"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
Though this writer hasn't sat through an entire episode of a soap opera since my stay-at-home mother got addicted to “General Hospital” around the time Luke and Laura got married, I can still appreciate the genre. Unlike real life, things happen on soap operas — big things. Unwanted pregnancies and murders for hire. Incest and suicide attempts. Dirty business deals and shocking revelations. These days, we hear, even stuff like alien abduction and possession by the Devil gets thrown into the mix.
With action like that, who could blame UA student Raymond Burks for wanting to get in on the fun? A 22-year-old senior seeking a degree in English and creative writing when not running campus radio station KXUA, Burks is also the writer, producer and editor of his own cable access soap opera: “Bring Down the Moon.”
Burks has been a hardcore soap fan since his junior high days in Stamps. These days, he still loves daytime television enough that he talks straight-facedly about the “art” of soaps, and sniffs at online videos that play up their cliffhanger plotlines for laughs. Burks produced the pilot for “Bring Down the Moon” last year as an entry for a contest run by the cable channel Soap Opera Network, using student actors from UA. While his video didn't win, writing and directing it was so fulfilling that Burks decided to keep the show going. He approached Cox Cable about showing “Bring Down the Moon” on their Community Access Television (C.A.T.) Channel 18. They said yes, and the show currently appears there on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., with an encore at 1 a.m. Wednesdays.
Burks said that the show is his tribute to the older, more relationship-driven soap operas he grew up with. The show revolves around four college students (couples David and Meredith and Alyson and Alex) who strike up a friendship during their freshman year at UA. Though the show features plenty of traditional soap-style intrigue — for example, an upcoming episode features allegations of infidelity, and the shocker that Alex has been sleeping with David's mom in exchange for cash (GASP!) — Burks said you won't see any of the paranormal, far-out plotlines that have become commonplace on modern soaps.
“It's not every day that you hear about somebody sleeping with their best friend's mom,” Burks said. “But overall we have a lot of real moments on our show. That's one thing I pride our show on. There aren't any characters that are going to die and come back from the dead. There aren't any possessed people on the show. We're grounded in reality.”
Another thing Burks said that viewers can expect from the show is more conversations and character development. “Nowadays on soaps it's action, action, action, action,” he said. “Nobody really takes the time to try and develop bonds between their characters.”
Currently in the midst of filming and editing the second, six-episode season of “Bring Down the Moon,” Burks said that public response to the show has been very positive. “People give me tips and hints on technical things,” he said, “but for the most part everybody that I've talked to is very addicted to the show.”
Burks said that many of the online videos labeled as soap operas are a parody of the genre. Though “Bring Down the Moon,” is “very self-aware” and draws on the music, editing and mood of classic soap operas, it's meant to be taken seriously.
“You're always going to have people who take soaps at their camp value. What we want to go for is a style where we're aware of the fact that we're a soap opera, but we take the craft of soap opera seriously.”
Burks watches soaps with an eye toward the writing, but said that everyone gets something different from the experience. Soaps can be, he insists, an art form — not to mention a security blanket.
“I think that for a lot of people the soaps can be very much a comfort food,” he said. “It's very inviting to come home after a long day, having taped your shows, and kind of watch other people's fuckups in life.”
While Burks will finish out this season of “Bring Down the Moon,” he said it will likely be the last, given that he and most of the actors in the cast will graduate next year. Burks said he's currently applying for internships with companies that produce daytime television series on the West Coast. After graduation, he hopes to move there and break into the business.
Outside of Fayetteville, soap opera fans can view episodes of “Bring Down the Moon,” at www.myspace.com/bringdownthemoon.
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