As the old TV tagline goes, “there are eight million stories in the naked city.” Boise State’s Narrative Television Initiative (NTVI) in the Department of Theatre, Film and Creative Writing, has told two of them so far.
Through the course of the four-semester program, students work with professionals in the field to write, film, produce and market an original television series from start to finish. They will premiere their second series, “Lucky Us,” at 7 p.m. March 2 at the Egyptian Theater in downtown Boise. The screening of three half-hour episodes is free and open to the public.
“Lucky Us” tells the story of Ava Ellis, a woman down on her luck. One day, Ava finds a lottery ticket that a friend has accidentally left behind. Turns out it’s a winning ticket. Ava has to decide whether to come clean, or keep the money to help her own struggling family. The shoot took place in May 2019 at sites around Boise, including schools and the Westside Drive-In. Professor Rulon Wood, an executive producer on the series, estimates that around 75 students worked on the project from beginning to end.
This screening represents the second full series created by the NTVI. The initiative screened its first, “And Beyond,” at the Egyptian in the spring of 2018. The initiative is still true to its original purpose, said Wood, replicating the experiences students would have in the real world working on a television show. Students work with and learn from local professionals, including actors, photographers, lighting experts and others.
“We are still in a golden age of television. The more experience we can give students the better. We see this as the crown jewel of their experience,” said Wood.
Senior Matt Dominick, a Boise native, will graduate this spring with a bachelor’s in creative writing – one of the first 20 students to join the new major. Dominick brought his experience working on short films, directing skits at Boise High and acting on local stages to NTVI. He was part of the writing team for “Lucky Us” and directed episode two. The experience, he said, helped him get over his own ego.
“In directing, you realize it’s not all about you. You learn when to step back and realize the merits of someone else’s idea, to shoot for the overall good rather than your own,” he said.
After graduation, he plans to apply to creative writing master’s programs and continue his life in the arts. He’s looking forward to the “Lucky Us” debut on March 2, when he’ll get to see the full, polished series from start to finish.
“It is always a special thing to see something you helped create. This is one version of getting published, like a book coming to life,” said Dominick.
Meet NTVI alumna Estefany Vega
Estefany Vega, an “And Beyond” alumna, is working as a production assistant on the FOX network series “Deputy.” Vega grew up in Burley and graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in communication, with an emphasis in media production, as well as certificates in digital and media studies, and leadership and human relations.
She told us more about her work on the premiere NTVI project and how that led to what she’s doing now:
Q.: What was your involvement with the first NTVI project?
E.V.: I took on the role of producer, which was a nice way to learn through practice because ultimately that is what I strive to become. My focus in the class was more on the pre-production and production stages. I helped in coordinating logistic planning and developing a shooting schedule for our show, “And Beyond.” I was also a part of a smaller team that assisted in creating a budget and allocating funds to the other departments. We held weekly production meetings to set and make decisions on cast, locations and any other questions that came up. During our shoot I was on set everyday to prep the following day’s schedule. It was great practice for the ‘real’ world. Now, actually experiencing professional productions I can say we ran things at Boise State like a professional set.
Q.: What are you working on now?
E.V.: I was in Los Angeles the past two years occasionally working on productions but mainly learning about other stages of production and the business. I was able to land an internship with The Television Academy Foundation (the group that produces the Emmys) which gave me my first experience working on a professional set. I was fortunate to be called to Boston to work on a feature film in 2018 and I’m currently in Albuquerque, New Mexico, working on “Deputy,” a FOX Network television show. I am working in the assistant directors department as a basecamp production assistant. My tasks normally involve getting cast ready as they arrive, overseeing any changes with cast, continuously updating our staff on set and lots of paperwork.
Q.: How did your time at Boise State lead to what you’re doing now?
E.V.: Although I have wanted to become a producer since I was 15, I never thought I would get the opportunity to actually make it happen. Thanks to the encouragement of some amazing professors/instructors, I was able to experience production first-hand at Boise State. I was able to take something from all of my undergraduate courses and apply that to the work I am doing now – mainly because of the hands-on experience. There are countless other things that Boise State gave me to get me here today but I think the biggest one was a support system that guided me and encouraged me to take a leap of faith.
– Story by Anna Webb