Photo courtesy of Pali Production Photos.
Palisades Charter High School

Lights, Camera, Action: Pali Production creates slate of new shows

One seemingly normal morning, junior Alec Fopeano got dressed up in full drag and walked into a local liquor store. Though this action surprised and confused the store’s customers, Fopeano actually had a legitimate reason for doing so. He was acting in the pilot episode of “Comic Sans,” one of the six new shows being created by Pali Production this semester.

The idea to convert Pali Pro into something of a TV station was that of its teacher, Nancy Fracchiolla. The shows are student-written, student-produced and student-filmed, while using student actors. These shows such as “Comic Sans,” “Scratch n Sniff,” “Escape Room,” “Informa TV,” “The Classroom” and “Animals” fall into many different genres whether it be from comedy to thriller as different groups in the class use their own creativity and inspirations to make them.

Each episode is three to five minutes long, but the actual production of each episode takes much longer. Students first spend time brainstorming for and writing the actual episode, then multiple production meetings occur where edits are made until Fracchiolla approves the final draft. After approval, filming begins, which can take several days. Even after the footage is turned into a full episode, the footage is then shown to the entire Pali Pro class and tweaked according to class notes. Finally, the finished episode is approved to be posted on the Pali Pro website.

Seniors Trevor Scholl and Spencer Deweese-Rawnsley are the executive producers for these shows, meaning that they overlook the scripts, shootings and production. “We give other students guidance to help them execute what they’re setting out to do,” Scholl said.

Scholl is supervising three shows: “Comic Sans,” “Scratch n Sniff” and “Escape Room.”

As crazy as it is funny, “Comic Sans” is a wacky spoof of millenial drama. Its writers are juniors Alec Fopeano and Luke Binkow, who are also starred in its pilot.

“We love the shows like ‘Workaholics’ and ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’; about regular people who find their ways into the most insanely crazy situations based off of how awkward they are, and we wanted to take our own spin on it and put them in high school too, because there’s not a lot of shows like that with young kids,” Binkow said.

The first episode involves Fopeano’s character wanting to buy alcohol in order to exchange it for a yugioh card. Not owning a fake ID, he dresses up as an older woman so that he can use his mother’s ID. Though Fopeano had a lot of fun acting this out, his character is being recast as senior Jack Butler for future episodes so that he can focus on the writing aspect of the show.

“Writing it is super fun, especially because with this show there’s no limitations,” Binkow said.

Meanwhile, written by juniors Kenneth Gee and Alex Pitcher, “Scratch n Sniff” is both a dramedy, a mystery and a coming of age story. Pitcher and Gee were inspired by the hapless characters of Coen Brothers movies and the fast paced nature of Edgar Wright movies.

“We tried to combine these characters and fast pace and apply it to a topic we know something about: middle school,” Gee said.

As such, “Scratch n Sniff” follows the journey of five middle schoolers after a mysterious figure kidnaps one of their dogs.

The characters are meant to be obnoxious, based upon the writers’ real life experience of “the immature middle school culture where people insulted each other minute by minute,” Pitcher said. Both are excited about continuing to create the show, and for the second episode, where new characters will be introduced.

“I really enjoyed constructing the characters,” Pitcher said. “Making a cast of people who have relationships and flaws that actually feel tangible was very satisfying.”

In a completely different realm, “Escape Room” is a game show, filming students as they complete an escape room challenge. The show is being designed by senior Adam Weston, freshman Tyler Duffy and sophomore Kylie Barron. Each episode shows students escape, or try to escape, a different room. It is non-scripted and with each challenge being filmed in real time.

Deweese-Rawnsley is also supervising three shows: “InformaTV,” “Animals” and “The Classroom.”

Passionate about film and news, and concerned that Pali students are not informed enough about current events, seniors Lilly Von Ruden and Whitney Neumann have created “InformaTV” as a news show with a focus on politics, pop culture and environmental issues.

“Although mostly everyone has some sort of way of obtaining news, this news segment provides a variety of news stories in a very concise way while still getting the story through to the viewer,” Von Ruden said.

Told through four to five minute vignettes, “Animals” is a dark thriller that tells the story of a group of teenage boys who commit murder. The writers of the mystery, sophomores Anna Clements and Braeden Harris, were inspired by the films “A Clockwork Orange” and “Reservoir Dogs.”

The title refers to the animal masks that the gang of murderers in the show wear. According to Harris, these masks also symbolize how “animalistic and evil the boys in the story are.”

Lighter in mood, “The Classroom” is a parody of the popular TV series “The Office.” The popular comedy show has been remade countless times in different countries, and this version’s unique take is that it is set not in an office, but rather a classroom. It is written by senior Lev Bure and Jack Burglas, and features Pali’s own John Vieira as a cast member.

The pilots for these shows scheduled to be published later this month, with some students planning to publish two to three more episodes this semester, and to continue next year. Hopefully, these projects will be something that the pali community can both enjoy and appreciate.

“As an executive producer, I don’t have a ton of hand in the production of shows, but it’s fun to see the groups’ visions come to fruition,” Deweese-Rawnsley said.

Pali Production Photos_ Still from Scratch n Sniff, written by Kenneth Gee and Alex Pitcher-2
Screen cap from the first episode of “Scratch n Sniff” by Alex Pitcher and Kenneth Gee

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