University students bring reality TV to campus with "Survivor"-inspired web series

Monday, August 7, 2017 - 5:06pm

A new competition based off of the CBS reality game show “Survivor” is making its way to the University of Michigan campus this fall.

Dubbed “Survivor: Michigan,” the competition will be comprised of 16 to 18 current University students competing in weekly activities based off of the real reality game show, such as immunity challenges, tribal councils, confessionals and alliances lasting throughout the academic semester.

In an email interview, LSA senior George Jayne, a Screen Arts & Culture major, longtime fan of CBS’s “Survivor” and co-producer of the YouTube series for the University, explained after being connected with another student who was also interested in bringing this series to campus through a mutual friend, the show became a possibility.

“Once we got in contact with each other, we instantly knew we had to make this a reality,” Jayne wrote.

As part of the competition, student contestants will be filmed and later be part of a YouTube series which is said to be available on the video sharing service after the final tribal council, according to a Facebook post shared throughout closed groups for each undergraduate class.

Unlike many of the basic survival aspects and conditions that “Survivor” contestants experience on the original television series experience, students will be tasked with a different set of challenges that still aim to challenge them mentally and physically.

“‘Survivor’ tests how far you will push yourself and how cut throat you can be,” Jayne wrote. “Combine that with the everyday lifestyle of a college student and now we have something interesting. Will they be stressed? Probably. But that stress is a fun and chaotic roller coaster that will hopefully breed some very memorable and unforgettable college memories.”

Engineering senior Claire Rehfuss, co-producer of “Survivor: Michigan,” said in an interview they plan on remaining an off-campus organization, to avoid any regulations by being affiliated with the University and to allow them more freedom to produce.

“We considered making it an official organization, but felt like there was a lot of red tape and not a lot of benefits from being official,” Rehruss said. “We’ve already roped some friends into helping film occasionally, but overall we think smaller is better, especially when it comes to creative decisions or following the ‘stories’ of our competitors.”

Other universities within the Big Ten Network, such as University of Maryland and Ohio State University, have already made their YouTube debut with similar renditions of the spin-off competitions based off of the CBS reality competition show.

For over four years Austin Trupp, University of Maryland 2015 graduate who produced over five seasons of “Survivor: Maryland,” helped pave the way and bring the idea to a widespread campus activity, inspiring students like Rehfuss and Jayne to bring it to Michigan.  

“Austin Trupp’s ‘Survivor: Maryland’ made a huge splash in the community, and we really wanted to produce a show on par with what he had accomplished,” Jayne wrote.

With less than a month before the fall semester, Jayne emphasized his big plans for the series.

“It’s an insanely difficult and unique task to reproduce the world’s greatest reality competition show, so we definitely have a lot cut out for us,” he wrote. 

Rival Ohio State University premiered their own version of the competition called “Survivor: Time and Change” this past winter, with a focus on creating challenges that were more geared towards the OSU community, according to an article in OSU's student newspaper The Lantern.

LSA senior Zachary Olsen said though he doesn’t see himself participating in a competition like this at the University, the competition would be a valuable experience to help shape a student's education for those cast in the competition.

“I think this is a good idea to bring to campus,” Olsen said. “I think this would have a positive effect on the students’ creativity and possibly allow them the ability to exercise knowledge they can and learn more from others involved.”

“Survivor: Michigan” is planned to start the first week of the fall semester and end two weeks before finals, with about a three-hour time commitment per week for students.