Humorists have long been inspired by the quirks of human behavior. David Morgasen ’17 (M.F.A. screenwriting), lecturer in cinema and television arts at Cal State Fullerton, is no exception. He, along with partners Tim Stack, James Stein and Maz Jobrani came up with a concept for an animated TV series taking a comical look at the immigrant experience and satirizing the way some Americans respond to people who are from cultures other than their own.
The team recently signed a deal with 20th Century Fox/Disney to write and produce a half-hour program tentatively titled “The Carringtons.” The show portrays American life as seen through the eyes of a recently-arrived immigrant family from the fictitious country of Vaysmir. Starring the voices of Jobrani, an Iranian-American comic, and Courteney Cox (also an executive producer), Morgasen is optimistic about getting the series on the air.
Morgasen, best known for his work on “The Princess Protection Program,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and a host of popular viral videos, feels his time as a graduate student at CSUF helped in developing this particular show.
“It was during my time in the M.F.A. program that the issue of immigration was becoming increasingly relevant. Interacting with Titan students who themselves were in the midst of the immigrant experience gave me an added level of empathy that helped us create a show that was a comedy but very much grounded in reality.” It also inspired the team to hire an ethnically diverse cast and staff.
Now as a CSUF faculty member teaching screenwriting and producing, having a live project like “The Carringtons” informs student learning in a way that can’t be easily replicated. Morgasen shares progress on his project with students as it happens, so his class is vicariously living the experience of developing a new show.
“I’m able to talk in real time, showing them the process,” he explains. “Like so many of my colleagues in the CTVA department, I share with them the benefits of being an active member of the entertainment industry, including teaching them the do’s and don’ts of pitching, along with developing and producing content.”
Morgasen’s students also benefit from his wealth of practical experience in both traditional media and online video. That breadth of experience is a direct result of Morgasen’s life philosophy that he tries to impress upon all his students: say “yes” to opportunities that may be out of one’s comfort zone. He adds, “Some of the best moves in my own career were totally unplanned. By not limiting myself, I went from writing to directing to producing, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with everybody from Howard Stern to the Disney Channel.”
And he urges students to embrace all the technology readily available to aspiring creators — something he wishes he had had when starting out.
“Shoot with your iPhone, edit it on your laptop and upload it to YouTube. Get it on social media. You can bypass the [network or studio] gatekeepers. Get people’s attention. There are a lot of execs looking at YouTube and what’s going viral. If you have a great idea and it’s filmable — just do it. Of course, though, you’re first going to want to have the solid foundation you can only get from being a Titan.”
Learn more about Cal State Fullerton’s Cinema and Television Arts program on the department’s website.