New Show on Irish Students in U.S.

November 5, 2008

By April Drew
A NEW television series which looks at the lives and antics of three groups of Irish students who lived and worked in Hawaii, California and Chicago while on J-1 student visas will air in Ireland This month.

A fly-on-the-wall documentary called Summer in the Sun - The J1 and made by Motive TV, is a six-part series which documents the adventures of 18 students who came to live, work and travel in the U.S. over a three month period in the summer.

Bob Kelly, series producer, told the Irish Voice that the idea of the show came from fellow producer, Jamie D’Alton, who suggested they create a documentary about the “essentially and Irish rite of passage.”

Kelly said that nearly every Irish student travels to the U.S. for a summer during their third level education and they remember it for years after.

“It’s often the first time abroad for young people, although these days it’s changed a lot and I suppose that’s why we wanted to look at it, to see if it would provoke discussion,” he said.

Describing Summer in the Sun as an “observational documentary,” Kelly said that students were going anyway so Motive “just tagged along for the ride.”

Motive, which has claimed several awards in sports documentaries, were looking for an entertainment project. When D’Alton suggested trailing the J-1 students the idea was snapped up.

“It was great to work on an entertainment project. It was something very different and exciting,” said Kelly.

Kelly, who made his debut as a producer on the series (in the past he has worked as a presenter) said that although loads of students applied to participate in the documentary, it was difficult to get the “right” students.

“We looked long and hard. A documentary like this is only as good as the access you get to good participants,” he said.

Eventually, four students from Dublin who moved to San Diego, nine from Galway who moved to Chicago and five more from Dundalk who journeyed to live and work in Hawaii where chosen.

Kelly describes the show as “fun, fun, fun,” admitting that there is “some scandal and some revelations.”

In the first six days a guy broke his ankle. “You can’t script that,” he said.

“I think it will be somewhat controversial, some people will look at the program and be shocked whilst others will think it’s a bit mild. Everyone has their own standards and indeed their own J-1 experience,” Kelly said.

RTE audiences can enjoy shocks, tears, romances and jeopardy, people you like and people who you dislike.

“It’s definitely post watershed, that was always the plan because we didn’t want to censor too much. I mean, it’s real so this is how the people talk and behave, it’s not us expressing our opinions and it’s how it is for a lot of people,” he said.

Footage shows students stealing from employers, participating in rows with one another and leaping off balconies. The Dublin students are shown traveling over the Mexican border in order to get alcohol. They were still underage for the legal drinking age in the U.S.

Depending on the success of Summer in the Sun, Kelly said it is up to RTE if a second show will be created next summer.