By: Patricja Okuniewska
A number of us, myself included, must admit to structuring our days around coffee. It’s the first thing I think about when I get up in the morning, my much-needed midday fuel, and a small source of pleasure during a late-night Lau sesh. For many college students, it’s essentially the elixir of life. Caitlin Ouano (COL ‘17) had the same idea when she came up with her miniseries, aptly called Coffee. Set at Georgetown University, the show centers around a student who has to adjust to life in college after learning she has a terminal medical condition.
In collaboration with her friend Alden Truesdale (COL’17), who starred as the main character and also helped to direct it, the project came to fruition during the two girls’ senior year. Although not directly based on true events, Coffee gives fascinating insight into college culture—jam-packed with internships, extracurriculars, and a crap-ton of FOMO. I spoke to Caitlin about her thought process while making the show, its relevance to Georgetown’s oh so notorious “stress culture,” and the future of the series.
The series is now available in its entirety on YouTube under the username “camG Productions.” There are five episodes in the first season, ranging between 5-10 minutes in length.
Patricja Okuniewska: Can you describe what Coffee is about and why you decided to give it that name?
Caitlin Ouano: Coffee was ultimately, for me, about college. Nothing too complex. It started out as some short film about a girl dying while being in the kind of in-between anonymous space of college social life; but then when Alden joined in and read a little bit of it she said “What if there was an episode where she tries to eat healthy and then decides f**k it I’m going to eat cheeseburgers?” It turned into a mini series, and the characters became more sketched out, Georgetown parodies. My life at Georgetown was run on coffee, and it became strangely symbolic of my four years there. At the end of the day, all the stress and homework and four-hours-of-sleep nights were powered by caffeine. Who did I want to have coffee with? Who could I have coffee with?
PO: What inspired you to make the series?
CO: If I’m going to be honest, I really just wanted to make something in my last semester of college, something watchable. I had directed plays but I’d been taking screenwriting classes three times a week at 9am my whole senior year, so I was dying to create something and make sure those morning classes didn’t go to waste. Plus I had met Alden by that point who always wanted to make something and who was an awesome collaborator, along with our friend Gina. Maybe it was because I was a part-time English major, but by my senior year I had begun to have a more ironic take on the hectic environment at the school: the endless extracurriculars, internships, socializing, and piles of homework. I was thinking, if I took one of these Type A’s here (myself included) and told them, “hey you’re gonna die in a year,” what would they do? What happens when you push up that inevitable deadline? You can’t network and Google Cal your way out of that one.
PO: What is the relevance of the series’ setting at Georgetown? In what ways do you hope viewers—Georgetown college students and others—to relate to the show?
CO: I didn’t mean it to be, but Coffee is a Georgetown show, and it became a Georgetown show organically (probably because after four years your reality just always takes the shape of the Hilltop). We really didn’t intend that, but once Alden had that idea for one episode, Bree kind of became that typical, hard working, balancing act of a student we all are. And then Alicia followed, because everybody has that one best friend who seems to do nothing but is winning at life somehow. I hope that viewers will watch it and get a sense of that Hoya nostalgia (I get it pretty frequently now), but also to learn from Bee’s mistakes. I think when you’re a Georgetown senior you look back on all that time you spent networking for jobs you may or may not want, going out with people you didn’t like, spending all your free time on clubs and activities, and you start to register the two or three things that really matter, the times you really enjoyed yourself. It’s important to take time to smell the coffee. It’s harder than people think because the campus culture sucks you in, but it’s so important. Alden summarizes the show as “By dying that she finally learns how to live.” I agree, but I like to think that Bree always knew how to live, she just didn’t do it.
PO: Do you plan on expanding on the series any more?
CO: Don’t know yet! A lot of people have asked, and we may consider a second season or a sequel episode if we get traction, and I’d like to. But I always meant for it to end ambiguously. It could be a whole new set of adventures or we could set it in the afterlife, which I guess for some people looks like Georgetown…