Locals Produce New Web Series About College Dorm Life
A pair of former college dorm resident advisors has created a new Web series called “Bayberry Hall” that focuses on life in the dorms of fictional State University in Los Angeles in the era of Facebook and social media, when many students have trouble connecting with their peers unless it’s via a 140-character Tweet.
Written and produced by Bonnie Sludikoff and Christopher Schamber, who are both in their early 20s and attended and served as resident advisors while attending Cal State Northridge and UCLA, respectively, the 15-episode “Bayberry Hall” follows the adventures of four RA’s as they navigate their own college experiences while also trying to serve as positive role models for their student peers during the 2011-2012 school year.
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Billed as “the almost true story of what it’s like to be a Resident Advisor,” “Bayberry Hall” blends elements of mockumentary, fantasy, musicals, comedy and drama. The producers hope to post the first episode later this winter.
Sludikoff, who lives in Glendale, earned a B.A. in Creative Writing and Screenwriting in 2006, while Schamber, a Stevenson Ranch resident, is a 2011 grad of UCLA’s College of Letters and Science, majoring in psychology. They met and first worked together in 2004 when they co-starred in a production of “Grease” staged by the Canyon Theatre Guild.
The four principal actors in "Bayberry Hall" are (from left: Narisa Suzuki, Bonnie Sludikoff, Nikolai Fernandez and Matt Lara.
Soon after, as campers and counselors at the Camp Bravo summer camp for performing artists, they became friends and eventually collaborators. The idea for “Bayberry Hall” as a way to help others survive college came out of their experiences as RA’s.
“Resident advisors are in charge of taking care of the residents on their floor, and they’re interacting with students a lot of the time,” said Sludikoff, an RA at CSUN in 2004-2005. “’Bayberry Hall’ is a comedy, but we also touch on a lot of serious topics, so the goal of the show is to educate and entertain while also providing a resource for students.”
Christopher Schamber is co-creator of "Bayberry Hall."
A preliminary promotional video for the series is now posted on YouTube, outlining the relationship between RA’s and students and introducing the cast of "Bayberry Hall" student advisors.
“Basically, the RA is hired to provide supervision, to be the older sibling of the students on the floor,” Sludikoff said. “So RA’s are in charge of holding floor meetings, and are typically responsible for (staging) a certain number of events. And as Chris notes in our promotional video, the RA is the one who makes sure the building doesn’t burn down, which is really the truth, with a lot of comical to serious situations.”
Sludikoff and Schamber also designed “Bayberry Hall” as a way to re-connect students with each other in a disconnected society that has come to communicate more often via Facebook comments, Tweets or text messages than face to face.
“We’re so connected via Facebook, and a lot of generations — like the kids who are in high school now, the kids in my age group who have been out of college for a couple of years — are using Facebook to connect,” she said. “Then, when we see each other in real life, we almost don’t know what to do with each other.”
“The four main actors playing RA’s are Bonnie, Matt Lara, Nikolai Fernandez and Narisa Suzuki,” said Schamber. “Bonnie plays Darcy, a third-year RA. Matt plays Jamie and he’s fantastic, has done a lot of musical theater. Matt just glows on film. Nikolai, playing Scott, just graduated from UCLA this year, and he’s very funny, has a lot of youthful energy. And Narisa, who plays Cho, is originally from Japan and did a lot of musical theater there. They all look fantastic on screen. It’s really been a great privilege to work with all of them.”
With set pieces donated by Warner Bros. and Universal Studios, Sludikoff and Schamber shot "Bayberry Hall" over an 11-week period in space provided by the Canyon Theatre Guild at its Annex in Newhall. “It’s a great-looking dorm,” Schamber said.
UCLA film school alum and project supporter Chelsea Mayer (“Last Day on Earth,” “Audition”) served as director of photography (she also donated use of cameras and lights).
“Bayberry Hall” is now in post-production. With essentially no budget, the producers are now looking for additional backing to fund the series’ rollout and production of additional related shows.
“We’re also doing a series called ‘Bayberry Hall Pass,’ and the idea is to talk about what happens between or after class,” Sludikoff said. “It’ll start with some lighter topics, like about fitting in and life after college, but we’ll also touch on some serious topics that we cover in the (main) show. We go into suicide, rape, body image and all kinds of things that college students deal with, but don’t always get to talk about.”
“The next step for us is figuring out other ways we can support the experience we’ve created,” Schamber said.
For more info about “Bayberry Hall,” including how viewers can contribute to funding the series and related projects, visit the project’s website at www.wearebayberry.com and its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/wearebayberry. Check out the preliminary video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyYYTTI9O6 and related clips introducing the players at www.youtube.com/results?search_query=bayberry+hall&aq=f.