Real World: Whistler 

Television production company sets sights on Whistler for new reality show

Whistler may soon be following in the footsteps of privileged California communities, becoming fodder for a new reality television show.

Free Form Productions, a Vancouver-based company, has been hired to produce a pilot in Whistler for a major Canadian broadcaster.

Andréa Fehsenfeld, president of Free Form, says the show will be modeled on the “docusoap” format popularized by shows like The Hills and Laguna Beach.

For those who aren’t in-tune with the realm of reality programming, The Hills and Laguna Beach are reality shows that follow the lives of privileged California teenagers.

“Peak Seasons,” will focus on the lives of eight to 10 young adults, between the ages of 18 and 25.

Grant Froggalosch, the creator of the series, says a number of elements within the Whistler community inspired him.

“I sort of looked at what was going on up there and I thought just with this great melting pot and this constant influx of new characters, and the contrast of the people that are there, that that’s got to be a real good incubator for storytelling,” he said.

Fehsenfeld believes Whistler is an ideal place for a show of this nature because the community offers a unique international flavour.

“You have a conglomeration of international people there, which is one of the attractive forces, as opposed to sort of having everyone from one town, like Laguna Beach.”

She also points out that Whistler has a long-standing reputation as one of the world’s best ski resorts, and it makes sense to produce a television show here as Whistler comes more into the public eye with the impending 2010 Olympics.

Though the central purpose of the show is to entertain, Fehsenfeld says a big part of the series will be about showing viewers what it’s really like to work and live in Whistler.

“It’s always been an interesting dichotomy, where you have sort of the haves and the have-nots in terms of the wealth and its sort of an international playground there for the rich and famous,” said Fehsenfeld. “But the people who service that… their conditions are completely different. There are six people to a one-bedroom condo.”

While Fehsenfeld says the show focuses on the reality of life in Whistler, not just its glamorous international reputation, she emphasizes the purpose isn’t to cast the community in a negative light.

“We’re not coming to Whistler to show the underbelly of the community.”

Rather, the producers hope the show will give people around the world insight into how Whistler actually operates, and demonstrate that it’s accessible to everybody.

“I think ultimately what we want to do is we want to be very true to the Whistler experience and what’s going on up there,” explained Froggalosch.

Free Form just posted their casting-call notice on snowboard websites last week, and by Friday, had already received more than 100 applications. Fehsenfeld says they are hoping to get a wide range of characters involved in the show, ranging from an athlete training for the 2010 Games to a ski patroller.

“It’s going to be an ensemble, and it’s not just going to be locals — we’re definitely looking for an international cast.”

Appearance, personality, social life and outside interests will be taken into consideration during casting.

“If you’re trying to create a show from the lives of real people, there has to be something going on in these people’s lives that will sustain the show,” explained Fehsenfeld. “So if you’re just basically a stoner that’s a dishwasher at night and just goes for fresh powder every morning, then the likelihood of you being chosen is pretty slim.”

Fehsenfeld says the reaction from the municipality and local organizations has been positive, so far. But she says it is important that they are welcome in the community, so she plans to meet with representatives from Whistler-Blackcomb, Tourism Whistler and the municipality this week to discuss their plans.

“We want to make sure that we don’t step on anybody’s toes, because this type of programming is slightly more intrusive, in that you’re following people around.”

Froggalosch says they are planning to work with local film companies and other homegrown talent on production aspects of the show, and that the real measure of success will be the support and response of the local community.

“It’s really important to us that the community be not only behind the show, but be involved in the show.”

Free Form will be doing preliminary shooting in the last week of November or early December, but will be in town to do two casting sessions before then.

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