We recently had a chance to talk to Nora Kirkpatrick, who plays Courtney Cloverlock on the weekly web series, Dorm Life. The show has been doing well on sites like Hulu. The cast of Dorm Life also produces and write the show. The series, produced by Attention Span Media is currently in the second season (or semester).
CraveOnline: How did you get involved with Dorm Life?
Nora Kirkpatrick: I went to the theater school at UCLA with Chris Smith who plays Mike on the show. He told me they were starting a web series and asked me to come in and audition. I remember we did some improv and some monologues they had written, and then they asked me to do the show. It was a great environment on set because basically everyone was friends or was friends of friends. It was a family vibe, which I think is evident in the chemistry between characters.
CraveOnline: What is the production for the show like?
Nora Kirkpatrick: We shot Dorm Life during the summers, basically moving into an unused dorm in a small Buddhist college near Los Angeles. Shooting at the Buddhist college was such an interesting dynamic, because I think we really frightened the students at times. We would be dressed up in our faux school colors, filming a “camp-out” scene in the parking lot in the middle of the night. Or, we would be celebrating a non-existent school sporting event while they were trying to study. Sometimes they would come out of their rooms and just stare at us. I don’t think they knew we were shooting. I think they thought we were other students at the college who had simply lost our minds.
We shot during the summers so that those of us who were still in school would be able to fit it into our lives, and to give ourselves more freedom with our shooting schedules. I feel the quality of Dorm Life is due in part to the fact that we shot in the middle of nowhere, and had the opportunity to actually inhabit the rooms in which our characters called home. You could go knock on Marshall’s door, or Josh’s door, and they would actually be there, in character, available to you.
Improv was a huge part of our production. We would often improv for hours on set between scenes. Or we would improv the scene before the scene we were about to shoot. This freedom allowed our characters to really interact, not just with the scripted scenes, but with their subconscious feelings about the other characters and the situations unfolding throughout the season. I would say improv was an integral tool we had the opportunity and time to utilize.
CraveOnline: What can you tell us about your role as Beautiful girl in Transformers 2?
Nora Kirkpatrick: I was chosen by Michael Bay to play a college peer of Shia LaBeouf in the upcoming Transformers 2. It was a great experience because it was my first time working on a huge budget film. There were hundreds of extras, smoke machines, cranes, the whole nine yards. It was such a different experience from Dorm Life, but also very rewarding in that although I have a small part, I really got to see another level of film making, and some of Hollywood’s legacies at work. I had a great time working on that film.
CraveOnline: Do you write the Fanmail Shmanmail clips?
Nora Kirkpatrick: The Fanmail Schmanmail clips are all my own improv. Sometimes fans would write in questions, or I would have the other characters write some questions down. I wouldn’t look at them beforehand. I would just hit “record” and see what happened. It was a really freeing experience for me acting-wise, because you couldn’t go wrong. It gave me a chance to really explore Courtney’s psyche, and develop her opinions about what was going on with the characters around her. I basically got to go crazy, and be as creative as I wanted, and it all stayed in. That’s a good feeling, to be able to run wild and not have people try and rope you down.
I recently found out that a student at Juilliard took my season one “Fanmail Schmanmail” clips and compiled them into a monologue that she performed for her end of the year showcase. This was really incredible to me, because when I was doing them, I never thought they would have some kind of common thread. I heard that it ended up as kind of a satire on feminism, which makes sense to me. A lot of what Courtney says is based on an idea she heard somewhere that she chose to run with without getting all the information. She develops an opinion on a speck of knowledge and jumps in full throttle. I was really flattered by the fact that the Juilliard student liked my improvisations.
CraveOnline: Do you see web and TV intersecting or competing in the future?
Nora Kirkpatrick: I see TV and film starting to work off each other rather than compete.
The web seems like a good test site for TV shows. I know a few web series have gone on to be TV shows or at least pilots this past year. On the flip-side, TV shows like “The Office” have been doing spin-off web series based upon their TV shows. Also, you are seeing TV directors such as Joss Whedon switch over and do something completely different for the web, like his show “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog.” The web is a more interactive place for fans, and offers a closer connection between performer and audience. This connection is what keeps shows on the air season after season, and let the audience have some input on what they like and how they want to interact, which is a new idea.