The invitation to the Granite Flats season 2 premiere was something of a surprise. Our best guess is that Howard’s habit of posting movie reviews to his blog caught the eye of one of BYUtv’s marketing folks. (This was later confirmed) We walked up to the broadcasting building, not sure what to expect. I certainly did not expect to be greeted by a row of eager faces asking if we were press. Which we were, but it felt very strange to says so. Blogger, cartoonist, writer, podcaster, these are all titles we wave around quite comfortably. For this occasion we were press.
We didn’t know anyone. We didn’t even know much about the show, just that it was shot locally and possibly had a scifi tinge to it somewhere. (We were wrong about that. It is a cold war drama full of spying and conspiracy, lots of historical accuracy and intrigue.) The reception area was lined with banners, each with a cast member featured on it. I looked at all the faces, trying to figure out what we were in for with this show. I could tell it was set in the sixties, there were scientists and nurses, a sheriff, and some military men. There were also at least four featured pre-teens. Howard and I spoke for a bit with the man who’d sent us the invitation to come. As we spoke the actors came parading in. I say parading, but this was not because they intended a parade or because they sought to make an attention-grabbing entrance. It just seemed parade-like because they all arrived together on a bus from the shoot location.
Even if they had not arrived en masse, I would have guessed who they were, partly because the faces matched the posters, but also because the actors were the ones with professionally tailored make up and clothing. This doesn’t mean they were dressed to the nines, but even their hoodies fit perfectly. Actors are people for whom image matters tremendously. Their appearance is an integral part of their jobs and it was fascinating to get to witness that up close. It was even more fascinating to see that underneath the make up and clothes, they were just as happy to be part of this evening as Howard and I were. More so, probably, since they’d already emotionally invested in the show. It amused me to see the actors react to themselves on the banners. They photographed them and themselves with them. Somehow I thought they’d be blase about being on banners. They were actors in a show on TV, surely this was normal to them. But it wasn’t, and I realized that I was witnessing in the actors the same emotions I see in my writer friends when they have a book launch party or hold their book for the first time. You work hard to create something and then one day it is real in a way that it was not before. That is a marvelous day and I got to witness it.
People mingled and hugged each other, while Howard and I stood on the edges and watched. Then the doors opened and we all filed into Studio C, where we sat in the nicest bleachers I’ve ever seen. They were folding theater seats, but could obviously be pushed back against the wall just as most school bleachers can be. There were a few press people, like us (Press, yup still feels strange), but when the director, Scott Swofford, spoke, he was mostly speaking to everyone as family, part of the production. This is because most of those in attendance at this showing were related to cast members in some way. We were visitors at their party, but they made us welcome.
Then the showing began. I was impressed. Then I was impressed again. Then I laughed out loud, which I do not do for shows unless they’ve earned my trust in some way. Granite Flats is heavily serialized. We only had a two minute recap, which should have meant that I felt lost. But I didn’t. Instead I was engaged with the various plights of the characters. I connected to them emotionally and found them believable. I found myself fascinated by the editorial choices, the sets, and the casting. I truly enjoyed it.
Then the showing ended and everyone filed out into the reception area. Where before Howard and I hovered on the edges, this time we dived in. We complimented the excellent performances and then one of the actors, Maia Guest, pulled us through the crowd to introduce us to her husband, John Plummer, who wrote many of the episodes.
“How do you solve the Truth is Stranger than Fiction problem?” Howard asked. Which made both John and Scott (the director) laugh and say that they haven’t, because all their research keeps turning up factual accounts of the period and the MK Ultra experiments that would be unbelievable on the screen. I listened to them talk, praise their set designers, praise the actors, gush about this show that they helped to create, and it was beautiful to see. I love being around people who do creative work and are passionate about it. I love hearing them talk about the things they create. Howard and I would have happily monopolized the director and writer for hours, but we excused ourselves because they had other people who needed to speak to them.
We circulated some more and found ourselves talking to Taryn O’Neill who plays the part of June Sanders in the show. She was not featured in the episode we saw, but talking to her made me realize how many amazing people that the show has acquired. In addition to her acting, Taryn is a writer, contributing to Msinthebiz.com and writing fiction. Of all the people we met during the evening, she was the only one who had even vaguely heard of Howard, and only then because she follows our friend Myke Cole on twitter. The world of creative people is far more vast than it sometimes seems when Howard and I are circulating among our regular crowd of con-going genre fiction writers. I hope I get more chances to meet people like I met last night. It is a wonderful experience to go where we’re completely unknown and yet feel welcomed and included.
Granite Flats is a show with really high production quality, excellent writing, solid acting, all of which is put together mostly with Salt Lake City local talent. It is funded by BYUtv, even though a scripted drama is usually far outside the scope of a college-based broadcasting station.I’m frankly amazed that it exists and feel very privileged that Howard and I got to attend their party. It is definitely worth your time. You can view season 1 on their website graniteflats.com. Season 2 will begin airing April 6 on BYUtv. I got the impression that Season 1 may be a bit rougher than Season 2, but I look forward to seeing all of it.