Film crew is shadowing Coast Guard personnel for Discovery ChannelCAPE D - When the two-person film crew from Red Dog Entertainment arrived at Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment in mid-May, it took a while for those on base to get used to having them around. Who wouldn't be a little unnerved to have a digital video camera in the their face all of a sudden? But according to producer Tracy Powell, the Coasties are have gotten used to them now.
"I think the guys have come a long way with us," said Powell of how the people on base have come to not really notice them as they do their filming. "You can just see it in the way we work now. The distances between us were much greater and now we're able to get really close."
She and photographer Todd Stanley, who was replaced last week by Bryan Miller, are in the process of filming five one-hour episodes of a television program tentatively scheduled to air on the Discovery Channel around November of this year. According to Stanley, the concept of the show is to capture these "characters" at the base in their natural environment and to focus on the search and rescue operations they undertake.
"You kind of say this show is a lot like 'Cops' with character development," said Powell.
"I think overall it's a really unique and positive opportunity," said Cape D Commanding Officer Lt. Jamie Frederick. "It's a great way to show the American public what we do. I'd venture to say that a majority of the American public really doesn't have an accurate depiction of the Coast Guard."
And showing what the Coast Guard is all about is exactly what the film crew is trying to do, even if that means going out with them on risky SAR cases - including one rescue mission that required the help of an Air Station Astoria helicopter.
"By the time we got there the boat had sunk pretty much completely underwater," said Powell.
Stanley said that filming a mission like that is not an easy one.
"It's extremely difficult. You get out here on these smaller boats under choppier conditions and it is hands-down the hardest camera work I've ever experienced," he said.
Powell said they even have to do more prep work than the Coasties prior to going out on a situation like that.
"All they have to do is get dressed and get on the boats. Where as we have a lot more responsibilities to make sure our gear is ready to go," she said.
Stanley added that he and Powell wear the same safety gear the Coasties do, and on top of that is their camera equipment.
And although they'd like to see more, thus far the film crew has been on only a handful of SAR cases - but the quality has outweighed the quantity according to Frederick.
"We've had a couple of pretty good SAR cases, really successful," he said. "We've had some law enforcement cases, a couple of boardings on commercial fishing boats. Any of those boardings, it doesn't sound that exciting, but when you get on board it's always inherently dangerous."
Frederick said that on average the base responds to around 20 to 30 SAR cases in June. That number more than doubles in July, so the odds are in the film crews favor that they'll get to see more action out at the Cape.
"You never wish for something bad to happen but we know we're going to have those cases, that's just the way it is. That's why we're here," said Frederick. "So you want to those to happen when the film crew is here to capture that."
And when they're not braving the waves on a rescue boat, the crew concentrate on the stories of the Coasties themselves. The idea is to develop stories based on the characters at the base. On this day, Powell and new photographer Miller attend a change of command ceremony at the National Motor Life Boat School in which Seaman Jessica Lount and Seaman Apprentice Hayley Cosh received special citations for providing on-the-spot medical attention to victims of a recent head-on collision on the Meglar Bridge.
The two have also been living on base five days a week since they got here. Powell said the opportunity to live amongst those on base has been a real bonus for them, in getting to know the people they're dealing with and being prepared for when things happen.
"They have their schedules, so we definitely have to adapt. Eat when they eat, sleep when they sleep, get underway when they do," she said.
The TV program will feature footage from four Coast Guard Stations, including Cape D and Air Station Astoria - to show how the two work hand-in-hand. The other two are in Florida. Frederick feels that Cape D was chosen as one of the four locations for the filming due to its reputation.
"Operations in the Pacific Northwest are a lot different than they are, for example, in Florida," he said. The two in Florida are Air Station Clear Water in Tampa and Station Sand Key, which handle more drug-trafficking, recreational boating and migrant interdiction.
He said the whole thing was approved through the Coast Guard motion picture office in Los Angeles.
"If the Coast Guard signs on to do something you'll see real Coast Guard assets and real Coast Guard people and it will be a good, accurate depiction," he said.
Stanley, who did filming for Discovery Channel's highest rated TV show ever, "The Deadliest Catch," about crab fishing in Alaska said that television is really in "an interesting place right now," where many shows are breaking the traditional "rules of television." What he speaks of are the "reality-based" shows, like the one they are currently filming. He said that this particular style of show, which has no reenactments and no narration, is really quite groundbreaking in terms of television.
"What we're trying to do is tell these stories through our characters. Have the characters themselves tell the stories," he said. "And that's something very new and it's been a successful recipe in other shows only recently. It's difficult to do it that way."
"I think it'll show just how hard these guys work," said Frederick. "How dedicated they are to really helping people and saving lives. They go out everyday of the week and risk their lives so that others may live. It's a noble thing that I think a lot of people don't know about."
And in the end, Frederick feels that this will be something that the men and women of Station Cape D can really be proud of.
"What I told the guys is, this is a real neat opportunity to have somebody make a scrapbook for us," he said. "This is something, hopefully, you can pop in the TV and show your family in 15, 20 years, show your grandkids what you did. This is a real opportunity for the crew to make their parents proud of what they're doing."