Last year, Michael Cicetti developed the web series 5A/5B, as part of his work as an affiliated scholar in the Department of Dance, Drama and Film at Kenyon. On Jan. 16, the independent comedy creator returned to the Hill for a preview screening of the show’s pilot, and to talk about what it means to be a self-starter in the entertainment industry.
5A/5B is about the friendship between Kev, a gay geologist played by Cicetti, and Jan, a suburban divorcée in her 50s, who are neighbors in a Harlem apartment building. Cicetti, an Ohio native, did most of the writing, production and promotion for the project during his time in Gambier.
The pilot follows Kev and Jan as they cater a party that quickly turns awkward after they realize the host is Kev’s ex-boyfriend, for whom Kev still has feelings. Hijinks ensue, and the episode ends with both Kev and Jan getting fired from their catering jobs.
Overall, the audience’s reception to the episode seemed positive. Courtney Felle ’21 said that she enjoyed the farce-style comedy, adding that the jokes and witty one-liners were effective. However, she voiced some discomfort at how the sizable age gap between Kev and his ex was treated like an essential part of gay culture.
“I don’t totally know how I stand on it, and I think it depends on part how you view representation, since the creator is gay himself,” Felle told the Collegian in an email. “[Cicetti] made a few allusions in conversation to feeling like Kev and taking his own experiences and exaggerating them into Kev’s story.”
After the screening, Cicetti addressed the audience in Higley Hall auditorium. His talk, “The New Triple Threat: Becoming an Actor, Writer, Director,” focused on the process of raising funds and support for an independent television pilot. He spoke about using Kickstarter, where he raised over $20,000 to help produce the series and his experiences meeting mentors and showing his work at film festivals. (5A/5B received rave reviews and awards when it was presented at numerous LGBTQ+ film festivals in 2017).
Cicetti was open about the struggles and benefits of working with close friends (Angela Atwood, who plays Jan, is one of Cicetti’s best friends from acting school). He also emphasized that if he could change anything about the process of creating 5A/5B, he would have delegated more responsibility to others rather than trying to fill so many roles on his own. Finally, he reassured the audience that there was no one correct way to “make it” in the entertainment industry.
Perhaps the most charming aspect of Cicetti’s talk was his honesty about how he was still figuring a lot of things out.
“It felt millennial and authentic,” Felle said.
At the end of the event, Cicetti offered to help any Kenyon students who needed a mentor or had questions about his experience.