The first episode of “The Next Four Years,” a web series created by University of Michigan alum Nick Blaemire, was released Wednesday on the web series’ website, thenextfouryearsshow.com. The series will comprise eight episodes, which will all be released online.
The show follows Ana and Phil, two recent college graduates attempting to make sense of their newly discovered reality. The first episode centers on the struggle of finding work after graduation—particularly after majoring in a field based on passion rather than practicality.
Blaemire said he was enthusiastic to do a show about the job market and these post-college years when it was pitched to him because he knew exactly what the state of limbo felt like.
“Millennials think that there will be work for them just because you’re raised to believe that you can have or do anything you want, and that altruism that our parents give us is incredible, but it creates a very strange disconnect after you get into the real world,” Blaemire said. “After the incubation of college, you’re suddenly dealing with a very real drought of the dreams that we all think are going to happen for ourselves.”
When asked about the next four years after college, University students tend to share this sentiment of uncertainty and stress. For years, LSA sophomore Camille Phaneuf had one word to describe that period: uncertain.
“Anxiety,” Phaneuf said. “There’s so much uncertainty, and I don’t really know what I’m doing.”
While some people, like LSA freshman Lily Barash, are excited for their four years of college because it means independence and freedom from parental supervision and the pressures of school, stress and anxiety are common sentiments about this time. Kinesiology freshman Sydney Grant was most nervous about the lack of a clear path.
“You need to make decisions fast compared to going from high school to college, which is like a common thing where everyone mostly knows that’s what’s next,” Grant said. “But after college, people go to grad school, they travel, they get a job, and you need to make these decisions quickly.”
Blaemire says he definitely related to these feelings of uncertainty himself after leaving the University, but says college prepared him as well is it could for these strange years.
“I think I got an incredible amount of information from Michigan that has totally shaped me as a person, and I think that the world is changing too fast for any one form of education to really fully prepare you; the experience of being introduced to (the real world) is sort of like the fifth year of college,” Blaemire said. “I look at the world through the lens of the way I took in information about Michigan, only now I’m sort of creating my own school and my own projects at home.”
“The Next Four Years” is Blaemire’s first venture into the web-series format. While Blaemire has used many platforms for his art, including musicals and TV, he says there is value in the more recently popularized web series format.
“I love it,” Blaemire said. “I think there’s a lot to be said for the proliferation of ways you can tell stories, and I think that there’s a freedom in a web series that you don’t have in a long-form narrative, because you can tell as much of the story as you want and whatever part of the story you want, and in a way it becomes more like a snapshot than like a fully rendered narrative.”
Blaemire said that this “snapshot” way of telling stories allowed him not only to tell more stories, but gave him the opportunity to use his script and camera angles as a way of telling the story as well, a sort of second layer to his storytelling.
“Where you put the camera and what part of the story you decide to script can tell so much more than what’s actually happening, and it can reverberate into other characters’ arcs,” he said. “You can really create this interesting web of stories that you’re kind of telling by juxtaposing against others. You’re sort of shadow-telling more stories than just the foreground.”
One shadow story Blaemire identified was that of the current presidential administration — not a surprising one, given the name of the series. While Blaemire and the other creators did not intend for the title to have a double meaning, Blaemire thinks it fits in with the themes of the series.
“It sort of nails a theme that the show really has, which is like when we’ve been learning our whole lives in four-year chunks, from first to fifth grade, and then high school and college, we’re sort of built in this four-year mentality, and part of that is the presidency,” Blaemire said.
Blaemire didn’t seem to mind the connotation the title might have with the current president, calling it “unavoidable,” but also noted that having the president as one of these aforementioned “shadow characters” is rather fitting.
“While we don’t speak about politics really in it — it’s much more about young people trying to make their own way — they’re still trying to make their own way in America, and so I do think that in a way he becomes a shadow character in the same way that there are many more stories than the one that we’re telling, that resonate because we’re pointing the camera at this real chasm between the reality that we thought existed in college and the reality that actually exists in the real world, and since reality is quite the buzzword these days, it only helps the story resonate more.”
Reflecting on his college years, Blaemire has one simple piece of advice for current University students.
“Read,” Blaemire said. “Read about what’s happening in the world. Pay attention. And find that beautiful balance between being in this incredible incubation chamber surrounded by a bunch of other vivid, smart, attractive people, and then also know that you live in the world as well, and how do you balance against having this idealized college experience while also slowly but surely becoming a citizen of the planet and taking advantage of that town and that state and that part of the country.”