‘Sitcom boot camp’ putting UNM film students to the test

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A University of New Mexico alumni making it big in Hollywood is bringing his talents right back to the school. For the past six weeks, UNM film students have dove into scriptwriting with the help of producer, director, and writer Brian Levant, and now, they’re ready to debut it for the public.

“When I started at UNM, there was no film department. There was no media arts. There was one history class and one basic production class,” said Levant. “Now, it has grown into an entire school.”

Levant is a former Lobo who graduated from the university in the 1970s. He took his talents to Hollywood on productions like “Happy Days”, “Mork and Mindy” and “The Flintstones”. Now, he’s bringing his film experience back to UNM for a sitcom boot camp.

“We founded the sitcom boot camp, where, in 40 hours of class time, a dozen students and I create, develop and write, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite and rewrite an original half-hour network-style pilot,” said Levant. “With the industry so present in Albuquerque, it’s great to be able to provide people an opportunity to get to the next level and do it here.”

In this case, the show is Showdown in Lobo Village. It’s a script about a group of roommates with a complicated history. With a wealth of knowledge in the sitcom world, Levant hopes to teach students how to create memorable characters and make content they can use to break into the biz.

“We’re trying to teach people how to create memorable characters, work on story and scene structure, and writing intelligent, funny dialogue, so that they can create a spec work or today, just make your own film, make your own calling card for Hollywood,” said Levant. “But hopefully, they will do so with more tools than they entered this room with.”

James Stone, chair of the UNM film department, acknowledges the opportunities available locally as the state’s film industry grows. He says it’s also great to have successful alumni come back to help fellow Lobos.

“We are producing students who really want to be part of that. They don’t necessarily want to go to New York, they don’t necessarily want to go to L.A. They want to do what they love to do here in New Mexico,” said Stone. “He’s had a huge influence, I think, in the industry and upon our students, so we love to have him back. He’s always full of enthusiasm.”

The dozen or so students in the six-week boot camp are soaking up every bit of it. Sophomore Trinity Leonard is excited to learn from the professionals.

“Having him been actually out in Hollywood which is where I want to end up, is really cool,” said Leonard.

Josh Thompson is a junior in film. He says the collaborative class is making him a better writer.

“It’s a different environment when you’re writing with other people because it feels a bit easier,” said Thompson. “There’s different perspectives that come to the table that makes writing it just a little smoother.”

As for Levant, he says there is a core to the sitcom boot camp, back for its third year at UNM.

“A lot of fundamentals,” said Levant, “but a lot of fun, as well.”

Levant says he hopes as the university’s production classes grow, they will be able to eventually do fully-filmed half-hour productions of the scripts produced in the sitcom boot camp.

The sitcom boot camp students are holding only one performance of Showdown in Lobo Village in front of a live audience. You can catch it Thursday evening at 7 p.m. at the Elizabeth Waters Center for Dance in the Carlisle Gym on the main campus. Admission to the performance is free.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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