The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Deceit, deception come to campus in SMU soap

Will the innocent Helena discover the man she loves is a gigolo, hired by her father to keep her mother occupied? Will Helena’s father keep his illicit affair a secret even after he impregnates his mistress?

These shocking revelations and more scandalous twists were revealed in the first episodes of “Laws of Deception,” a student written and produced soap opera that debuted May 14 at the West Village’s Magnolia Theater.

The ten bold, and yes, beautiful SMU students began the project as a class project for Tom Bywaters’ spring semester class exploring the mechanics of the soap opera.

While daytime TV rarely receives critical acclaim, soaps have been around since the dawn of television. After years of scandals, affairs, broken hearts, murders, kidnappings, mistaken identities, returns from the dead, many wonder how the writers of soap operas can keep coming up with ideas.

But the writers of “Laws of Deception” weren’t afraid to delve into new material and make the genre their own. Bywaters’ class spent the semester deciding the fates and falls of six characters whose lives intertwine with all of the expected melodrama. There are drugs, there’s deceit, and yes, there is sex… a lot of it.

After creating the roles, the students had the opportunity to audition 40 to 50 DFW actors in hopes of finding the next soap opera star. The class picked those with the right look and enough talent.

Finding actors able to free themselves from all inhibitions was a surprisingly daunting task, said Charisma Sreras, the producer of the project

Lenn Jenkins, who plays the conniving husband-father-lover, Carlton Edwards, said he loved doing the soap opera.

“You get to kiss and grope a lot more. I’ve definitely been using a lot more breath spray,” Jenkins said.

Creating the concept
The most important part of a soap opera is obviously a catching plot line. Bywaters’ class concentrated on perfecting the script throughout the semester until spring break.

This left the cast and crew two months to film all 44 scenes and edit the final product.

“There’s a lot of work outside of class. It’s a very dedicated crew and our cast is awesome. They’re very professional,” Sreras said.

The students came back early from spring break and worked 10 to 12 hours a week outside of class.

All 10 classmates were assigned jobs. The class decided among themselves who they thought would be the best for the different positions.

Sreras served as the producer, coordinating the schedule and getting clearance to shoot at desired locations and studios.

Junior Serenity Pang and seniors Mehul Shah and Shana Anderson filled spots in the directors’ chairs. The three split up the scenes, allowing each to explore their directing ability. As directors, it was up to them to manage miniscule details such as hand placement, facial expressions and tone of voice.

“I love working with the actors, it’s like playing with dolls,” Anderson said.

Not only did the directors sketch out the scenes, they were also responsible for the editing process.

Anderson also served as the head writer who compiled and edited the script.

The other classmates shared responsibility for writing, recording audio, shooting the scenes, designing costumes and managing other necessary tasks.

The 44 scenes required several different settings. The class used the Belo studio in Umphrey Lee for three weekends. Having access to a real studio proved very beneficial. The environment provided a more controlled setting.

The class had studio lights and more effects to work with. The crew built the sets that were used in the studio including a bed and a restaurant. Other locations filmed included Bywaters’ home, various offices in the Meadows building and the bathroom of the Greer Garson Theater.

Making the soap
To film just one of the two minute scenes took about 45 minutes of work. First, the actors have to lay out the scene so that the director can decide all the details viewers take for granted. This process takes almost half an hour.

Then the filming begins. With interruptions from unexpected sounds, forgotten lines and unforeseen obstacles (like hair falling in front of a face) the scene takes about four to five takes to get it exactly right. But the actors and crewmembers usually remained patient throughout it all, and no one on the crew was willing to settle for anything less than what they had previously envisioned, Pang said.

Once all the scenes have been filmed the editing process begins. Using the footage from all the takes, the directors take the best lines and best shots to piece together a suspenseful and drama filled two minutes.

When all 44 scenes are perfected, the final product is finally put together for our enjoyment.

Soap operas have provided our seemingly uneventful lives with entertainment for years. While soaps like “Passions” and “General Hospital” have brought excitement into the days of our lives week after week, “Laws of Deception” promises to provide all the emotion and excitement you would find in professional soap operas.

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