Posted October 25, 2012

Student-produced television series shows that learning transcends the classroom

Courtesy Quarter Life Crisis
The cast of "Quarter Life Crisis" on location at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Nearly 200 people packed the Pearl Theater on Thursday, Oct. 18, for the red carpet premiere of “Quarter Life Crisis,” a new student-produced television series that portrays college students trying to find their places in the world through their experiences in and beyond the classroom.

Created by Temple juniors Michael Busza and Lauren Pokedoff, the series follows an eclectic group of college students who are forced to take on the role of teacher when they discover their professor will not be showing up for class. Instead of leaving, the eight students decide they will each take turns teaching the class.

An assignment from the first student-professor sends the students in pairs to their favorite spots around the city. By telling the story from familiar settings such as Rittenhouse Square and the Philadelphia Art Museum, the creators hope to show that true learning can transcend the traditional classroom setting.

The show’s characters are built on exaggerated stereotypes: there’s the hipster, the jock, the perfectionist and the artist, among others. But as they interact at different locations, the characters reveal aspects of their personalities that don’t fit with their prescribed stereotype.

In that way, the show’s producers hope to challenge viewers’ perceptions and demonstrate that such generalizations are “avoidable social constructs.”

“We wanted to make a statement that you can learn from anybody,” said Pokedoff. “Education is what each person makes of it, and often it’s life that provides the real learning experience.”

According to Busza and Pokedoff, figuring out how to create a television show was a learning experience in itself. They came up with the concept last year while on a service trip to West Virginia. Their vision continued to take shape even as production got underway.

“When we first started a year ago, we were sitting in Mike’s bedroom with a low-budget college production,” said Pokedoff. “But in the process of producing the series, we have refined our purpose and direction for the show.”

The pair got a major boost from $1,500 in funding provided by Temple’s television station, TUTV, as well as independent donations and ad sales. In addition, last year Busza won the Lew Klein Excellence in Media Scholarship, which brought an additional $2,500 to support the production of the pilot.

The pair held casting calls for the characters over the winter and filmed throughout the spring and summer. Now, after a year of hard work, they’re gearing up for the show’s fall premiere.

The pilot episode is set to air in November on TUTV, which is carried on Comcast channel 50 and Verizon channel 45. The pilot, as well as all the “Quarter Life Crisis” webisodes, are available at the show’s official website and YouTube channel.

While cast members and guests were invited to view “Quarter Life Crisis” in its entirety at the premiere, Pokedoff and Busza plan to release the hour-long episode in 10-minute segments to the public over the coming weeks.

“One of our ultimate goals is to get students from other universities and colleges to watch too,” said Pokedoff.

Heather Polchin, a recent graduate of Temple’s College of Liberal Arts and one of the characters on the show, said that she is optimistic about its success among students.

“The show deals with issues facing a lot of college students today — situations that any 20-something can relate to,” she said. “And the fact that college students were involved both behind the scenes and in front of the camera, I think speaks to its authenticity as a production.”