An unwavering passion for filmmaking has propelled Steve Gemmiti ’14 on a yearlong cinematic endeavor that’s at the heart of his senior Honors project. In early 2013, Gemmiti embarked on in-depth process of scriptwriting, directing and filming to produce a 10-part film series titled “Young Adulterated” that follows a dramatic fictional narrative of the lives of five college students.
What started as a general concept, Gemmiti says eventually developed into a story that filled three notebooks, and has since become a full-scale Honors project – one in which he’s connected academic and professional interests, while receiving critical feedback from faculty. Culminating in the second semester of one’s senior year, the Honors project is a rigorous academic offering that enables students to pursue specialized ambitions before graduation, while refining vital skills at an advanced level.
“The project has turned into this massive opportunity,” says Gemmiti, who is a Media and Society major. “It provides an outlet for me to be wholly creative and tell a story the way I best see fit, which is something incredibly difficult to do in a studio-driven industry.”
With a synopsis that reads: “the lives of five college students collide as they each try to navigate through an explosive junior year,” Gemmiti says “Young Adulterated” is a series that “deconstructs the classic conventions of college life.” He says it’s a richly developed storyline with multidimensional characters.
“The voices that the actors have brought to their characters have injected a whole new sense of purpose and life into the individuals that for so long existed exclusively on paper,” Gemmiti says. “The series has its own life and energy.”
Throughout the project, Gemmiti has worked under the guidance of his Honors adviser Professor of Media and Society Les Friedman. Once every two weeks, he meets with Friedman to review dailies (raw film) and any newly edited footage, as well as make plans for going forward.
Gemmiti also credits Professor of English Grant Holly for encouraging him on his scriptwriting. At 10 episodes, the finished narrative is nearly 300 pages.
Friedman says Gemmiti has fully leveraged all of the invaluable experience and skills gained through the Media and Society Program and more broadly through the interdisciplinary HWS liberal arts education.
“Steve is working on a very comprehensive project,” Friedman says. “His work covers multiple levels of expertise, from scriptwriting and filming to technical expertise to working in actor. He not only has the tools to succeed, but also can intelligently express what he’s working on.”
Both on and off campus, Gemmiti has dedicated countless hours to his interests in film and the entertainment industry. In summer 2011, he worked on the set of the film, “The Place Beyond the Pines,” a crime-drama directed by Derek Cianfrance and starring Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper. As part of the production team, Gemmiti was involved in several aspects of helping with the production, including dressing the sets.
During his time at HWS, Gemmiti has also participated in back-to-back L.A. Behind the Scenes professional networking trips, which are facilitated by The Salisbury Center for Career Services and Professional Development. For several days each year, students get an up-close glimpse of careers all across the entertainment industry and in Hollywood. As part of the L.A. program, Gemmiti also has had the chance to meet with Ken Halsband ’88, producer, executive vice president, and head of physical and post production at Relativity Media, as well as director, producer and screenwriter Mark Neveldine ’95.
Now in his senior year, Gemmiti says he’s logged some 1,550 working hours on the Honors project. He wrote the script for “Young Adulterated” during spring and summer 2013. Filming and production for the series began this past August. In addition to the five main student actors, Gemmiti says the series will include between 75 to 90 extras.
As Gemmiti heads into the final months of production, he’ll also be getting ready for both written and oral examinations that accompany the finalization of an Honors project. He’ll eventually defend his work before an Honors committee consisting of a field and faculty examiner from HWS. Serving as the outside examiner of the project is award-winning director Owen Shapiro, the Shaffer Professor of Film in the Department of Transmedia at Syracuse University.
With the end product in sight, Gemmiti says he’s looking forward to seeing the final product become a reality. He says he’ll be launching a kickstarter campaign later this month to help support his work.
“Each and every day on set is an opportunity to make something great and with a few months left, we have plenty of opportunities left to seize,” Gemmiti says. “While this process as a whole has been exhaustive, it has been the most rewarding experience of my life, hands down. For me, there was never any doubt that I was doing exactly what I was meant to.”