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Juniata Filmmakers Satirize College Life in Webisodes

(Posted January 31, 2011)

Storyboards for "Office Hours" created by Jay Hosler, associate professor of biology.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Videos produced by colleges and universities are typically straightforward affairs -- a tour of the campus, a film of the president talking about how great the college is, sometimes a lame "Glee" parody. Indeed few, if any, make fun of academic culture to the point where the videos could qualify as a situation comedy.

Welcome to Juniper College.

Juniper College is a fictional liberal arts college --one that looks suspiciously like Juniata College -- where gossip, oneupsmanship, condescending behavior and gastrointenstinal upset competes with the educational aspects of college life. Juniper College is the setting for "Office Hours," a six-episode situation comedy webisode series that debuted in October and recently finished its "run" when the last final episode ran Jan. 10.

The series is a collaborative effort between Juniata College's digital media program and a creative team comprised almost entirely of Juniata alumni, faculty and staff. The whole thing is the brainchild of Nathan Wagoner, director of new-media communication, who organized the production team.

"I saw this first as a comic strip like 'Dilbert' set at a university," says Wagoner. "However as the cost of cameras and equipment came down and things like YouTube made it easier to find an audience on the Web, it made sense to try this as a comedy webisode."

"I saw this first as a comic strip like 'Dilbert' set at a university. However as the cost of cameras and equipment came down and things like YouTube made it easier to find an audience on the Web, it made sense to try this as a comedy webisode."
Nathan Wagoner, director of new-media communication

Wagoner also realized that Juniata's liberal arts-based educational model had produced a number of alumni who have worked in film, theatre, writing and other "Hollywood"-style jobs. Although Wagoner is in charge of creating the college's marketing videos and teaching parts of the college's digital media curriculum, the "Office Hours" project was created and completed during off time for its many participants.

"There is a sense of this project being experimental, that we're making it up as we go along," Wagoner says. "It's a huge, long-term training exercise for all of us and a community building project that has students working side-by-side with faculty, staff and alumni."

The entire series can be seen at the Web site: http://junipercollege.gloriousrobot.com.

Many of the participants in the project either work at Juniata or recently graduated from the college.

The series follows the adventures of an adjunct anthropology instructor named Jenny Clancy as she experiences her first semester teaching at Juniper. Jenny is played by Marci Chamberlain, a 2010 graduate in theatre who currently works as an enrollment counselor at Juniata. Other actors/Juniata employees in the cast include Jay Hosler, a biology professor who plays an overeager "faculty guide" for Jenny; Jim Tuten, a Juniata historian who plays a professor with very stringent office hours; Katie Dickey, associate director of alumni relation, who plays a severe, politically correct, politics professor; and David Hsiung, another Juniata historian, who plays a condescending psychology professor.

The series was written by Kevin Ott, a 1997 Juniata graduate who worked briefly for the Huntingdon Daily News and the Altoona Mirror (currently, he is a writer with the Writers Guild Foundation in Los Angeles, Calif.). The entire series used storyboards drawn by Jay Hosler, who has a thriving second career as a comic book author and artist of such graphic novels as "Clan Apis" and "The Sandwalk Adventures." In addition the series was directed and edited by Ryan Wetzel, a 2006 graduate working as a multimedia specialist at Penn State.

Wagoner is currently considering a second season for the sitcom-in-situ that has received media attention from the Chronicle of Higher Education and a few other media outlets.

Unless Hollywood calls and asks him to take a meeting.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.