A TV show set in Sitka is in the works

LA producers plan to start shooting in spring

Helena Sardinha and Rafael Thomaseto are the creators and producers of the planned show “Sitka” (Courtesy photo | For “Sitka”)

Helena Sardinha and Rafael Thomaseto are the creators and producers of the planned show “Sitka” (Courtesy photo | For “Sitka”)

Soon there could be a show set in Alaska that’s not reality TV or a nature documentary.

“Sitka,” a planned eight-episode, half-hour show set in the Southeast Alaska city, is in the works and a pilot episode could be finished by late fall.

“It’s just a very interesting, specific environment,” said producer and creator Helena Sardinha from Los Angeles in a phone interview Tuesday. “The city is so artistic. There is so much happening there. It’s a very special place.”

Sitka could soon be the setting of a TV show. Los Angeles-based producers are securing funding to shoot a pilot in the Southeast Alaska city this spring. (Courtesy photo | For “Sitka”)

Sitka could soon be the setting of a TV show. Los Angeles-based producers are securing funding to shoot a pilot in the Southeast Alaska city this spring. (Courtesy photo | For “Sitka”)

Sardinha said she and her partner Rafael Thomaseto of Driven Equation also noticed Alaskans seem tired of the state only being captured in nature documentaries or reality TV shows that depict living in Alaska as an act of survivalist endurance.

“We wanted to create something more about the people,” Sardinha said. “Our main theme throughout the series is healing, where Sitka comes and provides healing to the main characters.”

“It’s based on not true stories, but stories we heard and based on actual facts,” she added. “We want to portray the city as real as we can.”

While it’s still early in the show’s development, buzz is building for it and its slice-of-life approach.

“Everybody’s pretty excited about it,” said Eileen Chanquet, membership coordinator for the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce. “There’s all these shows that have fake Alaska people.”

[Former Juneauite’s film airs on PBS]

The plan is to involve many real Alaskans.

While no one has been cast yet, Sardinha said it’s hoped some of the show’s seven supporting roles and essentially all of the extras will be Alaska talent and 10 members of the 20-person crew would also be Alaskan.

There’s a chance local talent could be even more represented.

“We are open to casting main cast in Alaska as well,” Sardinah. “For example, the Alaska Native character, we’re probably casting that in Alaska.”

An Alaskan played a large role in the show’s setting.

Patty Buak, owner of Bayview Pub in Sitka, who previously worked with “Sitka” creator and producer Thomaseto’s father, approached Thomaseto and Sardinha about setting a show in the Southeast city of about 8,800.

“She came to us with the idea of bringing a piece of entertainment to the city with the main goal of attracting tourists by exposing the town somehow,” Sardinha said.

Rafael Thomaseto, one of the producers and creators of “Sitka,” a planned series set in the Southeast Alaska city, walks in the woods during a visit to Sitka. Courtesy photo | For “Sitka”)

Rafael Thomaseto, one of the producers and creators of “Sitka,” a planned series set in the Southeast Alaska city, walks in the woods during a visit to Sitka. Courtesy photo | For “Sitka”)

Sardinha and Thomaseto both have backgrounds in producing and directing TV shows and movies. “Sitka” was initially conceived as a film until the creators visited the city.

Thomaseto first visited in November and both he and Sardinha spent time there in January.

“When we first came to Sitka and analyzed the city, we realized there’s such diversity in the such a small town that telling the story through film wouldn’t be enough,” Sardinha said. “That’s why we transformed it into a TV show.”

What’s next?

The plan is to start shooting a pilot episode for “Sitka” in spring pending ongoing efforts to secure funding, Sardinha said.

A pilot is a standalone episode of a TV show used to sell the show to networks or online platforms.

Post-production on the pilot would be done in late summer and early autumn, Sardinha said.

[Juneau remembers Stonewall 50 years later]

By the time people are Christmas shopping, Sardinha is hoping to be shopping “Sitka” to streaming services.

“Our aim right now is to get into a streaming service,” Sardinha said. “Our main choice right now is Amazon. “

Should that happen, shooting the rest of the show’s first season would happen in spring or summer of 2020.

By 2021 or 2022, there would be a new season of TV for audiences around the world to binge watch.

“After shooting, we’re probably coming back to show the people in the city the pilot, so they can have that little flavor and not wait until 2022,” Sardinha said.


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenHohenstatt.:


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