Film students bring ‘ArchTalk’ into focus

What’s the deal with “ArchTalk”? When a new student-run Instagram account popped up in mid-February, Ramapo College students all began asking that very question. 

The story begins with Ramapo College Television (RCTV) co-president Samantha Toronto mentioning to junior RJ McLaughlin that she would love it if Ramapo had a talk show, similar to The Tonight Show, that highlighted student perspectives. The two gathered the troops — senior Kevin Estrada, junior Jessica Gonzalez, senior Bec Roth and junior Daynah Stockwell — to get the film rolling. 

“ArchTalk,” though, is an expansion on a talk show idea that RCTV produced back in 2014 that took place under Ramapo’s notorious red arch. McLaughlin and his crew took this dated production on RCTV’s YouTube and gave it a huge update.

 “Just looking at what has been done in the past, I feel like we could do so much better and I think we are doing so much better… at keeping the voice of the students,” McLaughlin said.

With passion and some teamwork, McLaughlin and the other five members of the “ArchTalk” crew worked with associate professor of communication arts Neel Scott to create the independent study. As all communication arts majors with concentrations in digital filmmaking, they meet every Thursday to plan, write and produce episodes. Their goal is to create three or four episodes this semester.

While the team is looking to have some fun and flex their creativity, above all else, they want to create a product that can engage the Ramapo community and have a lasting impact.

An average episode of “ArchTalk” can be expected to have a consistent structure, starting with an introduction detailing what viewers can expect from the episode by the host, McLaughlin. 

The next segment is unscripted and allows the crew to go on location, talking to students in high-traffic areas on campus. The show then transitions into a scripted skit — something that’s funny, highly produced and aims to draw people in. 

The last segment takes the viewer back into the studio with some sort of game or special guest interview before all eyes are back on McLaughlin for the outro sequence. 

“I feel like we’re rebelling against the idea of what you would think a college talk show would be, which I think is really fun because I think that’s the point of independent work,” Gonzalez said. “It’s not supposed to be clean cut, and we’re not supposed to follow rules.”

“ArchTalk’s” first episode — out today on their YouTube and Instagram — focuses on Ramapo culture, trying to capture what it’s like to be a Roadrunner. The episode includes a bit about parking tickets during the monologue, a debate about “Atrium vs. Birch” featuring Ramapo students and an interview with the student behind the Ramapo Affirmations Instagram account. 

“How we come up with the ideas is we literally all just sit in a room and we just spitball and word vomit onto the whiteboard of what we think people would like, and then we narrow it down to one episode,” Roth said.

“Finding a common theme for each episode I think helped a lot,” Toronto added.

The team has already started planning for the second episode, with the tentative theme being dating on Ramapo’s campus or in college generally. They have some big ideas that they want to incorporate during the remaining episodes, too. Roth shared that they hope to get a live studio audience during a monologue or interview segment at some point. They’re also trying to book an interview with a high-profile person on campus — but, shhh, that’s a secret for now.

While each member of the group has a specific role on paper, the lines begin to blur when collaborating. They take turns writing, directing and editing depending on what the various segments call for. For example, in the first episode, McLaughlin thought of the idea for the skit and therefore decided to take the helm on writing and editing it, with Toronto directing. Gonzalez took on editing for the debate segment, though, and Estrada edited the monologue.

“Somebody takes the lead on something and kind of disperses those roles… which is really helping with organization,” McLaughlin said.

Estrada expressed that this fluidity has allowed him to step out of his comfort zone and try being in front of the camera.

“I never really wanted to be on camera as much, but I feel like with being such a small group, I wanted to see where I can go with this, trying to involve myself more than just behind the camera,” he said. “I wanted to take a different step, be on camera for once, express who I am.”

While the team is looking to have some fun and flex their creativity, above all else, they want to create a product that can engage the Ramapo community and have a lasting impact.

“The goal really was to make something that was for Ramapo students that wasn’t supervised by Ramapo people… We obviously stay respectful, but we talk about things that you wouldn’t see posted on the Ramapo College Instagram,” McLaughlin said.

He shared that when filming the first monologue, he brought a blazer and a Ramapo sweatshirt but “felt so disconnected” talking about college culture while wearing a blazer. He opted for the Ramapo sweatshirt because it felt true to the show and the intended audience.

“We’ve been adapting and trying to figure out, ‘What’s our voice? How do we want to be portrayed?’” McLaughlin said. “And I don’t think we’ll find it in the first episode necessarily, or the second.”

All six expressed that they hope “ArchTalk” can go on after they graduate, maybe even becoming an actual class. While “ArchTalk” has a passionate group behind it now, it’ll require viewer engagement and the involvement of other students next year and beyond for “ArchTalk” to live on past this spring.

“I want other students to see it, mostly in [the film] major, and get inspired from us, like ‘It’s just six people doing a late-night talk show. We can do that as well,’” Estrada said. &


Featured photo submitted Samantha Toronto