Former student creates ‘Room 17’ web series


The Appalachian Online

Casey Suglia

Morgan “Smurphy” Stewart had a plan – a plan for a film series.

Stewart was formerly an English major at Appalachian State University, but left the university for financial reasons. While in school, he  was involved in the theater department. After he left, he still had a “creative itch” to write and create. This itch turned into the development of a web series, called “Room 17.”

The film series takes place in a motel room and is developed, directed and funded by Stewart.

“Room 17 is a web series,” Stewart said. “Karen Sabo from Invisible Theater was asking if she wanted to start a movie part of their division and reached out to me. [I] had this idea in my head for a while but they didn’t want to go in that direction so I went with it anyway.”

With the plan in motion and a few scripts written, Stewart reached out to his friends to assist with writing the series. There are now 15 scripts total.

“Morgan and I have been friends for 12 years now and we’ve been making movies together for almost as long,” said Jason Edwards, a scriptwriter for the series. “After I moved to New York, I didn’t think we’d be able to work on anything together, so I was excited when he told me about this project.”

Stewart gave the writers a lot of freedom with the script, he said,  just as long as the scenes all took place inside the same motel room, “Room 17.”

“A lot of the films are about 20-somethings at some point in their life, because they’re written by current or former college students,” Stewart said. “There is one found footage style film. There is another that is a documentary about the hotel room, but I just told everyone to write and they came back with five or six pages of script for me.”

Junior English major Katelyn Sabet said she was excited to write for the project.

“I thought it was very helpful to be given a time limit and a setting limit,” Sabet said. “Sometimes as a writer you’re kind of thinking all over the place, but it was nice to be limited to such specifics.”

Auditions were held Jan. 26 and Jan. 27 and were open to actors of all experience levels. Stewart said he was looking to cast around 30 parts.

“I thought that there were people who were really good actors but had not [gotten] their chance to act, and not be glossed over in auditions because they haven’t paid their dues yet,” Stewart said. “If they want to act, they can just act. They don’t have to go through six months of rehearsals – everything is just fun. It’s fun to do. It’s something unique.”

Stewart hopes to start filming in March once the main stage theater productions die down. He plans to release one episode per week of the web series through the video hosting site, Vimeo. Stewart said that he hopes people are inspired by his series to create films of their own.

“Filming is easy to do now. Every computer in the library has the resources and requires such little work,” Stewart said. “If you tap into something people enjoy, they’re going to want to see it. I hope people are inspired to create something after watching it, even if it is to do it better than I did.”

Story: Casey Suglia, Intern A&E Reporter