This past summer, a web series pilot swept away critics and audiences alike at a multitude of film festivals, including Glitter!, Oklahoma’s LGBT Film Festival, Chicago’s Queer Bits Film Festival and Windy City International Film Festival, earning awards and rave reviews.
5A/5B follows a week in the lives of two best friends in Harlem. In doing so, it explores fresh, comedic tropes and the stereotypical relationship of a middle-aged woman and her gay best friend.
This series hits close to home for Kenyon, because the bulk of creation, production and promotion for this project is happening right here in Gambier.
Michael Cicetti, a Columbus native, is the writer, director, co-star and producer of 5A/5B. He is also an Affiliated Scholar in the Dance, Drama and Film department at Kenyon. As an Affiliated Scholar, Cicetti visits various classes and offers workshops and master classes for students seeking to improve their performance and production techniques.
The protagonists of 5A/5B are Kevin (played by Cicetti), a gay academic in his thirties, and Jan, a middle-aged woman who is trying to rebuild her life after moving her sons into college and divorcing her husband. These two friends find themselves struggling with the roles and responsibilities that accompany (or that they believe should accompany) adulthood. Cicetti describes them as “almost adults.”
“I created the web series to be a sort of calling card for myself,” Cicetti said. He wanted to create a piece of work that showcased his skills as an actor. More than that, Cicetti was tired of what he calls “the hot-mess-hero” that dominates current comedic ventures, such as Amy Schumer’s character in her 2015 movie Trainwreck. Instead of inviting audiences to laugh at a privileged narcissist’s destructive choices, Cicetti generates humor from a truthful relationship that navigates zany circumstances.
“I really think it’s important that women and gay men don’t need to be hot messes in order to be really funny,” Cicetti said. “Part of the appeal of Kev and Jan [5A/5B’s protagonists] is their real, earnest attempt to do the right thing. Because they’re self-aware at a critical level, [that] when they fall short, it’s all the more funny.”
When the College offered the Marilyn Yarbrough Teaching Fellowship to Cicetti’s husband, Elliot Mercer, who teaches The Art Manifesto course in Art History, they also invited Cicetti to bring his talents and resources to Gambier.
Away from New York City and its film industry, Cicetti calls his time at Kenyon his “artistic sabbatical.” In Gambier, he dedicates his time to writing for the web series and managing the business elements of film production. He holds weekly conference calls with the executive producers and works on the Kickstarter campaign, which currently is working towards its fundraising goal.
More than anything, however, Cicetti hopes to serve as a resource for Kenyon students interested in filmmaking. As a first-time filmmaker embarking on a business venture, Cicetti wants to draw from his experience and show students how to pitch ideas, find investors, lead creative teams, produce ideas and handle the ins and outs of marketing, distribution and promotion, whether they’re working onsite or remotely.
To him, no project is insignificant. “I think there’s something to be said about starting small,” Cicetti said. “I really want to be an advocate here for students starting small, even if they don’t necessarily see where it’s going.”