BUFFALO — What began as a love of playing with a camera in his high school media program has led Dustan Whitcomb to the production of a TV pilot as his senior project in the Buffalo State College Television and Film Arts Program.

Whitcomb, a 2013 graduate of Salamanca High School, was a part of a 40-person crew of Buff State students who developed, wrote, filmed and produced a TV pilot this fall.

“We’re very excited about it, but it has been very stressful,” he said Nov. 23 in a conversation with The Salamanca Press. “I think I’ve learned more over the past month or two than I had in the previous four years.”

The pilot is set to be shown today at an on-campus screening followed by a red carpet theatrical premiere Tuesday at the Amherst Theatre in downtown Buffalo.

After that, Whitcomb said they plan to send it to various film festivals with the hopes of selection at some — then, seeing where their post-graduation careers go from there.

The pilot, titled “Troop 513,” follows the renegade Boy Scout Troop 513 as they try desperately to prove themselves worthy of staying together as a troop. This comedy’s chaotic but loveable characters all find Troop 513 to be their home away from home and their fellow scouts their best friends.

The process began with pitching the idea to the program’s professor, Whitcomb said, and with approval and a majority vote by the students — as well as running it by some affiliates of the program — pre-production was underway.

“Everyone had a position through each phase of the TV show,” he explained. “There was a whole writer’s room with people designated as writers under our head writer.”

Although the seniors in the capstone project had been in classes together for years, they also had to hire underclassmen to do a lot of the different jobs for the production, Whitcomb said. Meanwhile, the core seniors also had to wear multiple hats except for the main executive producer.

During pre- and regular production, he was the location manager — “there’s not really a class on that,” he joked — which included finding and securing the times and places of the shoot itself.

From reaching out to any connections they might have in the community to driving around looking for the right spots, Whitcomb said it was all about finding a happy medium for everyone to commute to and stay within the budget.

“I’m happy to say we didn’t have to pay a single cent to use any of our locations,” he said. Their locations included the casino and a wooded area in Chestnut Ridge, in Orchard Park, as well as a community center and Jordan’s Ale House in Buffalo, all of which fit what the crew was looking for and their schedule.

However, some weather problems did make some shooting days quite stressful. Whitcomb said with seven days to shoot but the use of only five led to some last-minute rescheduling and “worst case” plan B days.

“Filmmaking is so much more about problem solving than I thought it ever was,” he said. “There were times where your heart just sank… five days of crossing your fingers and hoping is not a great healthy state to be in, but ultimately it’s given us a lot to look back on and appreciate.”

AFTER SHOOTING wrapped Nov. 5, the past month has consisted of post-production leading up to the two showings. Whitcomb said the process has been the “total application” of everything he’s learned during his time at Buff State.

Although he enjoyed working with the camera and the shooting itself during high school, Whitcomb said his college career has made him realize he loves the producing side more.

“Figuring out the development of a show to how it looks to how it’s going to be distributed, who likes it and why they like it,” he explained. “There’s a whole business side of this industry that I’ve been paying attention to without realizing it.”

After graduation, Whitcomb said he’d like to stay in the Buffalo area and work in producing, jumping into the business side of the business more than the technical and performance fields. He said recent jobs and internships helped him realize that.

As for “Troop 513,” he and his peers just want to share what they made, regardless of where that will take them next. Whitcomb said any money raised at the premiere will go to next program’s production.

“We’re just so proud of the work we’ve put into it,” he said. “We want to show it to Buffalo, we would like to show it to Western New York.”

For Whitcomb himself, this will be the culmination of everything he’s worked toward since high school and making that next step into the professional industry.

“I’m just really excited to share this final project of this program,” he said. “We all worked really hard on it, and I would love to have the work we ended up doing at the end of the semester connect all the way back to where my dreams started here in Salamanca.”

(Contact Kellen Quigley at kquigleysp@gmail.com)

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