BY Molly Congdon
For most seniors in college, their undergraduate careers come to a close when they hand in an extensive, thoroughly researched thesis paper, which can be closer in length to a book.
As soon as the final copy is sent, one is filled with the immediate sensation of relief. For most students as soon as they move that tassel and toss their graduation cap into the air, all of that hard, exhausting and sometimes painful work is forgotten.
That, however, wasn’t the case for Stephen Gemmiti.
The 22-year-old Shen alum graduated from Hobart College/William Smith last May with a major in media and society, which intertwines the content of several fields such as film and communications, and a minor in computer science.
It all began while he was taking a screenwriting course during his junior year, during which each student had to write a film. After putting 50 pages worth of work into one idea, Gemmiti woke up at 3 in the morning — after a decent amount of frivolity — and had a eureka moment: He quickly scribbled five or six pages of notes that became the building blocks for his online television series “Young Adulterated.”
Almost 10 months later, his honors project, consisting of 10 episodes, was up for the honor of best series at the College Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on April 23.
(Check yourcliftonpark.com to see if he won. This story went to press beforehand.)
“As a media major, I love movies and television and we are in the best time in recent memory for television — it’s like this total television renaissance,” Gemmiti said. “We are seeing this movement towards premium programming in a way that just can’t be done in film — you just don’t have the time; longevity is huge. We’re [seeing] this massive influx of money and talent going toward the television industry.”
He continued: “You’ll also notice that there is a trend where everything is becoming darker and more mature, everything with the exception of college. I look at college-centric programming and I feel it’s always like this satire of itself — it’s almost like a caricature. When I think of college in the media, I think of “Animal House” or even “American Pie,” and to me that was always odd.”
In “Young Adulterated” he attempts to provide viewers with a more realistic window into college. “I feel like you look at college as an experience and yeah it’s all those things, partying, fraternity life. . . . But it’s also this very formative four-year experience where people find their voice. But it’s also this petri-dish for drama,” Gemmiti said. “I felt like we weren’t doing justice to the experience itself, so I thought ‘What if I set out to make a product that was more reflective of the my experiences and those of my peers?’ That got me on the path of looking at college through a David Fincher-esque lens — something a little more mature, dripping with drama.”
Gemmiti was born and raised in Niskayuna until his family moved to Clifton Park right as he was about to enter the 10th grade. The biggest reason for the move was so that he could row crew for Shenendehowa.
Since graduating from college, he came back and lived at home with his parents to focus and finish his series, working part-time at Target in the electronics department.
His father, Peter, works for the state Department of Transportation as a civil engineer and his mother, Stephanie, is a preschool teacher.
The series consists of five core characters, three female and two male. “There’s little bits of me in all of them; people can also see pieces of themselves within those characters and that’s how you know you’re on the right track,” Gemmiti said. “The episodes deal with a lot of issues, like alcohol abuse, which is something I found very intriguing from a personal perspective how when you’re in college everyone just chalks up drinking every night to oh you’re in college, but if you’re to do the same thing when you’re 40 everyone’s like you have a problem. Cocaine, sex . . . it’s a little risqué.”
Gemmiti was an army of one. Despite having no prior experience in filming, he was the cinematographer, director, lighting person, writer and editor. “I had to get comfortable with my own inexperience,” Gemmiti said. “I used it to my advantage; instead of walking on set and being like oh I have to do this because this is how it’s done, I’d be like this just needs to look right.”
In May 2013, he held an open casting call and found his five key actors. He provided them their scripts in July, and the camera started rolling in September.
ROAD TO HOLLYWOOD
The deadline for the College Emmys was Jan. 15. There were three rounds of judging; the first two were done online by television academy members. Gemmiti learned early Feb. 14 that he had made it to the last round, so he had to send in DVD and promo copies. At this stage, the judges head inside television academy headquarters to marathon all the finalists and determine nominees.
About three weeks later, Gemmiti got a phone call and the voice on the other end said, “You’re coming to California.”
He was planning to travel with his own entourage: the entire cast, his parents, a few prominent alumni and two professors.
Wednesday, April 22, was to be a day of networking at the television headquarters in Hollywood. “You get to rub a lot of shoulders and make a lot of connections there,” Gemmiti said. “It’s a great opportunity.”
Then, on April 23, Gemmiti and the two other nominees competing for Best Series, were anxiously waiting with sweaty palms to hear their name resonate within the Skirball Cultural Center — what Gemmiti describes as “a swanky museum that resembles both an airplane hanger and a club” in Los Angeles — and take home the win.
Celebrities such as Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons and Elijah Wood have all been presenters in the past.
“Young Adulterated” has an essence that will never go out of style, Gemmiti says, and could permeate generations of viewers. “It’s a story of self-discovery. It’s something everyone can relate to.”
Drum roll please…..
Gemini took home the golden hardware last night!
Check out him out after the awards were given on the thank you cam:
8 questions for Stephen Gemmiti:
Q: What’s your fav movie?
A: “GoodFellas.” There is something about the pacing of it; between the non-linear approach, the complex story, the sheer coolness of it, it just drips swagger — the definition of bad boy filming.
Q: Who is your favorite character of all time?
A: As a kid, I was— to an embarrassing extent — a big “Star Wars” fan, so Luke Skywalker was someone I could relate to because he had greater aspirations in life.
Q: What is the number one item on your bucket list?
A: To leave the country and travel.
Q: Favorite childhood TV series?
A: It would have to be something on Nickelodeon; I would say either “Hey Arnold” or “Angry Beavers.”
Q: What is your favorite color?
Q: What is one place you could not live without?
A: The gym, it’s where I go to vent and de-stress.
Q: First thing you do in the morning?
A: I check my phone immediately for emails, and I eat a crazy breakfast, it’s ridiculous.
Q: What does a crazy breakfast entail?
A: Six egg whites, a big bowl of fruit, a protein smoothie, two cups of tea, four pieces of toast and maybe some Canadian bacon.