How cool would be
it to make your own TV show?
How much cooler
would it be if you didn’t even have to leave your hometown?
Thad Donovan and
Carly Smith of Smith Donovan Marketing in Chesterton can tell you from
experience: “It should be a fun ride.”
The two have, over
the last year, penned a script for a TV pilot and are halfway along in
filming “Alexis Ronan,” set against the backdrop of the Indiana Dunes. As
with all TV pilots, their hope is to have a cable TV network or a
streaming-media service (e.g. Netflix) pick up the project and develop it
into a series.
The plot: a hotshot
attorney’s life in a small town is derailed when her adopted son Elijah goes
missing. The attorney, Alexis Ronan, will go to any lengths in order to find
her son. She is a suspect in his disappearance, as are as her ex-husband,
her former client and her son’s best friend. Each character has a unique set
of flaws and secrets.
It’s dark, grisly
and moody, as Donovan describes it, like a film noir piece. He also would
like to say it is not for the squeamish or younger audiences.
“One of our goals
is to stop the stereotypes. We want to challenge the audience and take them
to (new) places,” he said.
“We hope it will
make your blood curdle, to put you on the edge of your seat,” Smith added.
Donovan is taking
on the role of director and Smith is one of the show’s producers, as well as
You may have seen
examples of Smith and Donovan’s work around town or in the destination
promotional videos they have produced for Indiana Dunes Tourism. They also
spearheaded the advertising campaign for the Porter County Fair this year.
But what has “consumed” them more than anything is “Alexis Ronan.”
On the map
from modern TV dramas like AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” Donovan is using the
environment to set the show’s tone. The production was lucky, he said, to
have permission from the Indiana Dunes State Park to film there with “free
Filming will take
place primarily here and in LaPorte. Some footage will be shot in parts of
Lake County and southern Michigan.
A secondary goal,
Smith mentioned, is for the show to help put local communities “on the map,”
building up a national audience.
“Tourism is in our
blood,” she said.
The cast and crew
are also local, or have local connections. Lisa Varga, who plays the title
character, works in Los Angeles but grew up in South Bend.
With the creation
of “Alexis Ronan,” Smith and Donovan hope to start a film community in
“There is so much
great local talent. We have the chance to create a lot of good things,”
She and Donovan are
also learning a lot themselves from the challenges of taking “Alexis Ronan”
from concept to finish. The first draft of the script was “pretty dreadful,”
Donovan said, but they never gave up. Smith said their breakthrough moment
came once Donovan created an outline for the series and they had a full
profile on each character.
Donovan said the
keys to collaboration are having “trust” with your creative partners and
being able to take criticism.
“You have to have a
thick skin,” he said.
Now that they are
ready to film, Donovan and Smith are seeking the help of community
supporters to raise $6,000 total for the shoot at Indiegogo.com. A few
“perks” available to generous donors include a walk-on role on the show (for
$1,000), a visit to the set for a day ($500), art pieces inspired by the
Dunes created by the show’s creative director Victor LaPorte ($375 each), an
Alexis Ronan t-shirt custom made ($75 each), and, among other things, a
postcard from Alexis ($10).
For $25, social
media users can send a head shot of themselves and have Smith Donovan work
its magic to create what it would look like through one of Alexis Ronan’s
hallucinations, which makes for a pretty “wicked” profile pic.
in donations have been recieved. The fundraising campaign lasts until Aug.
28. Supporters are also asked to “spread the word” about Alexis Ronan
through outlets like Facebook and Twitter.
A link to the
funding page, which features a short trailer for the show, can be found on