At 6 p.m. in North Hall on Thursday, senior Raysam Donkoh-Halm got up in front an audience of about 50, made up of students, faculty and community members, to present his senior independent study project. The project, which had begun as a simple comic strip for a comic and graphic novels course, depicting “dry” humor on a college campus setting, was now being shown as a live-action two-part television series, starring other students at FSU and directed by Donkoh-Halm.
The presentation began with a short slideshow, with Donkoh-Halm thanking all those involved in the creation of Dry Campus, and pointing out the three lead actors, Adam Tackes, Andrew Carten and Eryca Carrier, who played Eric, Stuart and Sabina, respectively.
Discussing Dry Campus’ original conception, Donkoh-Halm said, “I had this idea … what if there was a campus just like, so dry and devoid of fun and color and light, and what does that look like?”
On screen, the effect of energy being drained from the characters and setting was accomplished by a decidedly grayscale cinematography, which lined up with the art style of the original comics.
For example, the bags under the characters’ eyes, which emphasized their resigned despair of being on such a dry campus, was done onscreen using makeup. To achieve the same effect in his drawing, which Donkoh-Halm jokingly said was “not particularly good,” he used “a pencil, then a blender, so that way it gives the effect that these cartoon characters are pale, sleep deprived and it really just shows on their face.”
Carten, who was Donkoh-Halm’s right-hand man, said that when picking locations to film, they wanted to capture the most barren spots on campus.
“I remember we wanted to film in the May stairwell because of how old and rundown it was, but we never got a chance to do that one,” he said.
Donkoh-Halm added they would try to film on overcast days on campus, in order to get the on-camera effect of a dismal and depressing day.
Carten, who played Stuart in both episodes, described how he first became involved in Dry Campus.
“I was the first person he approached, because he wanted another person to assist in the whole process. He just messaged me on Facebook like, ‘Heeeeey.’”
The first episode was ironically called “Spirit Week,” and followed Eric, Stuart and Sabina as they tried to earn “Spirit Coins,” a new currency established on campus to force students to participate in on-campus activities.
The awkward silences blended well with riotously funny moments ranging from “Milk Guy,” portrayed by Andrew Willoughby, who filled water bottles with milk and stared at them, to a student-run therapy session in which Eric ends up playing therapist to the student attempting to counsel him, played by Samantha Chandler, causing her to reveal her own emotional baggage.
Donkoh-Halm and Carten worked closely with communication arts Professor Christopher Bowen, who Donkoh-Halm said was a great mentor to them during the process. “He’s been so supportive, and really given us the right kind of advice. I’m so glad that he digs the project as much as he does,” Donkoh-Halm said.
The project that began as Donkoh-Halm’s individual passion project became a completely collaborative experience.
“We’ve gotten so many friends involved, because they like it and they deliver,” he said. “Not a lot of our cast are trained actors at all, but it works. It’s one of those things where it’s like, ‘Oh, this looks kind of low-budget,’ but I’m just like, ‘Yeah, well, it matches their school’s budget!”
[Editor’s note: Andrew Willoughby is a member of The Gatepost editorial board .]