Northwestern students create character-driven TV comedy ‘Ghouls’


Source: Ghouls

Rick Fromm and Sophie Neff perform in Ghouls. The three-episode miniseries will premier on NU Channel 1 next Fall Quarter.

Kevin Mathew, Copy Chief


From “The Vampire Diaries” to “Teen Wolf,” there’s no question fantasy shows are television’s current specialty, and two Northwestern students are adding to the genre with their own production.

Sam Freedman and Summer Benowitz recently finished filming the supernatural portion of their dark comedy “Ghouls,” a three-episode miniseries. The Communication juniors said they always planned on an episodic format, even before the script was written.

“We were both really drawn to the idea of fleshing out our characters and fleshing out our narrative and our storyline,” Freedman said. “The sort of depth you can get into with both your narrative and your characters is something you can only accomplish with episodic television and sort of a longer form.”

Freedman said short-films are much more common at NU, but their project needed the extra freedom of television to cover detailed characters and a transformation from absurd comedy to tragically realistic drama.

Yet the production has not been too serious. Benowitz, who co-wrote the series with Freedman, said that in many ways the story is a self-parody. Originally, the series was about writers who couldn’t write, but they settled on writers who didn’t understand what they were writing. The narrative framing allows Benowitz and Freedman to explore their own creative process and the fears felt by college artists who will soon graduate.

The story follows two college seniors tasked to make a story similar to “Twilight,” but they decide ghouls are more interesting and have more potential for depth than vampires. No one really knows what a “ghoul” is, so the writers are able to focus on strong characters, with each ghoul focused around a few emotions.

Benowitz said her favorite ghoul was Sylus, a clever killer with appetites and urges he cannot, or chooses not to, control. Communication senior Sean Foer, who plays Sylus, said he was drawn to the part because villains are always shocking, detailed characters, and the hungry ghoul was no exception.

“We had a fake arm that was stuffed with actual meat that was dipped in the fake blood that I had to eat on camera,” he said. “That was an experience.”

Freedman highlighted Winona, the wife of Sylus played by Communication junior Jessie Pinnick. Winona is a more dramatic ghoul with high standards, and Pinnick enjoyed the freedom playing a ghoul allowed.​

“You can kind of make that however you want it to be,” she said. “So basically our characters are just over the top.”

The cast is rounded out with Communication junior Sophie Neff and McCormick senior Rick Fromm. Neff plays Kate, the human who, consistent with most young-adult stories, is unexplainably attractive to the supernatural, the ghouls. Fromm plays Desterion, a ghoul “hunk” willing to ignore his ghoul urges to eat humans and starve so he can be with Kate.

The writer’s storyline will film in May, and the 22-minute, full-length episodes will be released in Fall Quarter 2015. The series was produced through Northwestern Channel 1, the only production company at NU that supports episodic narrative pieces. Foer said television is not the most common format at NU, but the Ghouls script made him want to join the project.

“Really, it’s always the script. It’s never really the format,” he said. “If it’s something that looks exciting, or looks like fun to do, that’s what makes me audition for something.”

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