Winter 2008
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TCU Magazine "Academe"

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RTVF | Liberal Arts | Education | Object lesson | Briefs

By Allison Speer

What happens when students are set loose to create, write, direct and produce a TV show in six months? The result this year was "Fork in the Road," a television pilot birthed from the bellows of a studio in the Moudy Building.

The show unfolds the story of Audrey Sinclair, a young woman who must decide if a dysfunctional country diner has the potential to become a national chain.

The real story, however, is how several classes collaborate on such an ambitious project.

"The students accomplish the task," says Chuck LaMendola, instructor of RTVF and director of the project. "They do everything, from contracts to writing the music to working with casting agencies. It's very true to life. All the faculty does is help move the process along,"

Every other year, LaMendola and other RTVF faculty oversee a student-written and -produced project. In the past, students have created an award-winning soap opera and documentary as well as a sitcom. The process begins in the fall when faculty organize the classes that will participate - such as producing, directing, entertainment law and finance - and the script gets written. In January, the fun begins.

This year everyone from the faculty and actors to set designers had a signed contract. Casting agencies from around the Metroplex were called. Auditions were held. TCU music students submitted scores for consideration. Lines were memorized, costumes were made or purchased, hair and makeup was coiffed and applied in a flurry and before the students knew it, the red carpet rolled out and premiere night arrived. Twenty-three minutes later, the executive producer called it a wrap.

Kristin MacLaren '08, film major and co-producer of "Fork in the Road," says she learned more from the hands-on project than anything she could have absorbed from a textbook.

"There was not a lot of time, which was the real challenge," she says. "Toward the end, we had only a couple of weeks with a handful of rehearsals, then one dress rehearsal. Then coordinating everyone's time - we were all seniors and had other classes, too - and to get everyone to devote as much time as they could was challenging. But we had the chance to make mistakes, seeing it from start to finish."

MacLaren is now an intern for a film production company in Los Angeles. She shares the city with fellow Horned Frog and "Fork in the Road" executive producer Katherine Beattie '08, who hooked a plum job as a production assistant for the "Ellen" show.

It's nothing new for the RTVF department, says LaMendola, who notes that about 175 RTVF alumni over the past 14 years have taken their purple pride to Los Angeles, working in every corner of the industry, from production to videography.

"The experience for the kids is that if you're going to go out and do this (in the real world), you now know exactly what it takes to get it accomplished," he says. "The end process is not as important as the value of the education."

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