Sunny Tripathy didn't exactly expect his YouTube video to go viral, much less become a pilot for a TV show. He said the whole thing began on a trip home from UCLA for winter break when he got the idea to make a video about his family.
"I have a very funny and comical family. I was thinking it would be kind of funny, some of the things that went on back home," he explained. "When I got home, I told my family about the idea. At first they were hesitant, because they're a very traditional family. My dad's an engineer, my mom's a teacher … regardless, I was able to persuade them."
Tripathy, who's majoring in economics with a minor in film, posted his short video about his family on the Internet, without expecting much to come of it.
"We filmed it and we put it on YouTube and just shared it with friends and family," he said. "We just thought it would be some kind of an in joke." Before too long, though, that video, "Keeping Up with the Guptas," had been viewed 30,000 times. There was fan mail and even websites with responses.
"It took us by surprise. There were celebrity tweets about it, it was in the newspaper," Tripathy said. "I had a friend at NBC … she saw it and said, 'You guys have some potential there. It's actually a serious show that could go somewhere.'"
He enlisted the aid of a fellow Foothill grad, Sahil Punamia, who's the show's assistant writer and director. Together, they rewrote the script, adding drama and conflict, and ended up with a 38-page screenplay.
"We had hundreds of people auditioning for roles," Tripathy said. The crew was college students from across the country, everywhere from Berklee College of Music in Boston to UC Berkeley, with students from UCLA, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC Berkeley and Los Angeles Film School all getting involved.
"It became one of the biggest, if not the biggest, student collaborations ever," Tripathy said.
He plays a character with the same name, and Sumi Raman, another Foothill graduate, plays his sister.
Then came the filming. Typically, he said, it takes six weeks and a half-million dollars to put together a pilot. Tripathy and Punamia put theirs together in 72 hours, at a cost of about $1,000.
Tonight, Tripathy, Punamia and Raman along with their colleagues, including Foothill alumni Matt Clark and Danial Asif, who helped with the marketing, will find out if the idea is a hit.
"Usually a TV pilot is pitched quietly to the networks, but because we had so much publicity, we're just going to go big," Tripathy said.
The red carpet premiere of "Keeping Up with the Guptas" will take place at the Tanzore Lounge in Beverly Hills. Tripathy said directors, hip hop artists and "all sorts of cool talent will be coming" to support the show.
"There'll be live performances … It's kind of an all-out event," Tripathy said.
Tripathy said he'll be double-dipping, looking to raise money for the World Hunger Project as well as promoting his TV show. But executives from Fox and NBC will be there, and Tripathy is optimistic about his chances.
"The eventual goal is -- it would be great if it gets picked up," Tripathy said. "If not, we've got incredible experience for the projects we're working on. We're not even worried. We had a great time doing it."