Students launch self-made web series “Big Kids”

Hunter Jekot

For a small group of radio-televison-film students, it took a summer break to materialize their film careers. During the break, their time was spent taking the lessons they had learned in school and applying those lessons to their work.

Their filmmaking labors materialized in the form of “Big Kids,” a six-episode web series on YouTube. Viewers look through a window into the lives of Andi, Tina and Phillip, played by Sam Moore and radio-televison-film seniors Shae Tomlinson and Daniel Abramson, during their last summer of freedom filled with misadventures with boys, alcohol and each other. 

The first episode of “Big Kids” premiered Sept. 7 and has since been viewed over 1,300 times.

It all started as the brain-child of co-directors UT alumna Emily Hughes and radio-television-film senior Payton Williams.

The pair first became friends after meeting in their introduction to screenwriting class.

“Payton and I had always wanted to write something together,” Hughes said. “So, when I came back from the UTLA program, we were like, ‘OK, let’s do this.’ We know college kids because that’s what we’ve been living for the past three years, so it kind of just came from us.” 

Although non-biographical, the girls found most of the writing material from creative adaptations of their own lives or stories they had heard from friends.

“It’s funny because sometimes I’ll text my friends and be like, ‘Did you see episode two? That was you!’” Hughes said.

Attempting to be relatable, “Big Kids” highlights the comedy of everyday life.

“On television, it’s more about what Greek [life at] college is like, and that’s not even 100 percent true,” Williams said. “They like to glamorize it a lot and make it seem like every weekend at college is like Roundup, and our goal is to show our friends’ stories. That’s what the idea hatched from — a sense of truth and sense of reality.”

Luckily, they already had the perfect crew in mind to help execute the project. Hughes and Williams recruited their close friends radio-televison-film seniors Caileigh Buchanan and Kian Gass as producers and radio-televison-film senior Grace Martindale as an editor. With a team assembled and a goal in mind, the “Big Kids” crew created a crowdsourcing campaign using Indiegogo, a fundraising website. They successfully collected enough donations from friends, family and even a UT professor to fund the project.

Even with the budget accounted for, many difficulties still arose because of the six-week time constraint.

“The most challenging [part] was that we had a really tight shooting schedule,” Buchanan said. “We would shoot all day on Sundays and on some Mondays. Rough drafts [for the script] would usually be done about Wednesday or Thursday, and then I would need to get things prepared for Sunday.”

The cast and crew said that while it was stressful, the pressure helped them sharpen their filmmaking skills. Williams explained that they tried not to spend too much time on any one episode. They simply learned from the mistakes of each episode and used the knowledge to iron out the quirks from week-to-week. 

When asked whether this group would use its experience together for future projects, Williams joked that a “Big Kids” movie could be the next step.