Peter Mott (left with whiteboard) and Rob MacGowan, take some photos while scouting out locations in Little Falls.

by Dave Warner

A new reality TV show called ‘Own It’ is set to begin filming their pilot episode in Little Falls within the next few weeks. A team visited the City last week, scouting out shooting locations and discussing the project with a handful of local residents and City officials.

Ted Farnsworth with Flat Creek Media Group and Randy Jackson of American Idol fame are co-producing the new show, which is focused on food and cooking. Farnsworth said, “He’s a producer on several other shows that we are working on, but right now, this is the one we’re working on for Upstate. We have another one going on in California and then another one in the New York City area.”

The show is a little bit of Shark Tank, a bit of a cooking show, and a little bit of Beverly Hills Housewives, Bachelor and Apprentice all mixed in. “I look at some of the longevity of some of the other shows out there that have run, ten to fifteen years,” he stated.

He said that this show is really focused on a rural area. The show has ten contestants, five women, and five men, ages 21-29.  The grand prize for the winner of the show is going to be a restaurant in Upstate New York, an advertising package from Jay Advertising out of Rochester, some free network advertising, and other perks.

“We’ve got some really interesting twists in the show. We’ll be monitoring the house and coming in and changing the rules of the show at different points all the way along,” he said.

Mayor Mark Blask said, “We’re really excited to welcome the Flat Creek Media Group to Little Falls and are awed by the roster of talent and industry heavyweights that are part of this production.”

“Since the filming success of Quiet Place in 2017 we’ve been collaborating with like-minded people to leverage our friendly community, our unspoiled geographic and unique architectural assets to build a production savvy city that is becoming increasingly attractive to location scouts and filmmakers. This reality tv show is strong validation that our efforts are being noticed,” stated Blask.

The name of the show is linked to the fact that you can own a restaurant and your own destiny. “It’s not just a cooking show, even though there are cooking elements in it where they’re cooking for each other and sitting around the table having regular discussions. There are no cell phones, but they’re going to talk politics, about what’s going on in current events, plus I’m sure you’re going to have love interests and things like that going on,” stated Farnsworth.

He said that they wanted a rural area where they could get out of the house a bit and explore, but be out of a big city and away from COVID.

The contestants will be eliminated one at a time, and the audience will be voting on different segments as well. “Maybe they see who the best entrepreneur is to run the restaurant and they vote on that because obviously, they can’t taste the food,” he stated.

Farnsworth said that they really feel like they are trying to give back because of all the restaurants that are going out of business. “These kids are all going to come together and run a restaurant for a night. There are going to be a lot of little segments, where we’ll let the drama unfold in the restaurant like we did at the house.”

The contestants will also be taking a test, that will show where some of their abilities lie. “Randy believes it’s going to be an all-out war for a $500,000 package. I think you’re going to see all kinds of human spirit playing out. They might go after each other, they might pair up, who knows?”

After the winner gets their restaurant, they’re going to have a mentor for a period of time to make sure that they can handle the business. “We’re going to have a restauranteur working with them every day. What’s your P&L look like, why is this on the menu, questions, and help that will really give them a shot at being successful and fulfilling their dream,” Farnsworth stated.

The show is expected to be one hour in length and run for approximately 12 weeks each season on one of the major networks.

Pre-production will be a day or two in Little Falls, and then regular production for each episode will be approximately five days.

There will also be 40-50 people on the set each day, including live editors that will be working on the footage as it is shot, trying to speed up the process. “Hair and makeup and all the other things that you’d have for regular film production will be here as well,” he said.

“The ideal situation is to shoot the same locations for all seasons. If it goes for ten seasons, we’ll be here for each of those. The networks and streaming services are all looking for content now because consumption is up 400%, especially for reality,” stated Farnsworth. “It’s hotter than ever.”

When COVID begins to wane, they will add day trips and other ideas to the show. “For this year though, we’ll really be keeping everyone quarantined.”

Daneli Partners has had an integral role in bringing together the right people for the show, and co-founder David Casullo said, “Our president, Lisa King, has done a great job leveraging her expertise in media, her relationships with Jay Advertising and the producers to give Little Falls a real opportunity in the reality TV space.  This could be a great rebound factor for Little Falls as we navigate the effects of COVID 19.  It’s very exciting.”

There are significant challenges that the company faces when dealing with all of the COVID requirements set out by the state, and the unions. “Right now, rapid testing costs $1,200 per person. So, with 43 people, that’s over $50,000 a day, just for COVID testing,” Farnsworth said.

Overall, he said that COVID has added anywhere from 20-25% to any film budget. Despite this, Farnsworth says that they have seven reality shows in the pipeline that they are testing and doing pilots for. “We’re doing a lot of them up here, because of the Little Falls Film Commission and the volunteers, as well as the reception that we’ve received from the City and others.”