They come for the sun, the sand, the drama and romance, to grapple with life and grab hold of it against the backdrop of beachfront idyll. Such are the lives of twenty-somethings in the fleeting days of a Vineyard summer.
At least, that’s what a new reality show may have you believe.
On Wednesday, the ABC Family network announced it had picked up The Vineyard, a working title for a “dramatic coming-of-age” reality soap chronicling the lives of a small group of 18 to 24-year olds on the Island. “Tight quarters, new friends and new rivals, all living, working and playing together, make this picturesque playground ripe for mischief and romance,” a description of the show reads.
The series is set to air in July as eight one-hour episodes, with filming to begin on the Island in May, creator and executive producer Dave Broome told the Gazette Wednesday.
Mr. Broome, who also serves as executive producer on the reality program The Biggest Loser, said the show will focus on a primary set of cast members who share a home and work at a well-known Island restaurant.
“We’re going to have a house that part of our cast members are going to live in; that will be home base for us in many ways. But that will be intercut with people from other parts of the Island,” he said. The location of the home has not yet been decided, though likely locations include Edgartown, Oak Bluffs or Vineyard Haven, said Yong Yam, vice president of 25/7 Productions. That company, headed by Mr. Broome, will produce The Vineyard. It has also produced such shows as Shedding for the Wedding, A Model Life and Flip Men.
“I can’t think of another example other than a place like the Vineyard that changes so dramatically,” Mr. Broome said of his decision to base the show on Martha’s Vineyard. “The population explodes and the look and feel of the Island becomes dramatically different between that three to four-month period of time. And because of that, there’s this organic ticking clock; there’s this limited period of time that our castmates have to go there, to find relationships, and then they’re leaving . . . I find that to be a very interesting dynamic that Martha’s Vineyard has to offer.”
In fact, Mr. Broome’s interest in the Island was piqued several years ago. He began work on the show with 25/7 Productions in 2009. The Vineyard was slated to air on the CW network that year, but never did.
“I think for us it was just a matter of finding the right network home for it,” he said this week.
Mr. Broome describes The Vineyard as a “docu-soap,” part documentary and part soap opera with heightened senses of emotion. But while the show will feature non-actors and lack a formal script, the lines of reality will still be blurred. Cast members who spend their days slinging beer and bluefish
on camera will have their schedules formatted to accommodate filming, he said. Scenes also will be concentrated on a few predetermined locations.
Principal shooting will begin in mid-May and run through the end of June or early July, when college students are returning to the Island, settling in, finding new jobs and making new friends, he said.
As for who will be cast to take on the role of part-time servers and TV stars, that process is already underway.
Several weeks ago Ms. Yam contacted radio station WMVY to field leads for potential cast members. Word of mouth spread among the Island community, giving her the opportunity to speak with a pool of potential candidates. She then took her search to Facebook. “Now I’m hooked up on Facebook and pretty much know every kid on the Vineyard,” she said.
Ms. Yam will hold an all-day closed casting call at the Mansion House on Friday, Feb. 22. The following two days, she will travel to Boston to meet with those who may summer on the Island but are currently living off-Island or away at school.
“We want residents of Martha’s Vineyard and the kids coming into the Vineyard. It’s really important to blend the two,” said Mr. Broome.
In addition to the 18 to 24 year olds, Ms. Yam said she is looking for what she calls ancillary characters: parents, teachers, friends, even fishermen.
And the work of casting and scouting will continue in the weeks to come.
“We will be coming back for other scouts and trips, literally cruising the Island,” said Mr. Broome. “What we have found in being there before . . . people just refer to other people, there’s nothing like being there and actually talking to people.”
Addressing concerns the show will mirror the controversial MTV hit Jersey Shore — vociferously voiced by Island residents on the show’s newly-created Facebook page — Mr. Broome said that won’t be the case. Instead, he says the show will be more akin to another MTV hit, The Hills, which employed high production values and sweeping panoramas to document the personal lives of Hollywood-area wealthy friends.
“This will be as far away from Jersey Shore as you can possibly get,” he said. “Think ABC Family and you’ll know the kind of show we’re gonna make. It’s Disney, for God’s sake.”
Those interested in being cast for the show may send an email with introductory information to 25/7 Productions vice-president Yong Yam at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viable candidates may be asked to appear at the Martha’s Vineyard closed casting call, held at the Mansion House on Feb. 22.