The night of John Quick and I’s “Seven Samurai” viewing stands out as a specific moment that really shaped our show, but what came after was what helped us nail that shape. While we watched the movie we brainstormed episodes. The first episode would introduce the world and Gamer’s Brigade, as well as the obnoxious villains, to follow the opening of Seven Samurai and meeting the farmers and the bandits. The next episode would be in town looking for more members, also following along with Seven Samurai. Things diverge quite a bit from Seven Samurai as the story progresses, but it was definitely a starting point.
That night we had notes for 5 or 6 episodes at least, and ideas for the rest. For instance, one idea was to have young Kyle getting ambushed in a desolate place. Snow was a possibility, but we didn’t know what those logistics would look like. We also didn’t know when would happen in the story, but the idea was there.
A few days later John presented to me an episode outline based on our notes, and we sat down and talked our way through it. Each episode had a paragraph or two describing it loosely. All twelve episodes were there and laid out and, though things were shifted as we went along, this was the first time the complete story was laid out before us. We talked about moving on to the scriptwriting phase, but decided to keep working on character development first.
We returned to Yogi’s, our place of thinking, and started working on character story arcs that could occur. Shane’s quest was to — (I can’t spoil it all for you, can I?). Every character was given a loose arc that I would work with the actors on, once we found them. We hammered out personalities as well for the characters, which the story arcs would reflect. Shane would be serious, and clearly the leader. Ryan would be loyal, but has a fairly negative disposition about things. Kyle is excited and in awe of everything that’s going on. These are just a few examples of what we came up with that night.
Also that night we went through and determined what each character’s relationship to each other would be, and what each character’s relationship to the group as a whole would be. We went through each character and described how they would act towards each other, such as Shane to Kyle, or Shane to Wild Dog, and how they felt about one another privately. This work definitely helped describe the characters to the actors later, and solidified how each script would go. All this time we were shaping the world of the show, and filling out as much detail as we could.
I will always go this route when planning a series or movie, and anyone who doesn’t want to is essentially saying “We want this to be quick, we dont care about being thorough.” It was tedious to describe all these relationships and to have the world planned out, but that groundwork meant that making decisions about characters and settings later in the process would be much easier. For instance, during one shoot I wanted the wild dog character to just laugh maniacally and walk away, but the actor pointed out that, due to the character’s background, he would be a little sad, and he was right. This planning and thought definitely shows in the final product, and it’s always (I think) obvious when the details are thought of and when they aren’t.
Anywhoo, It was around this time, I think, that the name “Student Seven” first popped up as a potential title. It might have been earlier, too. I know the title came early in the process, because we knew that we wanted it to conjure thoughts of Seven Samurai.
Now with characters, a plot, and a title, we still had some work to do. While at home visiting my family, I realized (somehow it hadn’t yet occurred to me), that we only had six main characters. If the show was going to be called “Student Seven“, and be based (however loosely) on “Seven Samurai”, then we would have to have seven students. I’d been floating an idea for a character anyway, so I just starting writing up the character known as Cym. Rather than based on a samurai, she (the first definitely female character) was going to be the awkward, timid, mousy girl who spends all of her time on the computer. I fleshed out her backstory and character arc, went over it with John, and we decided to fit her into the episodes we’d already planned out.
At this point in the process the ball was really starting to roll on pre-production, and John and I decided that we needed a producer if we were gonna transition into actual production anytime soon. We decided to ask our friend Chelsey McKrill, who at the time was producing the web series “Tycoons”, which just was released last week. I remember texting her about it during a shoot, and then John and I sat down with her and pitched the whole show to her. She quickly fell in love with the idea of doing an action web series, especially something vastly different than what other groups were doing at IU at the time, and thus we had a producer. She wanted to get the ball rolling on setting up auditions and writing scripts, and John and I agreed.
I remember having a meeting with Chelsey where we sat down with a calendar and started figuring out an overall schedule. We knew all of the locations we would need, from the episode outline, and we knew that we had a ton to film. 12 episodes at roughly 3-5 minutes an episode meant we were shooting almost an hour worth of show, or a very short feature length film. We quickly decided that trying to shoot all of it in one semester would drive us insane, so we decided to work on getting the first six episodes done in the fall semester, and the second six in the spring. This was going to be the longest time spent working on a project for either of us. Again I felt that nervousness about embarking on something this huge. What if we got sick of it halfway through? What if it was just miserable to work on, would we have to push through and finish it? I was nervous but I wanted to continue, because I thought that it could also turn out to be the best experience I’d ever had (spoiler alert: this was it was the best experience I’ve had). We set audition dates for September 20th and 23rd. Keep in mind, it was still mid-August at this point, so you get an idea of how far in advance we were looking. Chelsey and I set up a timeline for having all the scripts finished, as well as a rough shooting schedule.
With our “Show Bible” getting fuller every day, and a new producer in Chelsey McKrill, our show was coming right along, and it was time to start writing scripts. Next week on “The History of Student Seven” we’re forced to search for a new director of photography, we start working on art direction, and we have our first meeting with our fight choreographer. Until then, cheers!
-Sam Sher, Director.