Whidbey Island Center for the Arts and Whidbey TV Productions are setting sail on a new joint venture.
The two entities are joining forces to create a scripted children’s television series which will be produced this summer and likely released this fall.
“This is an opportunity for us, as a hometown provider, to collaborate, enhance and inspire our community through our content and stories,” said George Henny, Co-CEO of Whidbey Telecom, of which Whidbey TV Productions is a part.
According to Whidbey TV, “Ship Ahoy!,” as the program is titled, is a “nautical-themed children’s show that follows the adventures of Captain Callie and her crew as they explore the hidden treasures of Whidbey Island. With an emphasis on imagination, positivity and whimsy, Ship Ahoy! entertains and delights through dance, song and storytelling.”
While this is certainly not the first television series Whidbey TV Productions has done, it is the first fully-scripted series it has shot and produced on a studio sound stage.
“This is an opportunity to collaborate with WICA because not only is it an outstanding venue, but part of its mission and vision is to include the visual arts, so to partner up with them made perfect sense,” said Henny.
According to executive director Stacie Burgua, WICA has the perfect television production facility in Zech Hall. Plus, the organization is always looking for projects during its “dark”, or less busy, part of the season.
“Ever since Whidbey TV started, I was thinking “wouldn’t that be a great venue for a television studio?” said Burgua. “And somehow that all gelled this year with Whidbey TV. That little dream started becoming a reality.”
“We’ve had folks from Hollywood look at [Zech Hall] and say it would be a great sound stage, so I hope this is the first of many projects with WICA,” said Henny, who has been involved with WICA as an actor and board member for years.
This community effort, as Henny bills it, is also a learning opportunity on many levels. Producing a studio television show is new ground for WTV as well as WICA, so there is a lot of new territory.
“What’s great about it is we have a lot of talent with backgrounds in film and production and we’re drawing on lots of community members to help along the way,” said Henny.
“We’re still in the learning curve of what is needed,” said Burgua. “It’s new to everyone, really. And we keep learning. Every time we turn around we keep learning new things about what’s needed and what has priority, so it’s a big learning curve but it’s exciting, really.”
The collaboration also opens up opportunities for Whidbey’s youth. Students in WICA’s Summer Conservatory Program will be invited on set and introduced to the various roles involved in a live production studio, such as gaffer, grips, sound mixer, properties master, costuming, makeup, script supervisor, and overall production coordination.
“As soon as this happened, we started thinking of ways to wrap it into this show and now we’re offering a TV skills camp,” said Deana Duncan, WICA’s programming and production director.
“Our youth camp will now be reading each script every week, digesting that script for props, costumes, set pieces, set-dressing and then working on the set to get it ready and then watch it being filmed and be around all the different job duties,” Duncan continued. “It’s a different type of camp, but it’s very exciting.”
The beauty of this collaboration, say both Henny and Burgua is the opportunity to involve the entire community.
“It’s really a community effort we’re spearheading,” Henny said. “We’re using local talent, local facilities, local camera work and set work.”
“This would be kind of a cool opportunity for people who might be interested in learning to build sets,” said Burgua, adding that volunteers are not only welcome, but needed.
Plus, said Duncan, they’re learning that what looks great on stage doesn’t necessarily translate well on television. Special attention has to be paid to painting the sets and making them look as realistic up close as possible.
“I think with stage, it’s the illusion of the reality and with television, it has to look right,” said Burgua. “The details are way more important.”
“On stage, we say if it looks good at 20 to 30 feet we’re golden. Not TV. It has to look good at one inch, right?” Duncan said.
Production for “Ship Ahoy!” is scheduled to begin in mid-July but already these producing partners are looking to the future and what a project like this could mean not only for business and the arts, but for the community and even Whidbey Island as a whole.
“It may mean that Whidbey Island could become more viable as a place for film and media to come out here, so it’s actually a really large opportunity for not only Whidbey TV and WICA, but for Whidbey Island,” Duncan said.
“And beyond that, it opens opportunity for local artists,” said Burgua. “It’s one more opportunity to perform. More avenues and new things to try and do, new relationships, new connections. It just expands and offers something fresh and new and exciting.
And working with Whidbey TV, that kind of connection with the business community that’s tapping into the arts community is really cool,” she continued.
“This is not just about what Whidbey TV is doing,” said Henny. “Through what we do we hope we are inspiring people to do things they didn’t think were possible. We are grateful to our community and we’re here to help people thrive.”
For more information, go to www.wicaonline.org and www.whidbeytv.com.