New webisode informs audience of STDs

By Jim Wittmann

A new webisode called “O Mission,” which is sponsored by, a website that makes it easy to get tested and contains forums about STDs, was co-written, produced and directed by Columbia television professor Michael Fry. The webisode is to help the generation in their 20s and 30s know STDs are something they should be concerned about, Fry said.

The web series was filmed over a span of four days in the West Loop, the South Side and Wicker Park. The first episode included more than 100 extras.

The show is a drama, which features real-life characters who get STDs and eventually get tested for STDs.

Director James Forni hopes to shoot 12 shows, but will shoot at least six. The episodes are expected to be three-to-five-minutes long depending on distribution.

One goal with the series of webisodes is to relabel the idea of STDs to college students. Public relations director of the series Chelsea McGrath said the film was targeted directly toward college students to entertain audiences with an easily-relatable original webisode while simultaneously raising awareness of STDs.

“The biggest point to the film is to try and destigmatize the topic of STDs because it is such a scary topic for everyone, but it is really the most important thing for Columbia students,” McGrath said.

The series follows the rise of an indie-punk band fronted by Chicagoan Diana Rein. The nine-minute pilot weaves its way through diverse characters and how all their personal friends and lives intertwine with one another.

“The challenge was to create a branded-entertainment episode, so what the idea was, is to create a soft-sell webisode,” Fry said. “What you want to do is create characters and stories that mirror the experience of the consumer.”

The idea Fry wanted to convey in the series was how people of this particular generation live their lives in two different places. They live their real lives, then they live their online lives, he said.

“Millennials are extremely accustomed to sharing their friends on Facebook, so if I become your friend I have access to all your friends,” Fry said. “It’s the same thing with sexual relationships. If you have sex with Mary, you have access to all of Mary’s previous and current sex partners.”

McGrath said all the characters have mutual friends without ever realizing it. She said this hits close to home with Columbia students because every student can find someone in the show to relate to.

“It’s not really like a sitcom, you want to get to know the characters and connect with the characters and be interested with their lives as they navigate their hook-ups and break-ups throughout Chicago,” McGrath said.

The webisode is in the process of shopping around to different networks to negotiate contracts with airtime.

“The style and art imitates the theme with the YouTube stuff and confessionals. The movement, speed and tone of the whole piece matches ideally with what we really want to see,” Fry said. “It’s like, ‘I really wish I was boning her’ or ‘I really wish I was in a band;’ those aspirational types of things are all there.”

Public relations sophomore Kate Jacobsen said this series sounds like something that would air on MTV. Jacobsen said it could educate college students about STDs.

“I think if it has real people in it that are effected, that’s more interesting to watch, and it doesn’t feel much like an ad, as if it were preaching the whole time,” Jacobsen said.

Fry said the entire Columbia student body has something they can relate to in the show. He said background doesn’t matter.

“The show is really about Columbia students, it’s about their lives,” Fry said. “It’s about the truth in their life about who they are and and what they do. It’s also a very sexy show.”