LSA junior Eric Kahn Gale was busy as finals approached last semester. That didn’t stop him from making his own soap opera.

Gale and three friends entered a contest sponsored by SOAPnet, a television network devoted to soap operas. The network launched its SoapU contest last year, challenging college students from across the country to create their own soap operas for a chance to win a $20,000 development deal.

While working in the Duderstadt Center last semester, Gale noticed flyers promoting the SoapU competition.

“I got this vision of the future that I would win this contest,” said Gale, who was inspired by Susan Dansby, a writer for “As the World Turns,” who had talked to his theater group a few weeks earlier. “I had all these finals and I was working on another animated movie, but I had to do it.”

Before writing and directing his soap, a short film called “Night Call,” Gale had never even made a live-action film.

A few weeks after submitting his contest entry, Gale received a phone call from an insurance agency to confirm his address.

“What is this about, did I win?” Gale asked.

They didn’t tell him, but Gale was notified a few weeks later that he was one of 10 finalists moving on to the contest semifinals.

“Night Call” was then posted on SOAPnet.com with nine other semifinalists. Gale put his friends and family to work voting for his film to boost it above the others in the online contest.

“We made a Facebook group and we had like 200 members, and we were calling everyone we knew,” Gale said.

Votes came in from around the world – including from Wales and Spain, Gale said. The publicity push worked and Gale’s film advanced to the finals.

As one of five finalists, Gales must create another five-minute soap opera. It will be broadcasted on SOAPnet in April.

SOAPnet is sending camera crews to Ann Arbor at the end of March to document the filming of Gale’s final contest entry for a behind-the-scenes featurette.

While “Night Calls” was based on a short story by J.D. Salinger, Gale’s next short is an original work set inside the offices of a tabloid newspaper.

“I’m very confident in our idea,” Gale said. “I love our script – we worked really hard on it. I think it’s a super-tight five minutes.”

If Gale wins, he plans on taking his production partners with him to Los Angeles for development meetings with SOAPnet executives. He is making the films with School of Music junior Nick Lang, LSA sophomore Matt Lang and School of Music senior Chris Allen.

“We always had a pact for years that whoever made it first would bring the rest along,” Gale said. “We’re all together on this one.”

Before joining the contest, Gale never watched soap operas. Now he sometimes watches them to learn more about the genre.

Gale said he hopes to parlay his soap success into an animation career at Disney, SOAPnet’s parent company.

Gale has the next month to work on his final contest entry, and hope all goes as planned.

He said his finals in December didn’t go well. But it doesn’t really matter, he said. Gale hopes to be bound for Hollywood soon, where those finals will be a distant memory.

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