By Jennifer Hoegg
What could national TV exposure mean for Kentville and its residents? Force Four Entertainment will be in town March 1 to 3 filming a demo for a prospective series on life without taxes.
“How would the people of Kentville manage their community if the government left town?” is the pitch, according to Force Four’s Tara-Lee Novak. The production company has been involved in other shows, like The Bachelor Canada and Village on a Diet.
Should a network pick up the demo, Kentville could be on screens across Canada.
A few people in another Nova Scotia community who have lived through a similar project say it’s a great opportunity.
In 2008, Paperny Films shot the series The Week the Women Went in Tatamagouche. In that case, it wasn’t the government that left town, but the village’s women. The men in the 600-person community were left to manage households and businesses – all while constructing a waterfront park.
“It was a little different,” Micah Stewart says, almost five years later. “How often do you get to do something like that in rural Nova Scotia?”
The general contractors and his two children became one of The Week the Women Went’s feature families, something he said he realized was happening as the week of shooting went on and the film crew spent more and more hours at his home.
“Producer, camera guy, sound guy, another guy… show up at your place at seven in the morning and usually see the kids go to bed at night,” Stewart recalled. He said the company shot about 2,500 hours of footage during the week.
“Out of that you can make anything,” he said. “With me, it was fine. They didn’t portray me as being an idiot. If I had been some of the other guys, I wouldn’t have been so happy. You had to be open minded.”
Stewart said the show was good exposure, for both his company and the village.
“For two years afterwards, people were coming here,” he said. “And people would think I was the only contractor around.”
Jimmie LeFresne, owner of the Train Station Inn featured in the series, agrees it was a great deal for Tatamagouche.
“I think everybody would do it again in a heartbeat – from a broad perspective,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of negativity was produced. Some of the viewers might think there was, but, as far as the locals go, that didn’t seem to be a thing.”
Any negativity seemed to come from other communities, he said.
“You have to be able to laugh at yourself,” LeFresne added. “If there was a negativity, it was coming from other communities: ‘How could you go on TV and make a fool of yourself?’ We didn’t expect that.”
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Another surprise was the fame that came with the show, he said. LeFresne travelled to Toronto and Cuba in the months after the show aired and had people staring, pointing and approaching him everywhere he went.
“People going over the deep end so excited. I had to adjust a little bit,” he recalled.
“From that experience… you do not want to be a movie star.”
In addition to being in the tourism industry, LeFresne was municipal councillor for the area at the time and he sees the overall experience as a boon for Tatamagouche.
“Spinoff has been phenomenal for our community,” he said. “The easy one was tourism. People knowing Tatamagouche and where it was and what it was all about.
“It really put Tatamagouche on the national map.”
There were other advantages, too.
“All the men working together as one unit” was special, LeFresne said. “It brought the people of our community so much closer together.”
Wendy MacLean said she met many new friends during the women’s banishment.
“I met some wonderful ladies who are still my very good friends,” she said, and the female contingent was spoiled with fun and pampering.
However, MacLean said she would never do it again after fielding phone calls from strangers across the country.
“They cut and paste so much stuff,” she said. “We didn’t quite know what we were getting ourselves into… We’ll never live it down.”
In Kentville, a number of families are ready to give the TV experience a try. Accountant David Fagan, his wife and two kids have signed up to be part of Force Four’s production.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to be involved with a production like this,” he said. “I think it’s going to be great for Kentville. Any type of support or economic boost you can give to an area is great. “
Force Four seems like a good company, Fagan added, which made it a fairly easy decision once he had some of the facts.
“I really hope the town supports us,” he said of the production company’s visit this week. “I just hope there is enough community involvement that we’re able to prove to them that they can do it.”
See further coverage in the Kings County Register on Feb. 28.