News, On Campus, Top Story

Students Put BC-Themed Twist On Netflix Hit With ‘Mod Of Cards’

It’s a dark, rainy evening in the Mods. At 5 p.m. on a Thursday, few are traversing the grid of worn roads connecting the small, red modular apartments—but inside one of these mods, a full-scale television production is underway.

At the beginning of the semester, Derek Switaj, CSOM ’15, had arrived on campus with fully-planned, intricately written scripts for a BC-themed TV production based on the Netflix hit House of Cards. After having fulfilled a summer internship with an L.A.-based production company, Switaj said he knew these scripts had the potential to change students’ perspectives on television production within a college setting, which later became the premise of Mod of Cards.

“I think the plot transcends if you’re a House of Cards fan or just a Boston College-affiliated person,” he said. “I think a lot of people will enjoy this for its inherent story.”

The idea for the show struck Switaj, a marketing and operations major who created and executively produces the series, while working for a BC alumni-founded startup called Sync OnSet—a media production firm focused on digitally organizing entertainment content—this past summer. Having developed interests in screenwriting at a similar startup the summer prior, Switaj noted that writing episodes for Mod of Cards would later evolve into a major campus production, now consisting of 36 speaking cast members, 21 crew members, and three producers.

“This is a full drama show,” he said. “There’s inherent humor that comes from BC inside jokes and college humor, but even House of Cards has humor because it’s real life … in some ways, I like to say that we’re a reinterpretation of House of Cards.”

Directed by Switaj and co-produced by Max Prio, CSOM ’16 and Ryan Reede, A&S ’16, the series is shot and operated under student group Hollywood Eagles and Exposure Productions—a film and media group founded by Prio last year and staffed by about 10 members who manage camera, sound, lighting, and editing equipment for both the show and student organizations across campus.

Prio said he had heard of the idea for the series from Reede, who interned with Switaj at Sync OnSet this summer, and was subsequently approached by Switaj to help produce the show. Now, the more than 20-member volunteer crew assisting in Mod of Cards production is filming scenes across campus, featuring cameos from University administrators and a diverse spread of scene locations.

Through Exposure Productions, Prio said training crew members to professionally operate filming equipment has offered the media group an outlet for expanding its presence on campus, and offers students a platform to explore interests in entertainment production.

“We also have volunteer crew [members] that may not have had any experience before that I’ve been training and teaching them how to do specific things on set that when they’re there, I know I can rely on them,” said Prio, a finance and marketing major, who picked up a film minor last year after cultivating his involvement with Exposure.

“It’s kind of cool to have so many people that had nothing to do with Exposure or film before that have clearly just become so enthralled in the film world,” he said.

Also having begun a film minor last year, Switaj and Prio are now both earning credit for the series as part of their independent study programs—an afterthought that only later became a component of their academic experience.

According to Prio and Switaj, as part of their independent study programs, the two, along with Reede, largely have directorial discretion over the series. The producers, however, sought input from numerous administrative offices and student groups across campus, including the Office of Student Conduct, Women’s Center, and the GLBTQ Leadership Council (GLC) for their opinions on script content and series material, according to Switaj.

“I didn’t want to touch on any of the harsher topics that the show touches on,” he said. “So, I’ve watered it down from a topical perspective, but there’s still some things I wanted to have social commentary on in the show, and to do that you’re overdramatizing but still being very real about things that happen on campus.

“So, I approached student programs with this because I wanted them to read it,” Switaj said. “I wanted to them to see it … I wanted to personally get a lot of people’s approvals, even though for the independent studies, for educational purposes, we could produce whatever we wanted.”

Slated for release as six episodes in standard 30-minute television format, Switaj noted that the first Mod of Cards episode will closely mirror themes and character traits exhibited on House of Cards to establish a fundamental relationship with the show. Subsequent episodes, though, will follow a BC-centric story arc for most characters, and will portray a similar but collegiate-focused progression of events over the next five episodes in “dramatic parody” fashion, Switaj noted.

“As you go throughout the first six episodes, we further and further become our own show in a way, where the story naturally becomes this Boston College story of a student trying to … well, I guess I don’t want to spoil anything,” he said.

The first episode of Mod of Cards is scheduled for release on Dec. 7, when the series’ cast and crew will host a premier viewing event.

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

November 10, 2014