Farmers markets. A spoofy plotline. Local guest stars. Could this be our Portlandia?
At the least, it’s ‘Locally Grown,’ a comedy web show based on a fictional farmers market, shot partly at the Ballard Farmers Market and Shoreline Community College. Familiar faces from Seattle’s theatrical community and celebrity scene show up as characters or in guest cameos, including Dave Dederer, formerly of The Presidents of the United States of America, John Curley, and Cynthia Lauren Tewes of Love Boat fame, who later (this is real life, not a satirical plot twist), became a Seattle-based cheese steward as well as acting on local stages.
The show goes live online Wednesday, June 12, with a 12-minute pilot and assorted vignettes, including a 10-minute interview with Dederer on music and his city, in keeping with the “locally grown” theme. Dederer’s father was a founding board member of Pike Place Market, and he counts market buskers among his inspirations. (Sister Clare is the author of this bestselling yoga-themed memoir and a Betty MacDonald aficionado.)
A comedy about farmers markets seemed a natural to creator and co-writer Simon Hamlin, a local kid who remembers picking Pike Place Market for his seventh-grade school report on “my favorite spot in Seattle.”
“I’ve always loved the markets, and I think growing up in Seattle it’s kind of ingrained in us,” he said. (Maybe for him more than most; dad Larry Hamlin is a restaurant consultant who founded several notable Seattle spots, including the Brooklyn and Mel’s Market downtown.)
“Then, probably a year and a half ago, I was in a market and looking around and seeing all these beautiful, incredible fruits, vegetables, flowers – it’s visually very appealing,” Hamlin said. “Then you’ve got these buskers playing, so there’s the musical element. Then you’ve got eccentric (people), you’ve got families, dogs, people with cats on their shoulders, ferrets on their shoulders…I’m just looking around, thinking, ‘How has this world never been explored for a TV show?”
With colleagues Lorraine Montez and Lisa Roeser at the ‘Abundant Productions’ film company, Hamlin put together the idea of a show about a farming family (“Organic characters. Sustainable laughs”) at the fictional Ballmont market, theoretically located between Fremont and Ballard, that neighborhood otherwise known as Frelard. The pilot plot is a goofy drama where a third-generation farming family is accused of ‘profiling’ market-goers and deciding who will be offered a toothpick-speared sample of fruit. The storyline includes the farmers making an offering to the Godfather-like Market Master.
“They legitimately use the term Market Master, that’s not made up,” Hamlin said, hastening to add that the character was not based on actual Ballard Market Master Judy Kirkhuff. “All these characters are kinds of seeds of different people I might have interacted with,” he said.
A Kickstarter campaign raised more than $10,000 toward startup costs. The team’s backgrounds in marketing and sales as well as acting helped them bring in donors, while working with a budget allowed for professional production values and at least some pay.
“Coming at it as an actor, and having worked on a lot of different projects, a lot of times you are working for nothing,” Hamlin said. “We felt it was important, if it wasn’t going to be a lot of money, to at least acknowledge ‘You’re doing this well below your rate, but we recognize that and want to acknowledge you with something.’ People like Cindy, or Jeff Steitzer, who has performed on Broadway, or someone like Tony Doupé, our director, who seems to pop up in every movie that comes through here.”
Others, like Curley and like Dederer, lent a hand as a favor. “We wanted to create this synergy” between the fictional show and Seattle’s real characters, Hamlin said. The real-life backdrop also includes familiar market vendors and locations like Carnation’s Oxbow Farm. Vendors came out to the pilot’s premiere in Georgetown Saturday night.
Hopefully, Hamlin said, the pilot will be received warmly and the series will continue.
“My dream of dreams is that it becomes like Seattle’s answer to Portlandia, a show for Seattle that really celebrates our community and incorporates all those talented musicians and actors and all the creative folks in our community, but would have a national appeal.”
Like any good comedy, he said – (or any good farm) – “you take the seed of something” and go from there.