginning, I did complete all my assignments. I learned that getting a failing grade was better than getting a zero and not attempting the work at all. My teachers saw that I was trying and I eventually got the hang of it.”

If talking to the professor is not enough, there are other resources available. Students experiencing trouble with math or science should seek help at the Math & Science Resource Center located in Curtis Hall, Room 18. Tutors are available to assist students with a range of lower-level courses. No appointments are necessary. Students simply walk in and are seen on a first-come, first-serve basis. Sessions lasts about 20 minutes and students are welcome to stay and continue to work on assignments just in case they have some additional questions.

“Students should come in prepared to tell us the specific areas they are having trouble with,” said Janelle Hesse, one of the supervisors at MSRC. “Our tutors are like study buddies for the students. We work together to solve the problems and supplement the coursework, not do it for you.”

In addition, the MSRC computer lab in located across the hall in room 17 and students can borrow math and science books for their designated class or use calculators for 2 hours at time. Internet access is also available.

Students who need help with any type of paper should visit the Writing Center in Tuttleman Room 201. The tutors help with everything from paper revisions to citing guidelines. There are both reference and IH books available to students, as well as two computer labs. Students can only be seen twice a week by a tutor, either for a 30-minute walk-in session or a 1-hour appointment. E-mail tutoring sessions are also available but are limited to10 per semester. According to Dan Gallagher, office coordinator, “Students are only allowed to make one appointment per week, and we prefer that you do as much work on your own as possible.” If you are stuck, tutors suggest that you at least try to brainstorm some ideas or do an outline.

Remember to breathe.

Aside from studying, students need to remember to take time to relax. Too much studying can leave you feeling strained. Students feeling stressed about classes or having anxiety are more than welcome to visit Tuttleman Counseling Service located in Sullivan Hall, lower level. Private counselors are available daily between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. to speak with students about any problems they are having. All information is kept confidential.

While academics should be the main priority, students should not be completely consumed with coursework. “An ‘A’ student is well-rounded and involved in all sorts of learning at the university – not just the kind that takes place in the classroom,” said SCAT Professor Darling Wolf. “It’s a student who not only studies so he/she can do well on a test, but who understands the long-term value of learning the course material and continues to apply it after the class has ended.”

Danean Nixon can be reached at danean.nixon@temple.edu.

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