At the 2015 College Television Awards, Stephen Gemmiti ’14 earned second place in the “Best Series” category for “Young Adulterated,” a 10-episode series that follows the colliding lives of five college students as they each try to navigate an explosive junior year. Gemmiti and the entire cast attended the 36th annual awards ceremony in Los Angeles, Calif., on Thursday, April 23.
“Achieving this level of recognition is awe-inspiring,” Gemmiti says. “When beginning a project like ‘Young Adulterated,’ you dream of an opportunity like placing at the College Television Awards; however, it’s not until you set foot on the red carpet that the magnitude of such an accomplishment sets in.”
Gemmiti was joined by the entire cast as well as the series’ music coordinator Nancy Amestoy ’14, faculty adviser and Professor of Media and Society Lester Friedman, and Professor of English Grant Holly at the April 23 event. “Having such a strong HWS presence at the ceremony is something I’m tremendously proud of,” Gemmiti says. “These students and faculty members have given everything to this project and I am so proud to see their hard work rewarded and recognized. Being able to share this experience with them moved me deeply.”
The ceremony itself was a spectacle to behold, Gemmiti says. Presenters included creator of “Arrested Development” Mitch Hurwitz, “American Horror Story” actress Sarah Paulson, and “Magic Mike” actor Matt Bomer, among others.
The announcement of the “Best Series” category and winners begins at 18 minutes in the video stream of the event.
Now that the dust has settled, Gemmiti is not content to rest on his laurels. “I was back to work writing first thing Friday morning,” he says. “My resolve and determination moving forward have never been stronger and taking home the statue will provide a constant source of motivation in the months ahead.”
Gemmiti is determined to secure representation within the industry in the immediate-future and soon after, he will book a one-way ticket back out to Los Angeles to begin work in television. “I speak for the entire cast and crew when I say that this is very much just the beginning. With a team of students who are this passionate and driven, you don’t expect anyone to stay in one place for long.”
One of three finalists out of more than 500 who submitted to the “Best Series” category, Gemmiti developed, wrote, filmed and edited the series as his Honors project, and continued the process after he graduated. The concept for the show arose during Gemmiti’s junior year in a screenwriting course with Holly. While working on a different project, Gemmiti “was inspired by looking around campus and feeling as though my experiences and those of my peers weren’t being well-represented in popular culture.”
As Gemmiti considered contemporary media culture, particularly on television, he noticed the trend “toward dark and gritty treatment of material was widening–with the exception of college-oriented programming,” he says. “College is still represented as this caricature of itself. The iconography we associate with that time in our lives often fails to align with reality and I feel like that is a misstep responsible for many failed expectations.”
Considering the gap between the portrayal of the college experience and the actual lived college experience, Gemmiti saw “a perfect moment to write something more mature and even on the smallest scale, relatable.”
“Steve produced the script for 10 episodes in the course, which is a tremendous amount of work and was a great sign about his abilities and his future,” Holly says. “Then he decided to do an honors project and film it, which meant getting a camera and learning how to use it, learning about lighting and sound and editing. Each one of those is a career, and he did it all.”
“Steve was in my media and society 100 class, and it was clear from that moment that he had outstanding technical skills,” says Friedman. “Working with Steve, I think I learned as much as he did. He bought his own equipment, devoted untold hours, assembled a massive group of people — to do this project is an unbelievable feat.”
The series was shot during Gemmiti’s senior year on the HWS campus and in the greater Geneva community. He finished a rough-cut of the pilot for a screening at the Smith Opera House in April of 2014. After graduation, Gemmiti hoped to return to continue shooting, but when that fell through, he “sat down and really looked at what had been filmed. Up through May and June, I was looking at it through one perspective: what was on the page. But there was great material still in the can which I felt could be repurposed and reintegrated to make a stronger cut of the first episodes.”
Examining the rough-cut alongside the rest of the footage, Gemmiti felt there was more editing work to be done. “Through that process I grew even closer to my story and more importantly, to my characters. The result really humanized the narrative and made it much more emotional; truer to the original vision for the project.”
He knew the hard work paid off after finding out that the series had clinched a nomination a month and a half after its submission to the Television Academy in January.
The College Television Awards, formerly known as the Student Television Awards, was started in 1978 to recognize excellence in student work. Since then, the ceremony has grown to a nationwide competition that awards more than 65 trophies in 13 different categories. Designed to emulate the Primetime Emmy judging process, entries are reviewed by active Television Academy members. Submissions undergo a three-round judging process, culminating in a Blue Ribbon panel that awards first, second and third prizes. Winners in all categories receive cash awards and are flown out to Los Angeles by the Academy’s partner airline, United Airlines.
“We’re very proud of the fact that HWS is represented at this event,” says Holly, noting that the submission pool includes colleges and universities like “University of Southern California, University of California Los Angeles, New York University — places that have huge film and TV programs. It goes to show that our Media & Society program is consistently terrific and Steve is a wonderful ambassador. He’s a good storyteller, his characters are great; he gets beyond conventionality, carries it into the editing room and puts it together in a really interesting way. When you have talent, which is then joined with relentlessly hard work, that’s a good combination.”
“One of the things they always say about talent is you can’t teach it,” says Associate Professor of Africana Studies Marilyn Jimenez, who taught two film editing courses Gemmiti took early in his academic career at HWS. “You can provide the opportunity for that talent to be exercised. This is particularly something we in the Media & Society program believe in and try to nurture in our students, and what we hope to have afforded Steve. His work was always outstanding. The combination of talent and his approach to a project produces great work. Obviously this is a very important recognition for Steve and we hope it leads to more accolades and opportunities.”
Gemmiti graduated with Honors in media and society and a minor in computer science. On campus, he was a member of the Hobart rowing team, served as public relations officer for the media club, and earned the Dean’s Citizenship Award. He completed a summer internship working on the set of “The Place Beyond the Pines,” a film directed by Derek Cianfrance and starring Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper that debuted in the spring of 2013. He was also a member of the HWS team that competed in the 2012 Lake Placid Film Forum, where they completed a film in 24-hours.
Further information about the series including links to the College Emmy-nominated episodes can be found at www.youngadulterated.com