In a Q&A, Senior English major Tommy Armstrong, the creator of a digital series called “High Education,” explains the process behind making and writing a satirical series about college life.
What is High Education about?
High Education is a series about drugs in higher ed. Heidi (Anika Backelin-Harrison ‘19) has some bad oranges in a student experiment and loses her memory. The series is a satire of two sides of academia, as Professor Doughty (Natalie Sandone) tries to control her department and her students as Heidi relearns what college is. The show is energized and might make your mother dizzy so it’s a fun show for the Internet generations. There’s a bunch of talented people who helped me along the way and put a ton of time and skill in. Alex Wagoner ‘21 was the director of photography and played Jay; Liam Worcheck ‘22 composed and performed all original music for the series, and all the actors including Anika Backelin-Harrison, Natalie Sandone, Robin Brecker, Bella Ragomo, Greg Poppa, professors Jon Volkmer, Rebecca Roberts, and Domenick Scudera, and tons more.
What was the process for creating High Education like?
I started writing High Education on the train ride home from Saturday Night Fever at the Walnut Street Theatre, since my high school chemistry teacher was giving away her tickets. It follows a neuroscience student, Constance, who makes homemade study drugs and tests them on student subjects. In 8 months I had 500 pages of script which I spent the next 8 months revising. Meanwhile I applied to the Bear Innovation Competition and got 2nd place, which got us $2,500! I used the money to buy a Nikon D750 and lens, plus some audio and light equipment, I applied to Summer Fellows with the proposal to research TV series and films which used satire this way and/or portrayed drugs and got in with my adviser Domenick Scudera, who developed a list of films with me to see and which we would discuss at our weekly meetings, as well as filming progress. That summer I filmed the series with actors I had met at Ursinus, community theatre, online, or who were my dad.
What have you learned from this project? What sort of emotions and lessons have you gone through?
I have learned so much over the course of making High Education. While making the series, I started making all sorts of comedy series that were put online such as Gary’s World, which follows the downfall of an inept but devoted vlogger. Interactive Doctor, which is a click-your-own-adventure (I got a cease-and-desist from Choose Your Own Adventure) series, Kids React–made with Liam Worcheck and Jenna Menapace–which is a nightmare satire of the YouTube show of the same name, and more. It’s all on tommycarrollarmstrong.com. Stay tuned for Elders React, coming out next week! Anyway, I learned I love making comedy series, especially satires.
Where can someone watch High Education?
We started releasing the first 8 episodes over 8 weeks this summer, and the next 8 this winter. As of this week, you can now watch all of High Education online! Watch it as fast as you want. You can find it at TommyCarrollArmstrong.com, and my IG @tommycarmstrong links to the YouTube playlist. Check it out!