Crazy, unexpected and witty: This is how executive producer Olivia Cerio describes ChomPics’ most recent web series, “Foundations of Crime Solving.”
Since 2013, ChomPics Productions has dazzled Gainesville’s entertainment community with its original comedic web series, which are written, developed, shot and edited entirely by students. From “Stage Fright: Lucifer is Risen!” to “Homeless Week: Code Ratatouille,” the company strives to make innovative and intriguing content unlike any other.
With Fall semester right around the corner, students at ChomPics are preparing for the writing and pre-production stages for their five-episode web series, with each episode running roughly 10 minutes long.
Cerio, a 21-year-old telecommunications senior with a focus in film and TV production, has worked at ChomPics since the Fall of her sophomore year. Taking inspiration from female trailblazers in cinema like Patty Jenkins and Kathleen Kennedy, her goal for ChomPics this year is to continue establishing an authentic and welcoming environment for all crew members.
“The most important thing for us is that we're creating a collaborative environment on campus where people can come and be really excited about making a project with other people,” she said. “We want to give everybody as close to a Hollywood experience as we can from Gainesville.”
At ChomPics, positions range from director, script supervisor and director of cinematography to prop master, location manager and costume coordinator. The web series generally falls into the comedy genre, with the exception of two past drama series, Bump and Mute, according to Cerio.
Jake Fretwell, a 19-year-old telecommunications freshman, joined ChomPics during Spring 2021 as an editor. This Fall, Fretwell will be an associate producer for editing in the post-production stages of the web series.
He said working with Cerio, the director of the “Foundations of Crime Solving” episode he edited, influenced his career experience.
“We went through scene by scene and shot by shot, and it was really helpful because I was able to use her as a resource and bounce ideas off of her,” he said. “We were able to make something that I'm proud of and something I think she's proud of as well.”
Along with the web series, ChomPics has an additional branch, Branded Content. The advertisement leg specializes in creating commercials and reels for local businesses and UF clubs, and it has made commercials for UF Board Babes, Extreme Dance, Solar Gators and weFooz. Once called the ChomPics Commercial Project, the branch used to craft creative, satirical commercials not tied to any real products or services, but transitioned to making actual commercials as Branded content in 2019.
“It builds a lot of our members who maybe don't want to go into the creative side of the industry but want to learn how to build documentary skills or how to shoot on location versus a controlled set,” Cerio said. “We want to make sure that we're serving both parties of the telecommunications major.”
Unlike other student-run film clubs she has seen that have a single position for each job, Callie Carpinteri, a 20-year-old telecommunications and English junior, said ChomPics has teams of people working on different aspects of its web series.
Carpinteri started as a writer for ChomPics her freshman year and was recently promoted to associate producer in the writer’s room for this Fall semester. She believes ChomPics stands out from other student-run production companies because it creates a role for everyone.
“Anybody who wants to get involved can and would always feel welcome,” she said. “You’re going to really have that family aspect where, even if it's your first time on set, people want to get to know you, people want to help you.”
This past year, ChomPics produced its web series and commercials with a skeleton crew, which is the minimum number of people needed to generate content. Only essential positions, such as director, boom operator, executive and associate producers, were filled. Not including actors, 12 people were on set during pre-production and around 10 to 15 people during post-production. All crew members were required to test negative regularly for COVID-19, wear masks and socially distance between takes.
While COVID-19 precautions changed the atmosphere of ChomPics, Carpinteri said it helped students bond with one another.
“Usually we try to keep our sets open for people to come work on them and just observe, but because of COVID, we had to limit it,” she said. “With everyone getting tested and working together, it did feel a lot closer, and everybody got to do a little bit more than usual because we were so small.”
Carpinteri looks forward to returning to in-person meetings and having more people join ChomPics. She said while the production company gets more creative each year, it holds onto the intentions set out by previous members.
“We definitely have a sort of process on the order of things, but I think with each year we adapt to be different, better, getting more efficient and letting more people come,” she said. “We’re open to having new ideas as we see fit while keeping the same goals that the original people had.”
ChomPics’ past web series and commercials can be found on its YouTube channel. More information about its upcoming projects can be found on its Facebook page.
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