Wake up at 6 a.m., head to hair, makeup and wardrobe, and you’re off to the beach.
Sounds like a typical summer on the Vineyard, right?
That was the regular routine for the cast of The Vineyard, a reality show set to premiere on ABC Family on July 23. Billed as a docu-soap, the show follows a group of twenty-somethings coming to terms with the real world and life’s twists and turns. But not to worry — there are also plenty of parties, romantic tangles and the occasional bar fight.
For more than a month the reality show crew set up camp on the Island, working in some cases 20-hour days through persistent rain and clouds to present a dramatized view of an Island summer that will soon be broadcast on national TV. To piece together the show in time for a summer debut, the crew made quick work settling into the Island scene and setting a warm-weather tone. A house was rented in the East Chop section of Oak Bluffs overlooking the water, parties were staged at Island businesses and beaches, and a partnership with the Black Dog was put into motion. By the time the unofficial start to summer arrived on the Fourth of July, filming had wrapped and the cast had dispersed.
Never mind the difficulties of gently shaping reality in the not-yet high season, creator and executive producer David Broome said he couldn’t have asked for a better filming experience.
“We have a really incredible show. We have a show that the Island will feel proud about how they’re being represented,” Mr. Broome said in a phone interview from Los Angeles this week.
This is a “fun, complex, intertwined” series, part soap opera and part documentary, following the stories of 11 cast members, he said. The cast includes four Islanders — Cat Todd, Ben Rossi, Gabby Lapointe and Jackie Lyons — and seven self-described washashores, some of whom were visiting the Island for the first time.
“It’s summer things and hook-ups and drama and personalties,” Mr. Broome said.
Filming began in early May, when buds on the trees were barely out and a chilly air persisted. Scenic shots were taken at the end of filming in June when the sun was stronger and the leaves fuller. “It was our intention to start a little bit early for what the Vineyard would be like and end before the craziness,” said Mr. Broome. “When it rains and pours on us we embraced it and used it,” he said. “Our cast is going through everything that they’re going through, no matter the temperature.”
The Black Dog Tavern served as home base as summer jobs for the cast, said Mr. Broome. The “compound” was a “movie set” for the crew.
“It’s pretty spectacular and looks incredible from the dock to the store to the tavern,” he said. “We try to be as small a footprint as possible. You maybe saw two or three vans and realized we were a TV show filming there, but only because of the cameras.”
Other businesses also hosted the crew for filmed nights out on the town.
One Monday afternoon Flatbread Company was turned into a rocking club night, manager Tina Miller said. And they were dressed for the part.
“They lit it up like a nightclub and had someone singing,” Ms. Miller said. “Everyone was all dressed up like people from Los Angeles, not people on Martha’s Vineyard.”
The film crew arrived at 1 p.m. and was out by 4 p.m. on the dot, she said. The space was rented for the entire afternoon.
Start times at 6 a.m. followed by 20-hour days were par for the course, Mr. Broome said. Filming would take place at up to eight locations. After a full day of filming, the crew and cast would return to their East Chop rental home and address the latest plot developments.
Mr. Broome said he wanted to get a broad landscape and different locations on the Vineyard, and tried to make as many scenes outdoors as possible.
“It’s so beautiful and incredible, if we can put a conversation or a scene or an activity around the Island, that’s what we did,” he said. “The last episode is shot up at the lighthouse in Aquinnah, and it looks like it belongs on the wide screen.”
“When Ben Rossi, one of our locals, decided to get together with buddies and go fishing, we went on their fishing boat,” Mr. Broome said. “We used everything that makes everything the Vineyard.”
Reality shows are nothing new to Mr. Broome, who also serves as a producer on the Biggest Loser and heads 25/7 Productions, the company producing The Vineyard. But while the show will blur the lines between fiction and reality, Mr. Broome said the show is not contrived. Instead, plot lines are written based on the cast member’s designated character.
“You don’t make a TV show and put the cameras on set and see what happens — that doesn’t happen,” said Mr. Broome. “This person has this conversation with this person about this subject about their lives” — that much you know, he said — “but you don’t know what’s going to come out of their mouth. You’re prodding them along to have a conversation and all of a sudden they decide, no I’m going to do that [instead].”
“We go in and figure out what this person is going through that day and go put them in that location,” he said. “What you don’t know is what they’re going to say.”
For fans of MTV reality shows, which had some of the first docu-soaps on television, think: Laguna Beach and The Hills, Mr. Broome said.
“One of the things that’s going to make this series dramatically different in its look and feel is that it’s going to look very glossy and gorgeous,” he said. “There are no interview bites, which reality shows normally cut to.”
“The drama in those shows is not the drama we’re dealing with here,” he continued. “We have mother-daughter issues, real life meaty issues that are way beyond flings and things.”
The show explores the juxtaposition of the lives of locals who live here year-round with those here just for the summer, “and how they blend together and what’s the difference.”
“One of the things in the first episode is one of our girls is working for the first time at 19 years of age,” Mr. Broome said. “One of our local girls says, I’ve been working since I was 13 because I needed the money. That’s really what I think the audience is going to see, an interesting difference and similarities.”
“But there’s something that grounds them together,” he added.
The show sparked outrage when first announced in February, prompting some to say that filming would overrun the Island and paint Vineyard life with the brush strokes of the MTV hit Jersey Shore. But by the time filming wrapped consensus seemed to have shifted. While the Island buzzed with the latest sighting of the cast members — at a “white party” on the rooftop of the Mansion House, a bonfire on the beach, jumping off docks at the Each Chop Beach Club, or reshooting a scene at the Chowder Company filmed weeks before (for authenticity’s sake, cast members wore the same outfits previously worn) — in all, filming seemed to serve as little more than a curiosity point.
Steamship Authority general manager Wayne Lamson said filming at the Vineyard Haven terminal, where opening scenes were shot, went off without a hitch.
“We were just trying to help out some shots of different vessels, so they were on a boat for a day or two and taking some footage in different scenes,” he said. “We were cooperating as much as we could. I think the exposure is good.”
“As far as I know I didn’t hear of any problems, everything went pretty smoothly,” he added. “There may have been a delay or two, but we didn’t want to interrupt ferry service,” Mr. Lamson said.
Director of marketing for the steamship Kimberlee McHugh accompanied the crew while filming.
Menemsha Texaco owner Marshall Carroll watched the crew film “walk and talk” scenes along the beach and said they, too, went smoothly. “They came when it was quiet and it was enjoyable seeing stuff,” he said. “They timed it well, it wasn’t annoying at all. Sabrina, that took up a lot. This was a lot smaller,” he said, referring to the Harrison Ford film shot on the Island in the mid 1990s.
Peter Martell and the staff of the Wesley Hotel housed crew members during their two-month stint, and Mr. Martell said he welcomed the businesses at the end of spring.
“They came in at a time we were getting clobbered because of cold weather and rain, and it made a difference and helped us to survive the spring,” he said. About 20 crew members stayed at the hotel, he said.
“It was great for the economy, no fuss no muss,” he said. “I like groups like that.”
Pending the success of this season, Mr. Broome is eager to return for another season. And another.
“I hope we’ll be there for 20 seasons, but you just don’t know,” he said. “It’s premature to think about it now. I knew that when I first got there people would be scared about us being there and that once we left, any local officials would feel differently. I’m 1,000 per cent convinced that’s the case.”
“We wanted to really be respectful, make friends and leave there on great terms and hopefully be welcomed back. Now it’s up to us to have a hit show.”
The Vineyard premieres on ABC Family on July 23 at 10 p.m. The show airs weekly on Tuesdays. For more photos of the parade, see our gallery: Filming of ABC Family's The Vineyard.