"The Vineyard" docu-soap begins filming May 6
File photo by Ralph Stewart
It is official, the Black Dog Restaurant and retail shops, home of the iconic Black Dog logo, will be at the center of the suds when "The Vineyard," an ABC Family channel "docu-soap" begins filming in May for the upcoming summer television season.
In a telephone conversation with the Times last week, Christa Matukaitis, a Black Dog spokesman, said all that she has been told is that the production crew is scheduled to begin shooting the first of eight installments on May 6 and continue through June 29.
"It is not a reality show," she told The Times in a telephone conversation. "It will be a scripted show."
"The Vineyard" is created and executive-produced by Dave Broome, producer of the "Biggest Loser," and Brian Smith ("Masterchef") and 25/7 productions.
The production company held closed auditions in February in Boston and on the Vineyard for Islanders and students interested in spending the summer on the Island. For now, the identity of cast members is a closely held secret.
"We need to keep everything under wraps for now," Yong Yam, a vice president of 25/7 productions, told The Times in a telephone call from Los Angeles. "We are still finalizing everything. We don't want a lot of attention on where and when we will be shooting yet. Everything has to go through the network at this point. Everything is a moving target."
In a March press release announcing additions to its summer lineup, ABC Family said, "And for all of you that need a little drama in your life, The Vineyard premieres Wednesday, July 24, at 9! This docu-soap follows a handful of 20-somethings on Martha's Vineyard for the summer. Tight quarters, new friends and new rivals all living, working, and playing together, make this picturesque playground perfect for mischief and romance!"
At the time the show was announced in February, television executives said the show would focus on an Island restaurant but were close-mouthed about the exact location. Not any more.
The Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce's April newsletter carried an announcement from the Black Dog that The Vineyard will be filming on The Black Dog Properties beginning May 5 and invited Island businesses to get in on the act.
"The production crew will be arriving on the Island very soon, and The Black Dog would like to be proactive in gathering a list of recommended businesses and services that they might need to access during their stay," read the message. "This is not for the show itself but to support the crew and actors as they work on the Island. It is the hope of The Black Dog that this event will bring additional business to our community in the shoulder season, and of course continued interest in Martha's Vineyard as a destination."
In a letter dated Friday, April 5 and emailed to selectmen and police chiefs in the six Island towns, Brett Blakeney, 25/7 production manager for "The Vineyard" said the MV Chamber of Commerce had advised the company to reach out to Island officials before filming and address any special permissions.
"Also, I would like to assure that you all are comfortable with our filming locations and fully aware of our location and intentions at all times," Mr. Blakeney said.
Mr. Blakeney told the Island officials that at the moment, he does not have specifics on film locations and times but could provide information on fiming dates, the plot and crew size.
He said the aim is to impact the Vineyard's residents and visitors as little as possible. "We realize we are guests in your home and only ask that we are able to have the freedom to make a visually appealing show," he said. "I will do my best to ask permission for each public location as early as possible and hope that the off season nature of the filming will help us to interfere with anything or anyone minimally."
Mr. Blakeney also addressed concerns about how the show would portray the Island and Islanders.
"One of the biggest concerns that we have heard is a comparison to 'Jersey Shore' or other 'trashy' television that conveys partying, irresponsibility, or an undesirable perspective of any place," he said. "The show is being produced for teens and young adults by ABC Family. As part of the Disney family, ABC Family requires strict standards be upheld, and require that our show be extremely family-friendly. The show is a coming-of-age show about not only 'wash-ashores' who work on the Vineyard as a step before or after college, but also about the young people who grew up on the Vineyard and their lives and how the summers with old and new friends affect their lives."
Mr. Blakeney said there would be no more than 15-20 crew members on set. "If any of your public locations require us to have less people, we are certainly amenable to your concerns and will be happy to make anything work," he said.
Locations he said remain uncertain. "Unfortunately, our creative team is just getting underway so I am not able to give exact dates or locations, but I do know we would be thrilled to shoot in quintessential Vineyard locations like parks, beaches, streets in certain parts of town," he said.
On Monday, Edgartown selectmen said they need more information about times and locations before they will grant the film crew permission to film on town property.
Interviewed in February, David Broome said that the show would provide a fair portrayal of the Vineyard, its residents, and the community, and that the cast and crew will keep a very low profile.
"New friends are made, others fade away, lust simmers, and sometimes, mistakes are made with no regret. But one thing is for sure, you'll never forget your summer on The Vineyard," read the promotional material released in February.
Just how memorable the television series will be remains to be seen.