By Justine Espersen
Scroll to the bottom of the story to watch episode one.
Inspired from his experiences as a transfer student last year, junior Dan Strasser – known online as Daniel Duane – recently created a web series called “Hills” to play as a dry-humor comedy parallel to his life.
“My inspiration for the series is basically my life,” Strasser said. “I struggled with trying to meet new people and finding belonging in an alien place.”
This three-episode web series released its first episode last Friday, Apr. 11, which featured Strasser’s character, Mitch’s arrival to Hills and his search for his room while encountering the faces of his dorm.
A big fan of “The Office,” Strasser cast characters that he already knew and people who lived in Hills.
The cast includes junior Alex Phillips who plays the R.A. Vinny, who “doesn’t take his job seriously, he’s the odd neurotic one, with good intentions,” sophomore Luke Strasser is Wolverine, “the awkward kid who covers his face,” junior Nick Allen plays Wilbur who is “extremely enthusiastic” and “loves everyone with no barriers,” junior Ryan Smith plays Greg who is the football player with a passion for dance, junior Simon Pheasant plays Peter who is Mitch’s roommate from South Africa, Dan Strasser plays Mitch, the transfer student and sophomore Eva Winters plays the girl Mitch falls for.
“I remember at the beginning of this semester, hearing just a little bit about Dan’s idea of a mini TV series mockumentary, comparable to the Office, only set in the dorms,” Winters said. “So when he asked me if I would consider being in it I thought ‘Hmm, I love the Office, so why not?’”
“It has some of the extremes of different characters that one might find in dorm life, but then it gives it this dry humorous twist.”
The series is focused about a “group of guys living in the dorms trying to find their identities in life,” according to Strasser.
Although the episodes are meant to be told in a funny form, he wanted the series to be “heartfelt” – “serious and realistic to an extent, even though the characters are kind of crazy.”
For some actors, the web series embraced their awkward humor in actuality.
“The series is really funny and awkward which is my type of humor. My character is a tad too friendly and obsessed with hugs,” Allen said. “The time I hugged Dan in the first episode was the closest I had ever got to Dan.”
Strasser and his peers have been working on creating the series since fall 2013, slowly adding to the script to come to a point where he is able to film.
Everything in the film is completely original. Junior Truitt Murrow is the camera man and director of photography, helping with editing as well, and sophomore Sam Kwak worked with Strasser to record his original work on the ukulele.
Much of the cast knew each other already as Phillips is Strasser’s R.A. in real life and Pheasant has been his roommate for the past three semesters; however, Pheasant plays Strasser’s new roommate in the series.
“Some of the stories portrayed in the web series are loosely based on events that occurred but a lot of it is scripted by Dan and then there’s a bit of on scene improvisation,” Pheasant said. “I am legitimately South African, however I don’t have such a heavy accent, I play it up for the series.”
“It has some of the extremes of different characters that one might find in dorm life, but then it gives it this dry humorous twist,” Pheasant added. “As the series progresses Dan’s relationships with the various residents of Hills will grow.”
As far as the future of the series, Strasser mentioned he may do a “spinoff series” next year about his time in Grand. However, Phillips expects a bigger picture from this web series.
“How do I think it will progress? Have you ever heard of NBC? Yeah,” Phillips said.