Sunday, September 15

Bruins’ pilot may turn full-fledged show

Alex Diaz (left) and Julie Sagalowsky (right), who are graduate students in directing, created and wrote a sitcom picked up by Family Channel Canada.

Alex Diaz (left) and Julie Sagalowsky (right), who are graduate students in directing, created and wrote a sitcom picked up by Family Channel Canada. SCHOOL OF THEATER, FILM AND TELEVISION

It’s not every day that you hear about Bruins becoming writers and producers while they’re still students at UCLA.

Today, however, is the day for Julie Sagalowsky and Alex Diaz, two graduate directing students who have had the pilot for their TV sitcom “What’s up, Warthogs!” picked up by the Canadian Family Channel.

“It feels really special. But the best thing is that I get to work with my partner in life and in crime,” Diaz said.

“What’s up, Warthogs!” is a comedy about teens who broadcast the morning news at their school, the fictional Westhills High.

“Our hero, Eric Ortiz, gets the gig to do the morning announcements as the president of the (Audio Visual) club. The kid’s a revolutionary ““ he wants to shake up the morning announcements.” Diaz said.

“Eric is kind of like a young Latino Jon Stewart.”

The show will also feature Eric’s best friend and sidekick, Charlie, as well as his arch-nemesis, Victoria Jagger, with whom Eric is forced to work after his disastrous first broadcast.

If picked up by the Family Channel, “What’s up, Warthogs!” will feature not only the 30-minute sitcom itself, but also a Web show and blog that go along with it.

The Web show will be the “What’s up, Warthogs!” news show, which will discuss fictional issues they come up with for Westhills High that apply to real young people.

“First and foremost, I hope that kids find the show fun and entertaining, and that they feel like they can relate to and root for the characters. I also just want them to learn that they can work hard for what they believe in and really have a voice in the world,” Sagalowsky said.

Sagalowsky and Diaz, who met on their first day at UCLA, were inspired to write the sitcom when they worked at the UCLA Arts Camp two summers ago.

“Julie was the head of the sitcom camp; I was the head of the directing camp,” Diaz said. “She came home one day and said “˜I think we can do this.’”

And so they did.

“The summer they worked at camp, Chuck Lorre came in and talked to all the kids about sitcom writing and producing and all of that. He is the executive producer of “˜Two and a Half Men’ and “˜The Big Bang Theory.’ They really got a taste of the intricacies and details of how to structure an excellent comedy,” said Myrl Schreibman, founder and director of the UCLA Arts Camp and professor in the School of Theater, Film and Television.

Over the course of the next school year, Diaz and Sagalowsky put their knowledge to good use, compiling everything they needed to sell the show.

They wrote the pilot of “What’s up, Warthogs!” and put together the “show bible,” which contains character descriptions, episode summaries, story types and filming style goals so thorough that the show could be successfully written using only the information contained within it.

Their next step was actually finding a buyer for the show.

“We have a manager, his name is Mike Klein at Dobré Films, and he actually took it to Dolphin Entertainment, and they bought the project,” Sagalowsky said.

The duo recently spent time in Toronto, where they put the final touches on pre-production and filmed their presentation pilot ““ the second half of the full pilot episode, plus another scene.

The presentation pilot will introduce kids to their characters and gauge how well they respond to them.

If all goes well, Diaz and Sagalowsky will find out by mid-May if they’re officially in the television business, not just as writers, but also as producers of their own show.

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