VENTNOR — A year after two local women opened Little Rock Films and Studios in Ventnor, they have embarked on an ambitious effort to film a television series pilot that makes Atlantic City its star.
“We were looking to do a fictional drama about Atlantic City in Atlantic City,” said Dina Engel, who plays journalist Ally Price in the series.
The series, “48 Blocks,” takes its name from the 48 blocks that make up Atlantic City.
“Atlantic City is the backdrop for the casino boom and bomb, which leaves a mark on the characters and the city,” Engel said. “There’s 48 Blocks vodka and the recent 48 Blocks Art Show, which both agreed to let us share the name to bring the arts and the community together to share something exciting.”
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Filming will begin soon in the city and in the Downbeach communities of Ventnor, Margate and Longport, something that wasn’t done with the hit HBO series "Boardwalk Empire," she said.
“We really want to highlight the community and its people, and paint a portrait of city’s strength and resilience," she said. “People will be interested in these characters and their side stories.”
Engel characterized the series as the Academy Award-winning movie “Spotlight” meets the Emmy Award-winning television series “This is Us.”
“It’s both a crime drama and an unlimited series about personal discovery. There’s no shortage of story ideas here,” she said.
The main character, Vernon “King” Carver, played by veteran Broadway, film and television actor Leonard Dozier, is an upstart real estate developer caught between power brokers and political corruption who struggles to “do the right thing.” All the while he is tracked by a reporter looking to uncover his hidden secrets.
Stuart Connelly is directing the series. Engel’s partner Sherry McCracken, an award-winning photographer and filmmaker with more than 25 years' experience, is cinematographer, and screewriter Daniel Putkowski, who divides his time between Philadelphia and Los Angeles, is writing the script.
A prospectus available to investors outlines a $100,000 budget to make the one-hour pilot, “which is not a lot compared to what the networks do,” Engel said.
The “above the line” expenses for the script, talent, travel and living expenses is $17,000, and the “below the line” expenses, including set design, wardrobe, electrical, sound, camera, lighting and crew is a major portion of the budget at $62,000. Actors will work for Screen Actors Guild minimums and the director will only be paid $1,000, she said.
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“We have $15,000 committed already, and another individual contributed $10,000,” Engel said. “But anyone can contribute as little as $5 or make an in-kind donation such as meals for the crew.”
Anyone who contributes more than $5,000 will become part of the investment pool and share in the proceeds, she said.
Engel anticipates a 10-day shoot starting in early fall, with post-production taking place through winter.
Engel said she has been in touch with a cable network and it “looks promising.”
A fundraiser is planned for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31, at Little Water Distillery, 807 Baltic Ave in Atlantic City. Tickets are $25 online or $30 at the door, and include appetizers and a chance to win prizes, support the arts and meet the actors.