Indie filmmakers pitch fictional Sitka-based miniseries

The Sitka sac roe herring fishery takes place every spring in Sitka Sound. (Photo by Emily Russell/KCAW)
View of Sitka from Sitka Sound. (Photo by Emily Russell/KCAW)

A pair of producers is hoping to put together a show that reflects a more authentic Alaskan experience than what is prevalent in reality television nowadays.

With a working title of “Sitka TV Show,” the project is just entering development, and its creators want to combine Hollywood know-how with local talent to produce a six-part anthology series that redefines how viewers see Alaskans.

By now, most Sitkans have seen the movie “The Proposal” starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds.

And if you haven’t, well, it will always be there for a rainy day. As a work of fiction, “The Proposal” is entertaining — and its connection to reality, especially in Sitka where the story unfolds, is minimal. Except for some b-roll, the entire film was shot on the East Coast.

“That’s why it’s so important for us to shoot it here,” said independent producer Helena Sardinha in remarks to the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce. “Not to shoot it in Massachusetts and pretend that it’s here.”

Helena Sardinha and her partner Rafael Thomaseto
“The main theme will be healing,” Rafael Thomaseto explained. He and co-producer Helena Sardinha want to explore the stories of six characters whose lives intertwine in Sitka. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

Sardinha and her partner Rafael Thomaseto are originally from Brazil, but they are now Los Angeles-based independent filmmakers. The “Sitka TV Show” will be a work of fiction, but it is one they want to feel very grounded in the community. Sardinha described Sitka as a character in the story.

“There is a sense of honesty on the screen that will come through when we have actual Alaskan people working with us,” said Sardinha. “The vision that I have from Sitka, being from another country, is completely different than some of you guys here that live and breathe this air every day.”

The project is scaled as an indie: low budget, but with high expectations. The filmmakers want to assemble a cast and crew of about 20 people — half of whom are industry professionals — and about 50 extras. Their budget for the pilot episode is $291,000.

The format, said Thomaseto, is anthology — character studies of six individuals in an intertwined storyline.

“We’re aiming to shoot a pilot now,” said Thomaseto. “And in the pilot we’ll have those six characters, five-to-six minutes for each, where their stories are interconnected. And then throughout the other episodes in the season, every episode is about one character only. And then the last one — sometime in the fall — would be about Alaska Day, and everyone comes together and we make a conclusion for the season.”

The producers have hired a screenwriter to develop the stories, which should touch on themes like global warming, discrimination, crime and punishment, and women’s empowerment. So whatever the “Sitka TV Show” turns out to be, it won’t be “Ice Road Truckers.”

Sardinha and Thomaseto came to Sitka at the invitation of family friends Patricia and Tony Buak, who bought a restaurant in Sitka in 2015 and are backing the development of the show. Patricia Buak is billed as the show’s executive producer.

In their presentation to the Sitka Chamber of Commerce, Sarhinha and Thomeseto were candid about the benefits of local sponsorship.

“If we get the money from Hollywood or other international investors that we might connect with,” Sardinha explained, “that honesty that I was talking about before, and that realness, is not going to be on the screen.”

The pair say their goal is to have their pilot episode purchased by a cable television network or a streaming service, which would fund the production of five more episodes over the course of the year — and create an altogether-different kind of proposal for the real town of Sitka.

KCAW - Sitka

KCAW is our partner station in Sitka. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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