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Kingdom County 'Laughs Out Loud'
by James Duffy















How does a divorced, displaced, nearly desperate – yet savvy and determined
– mother of two daughters leave New York City and end up in rural Vermont,
to lodgings in a cobwebbed storage room with a chamber pot? Oh, by the way,
her daughters are twelve and sixteen.  Yikes!

And who is that wild looking man across the road, struggling by himself to
maintain the family dairy farm?  

Why is the “Milk Bowl” so important to him?  Can “Barns of Steel” save his farm?
Welcome to Blodgett Village, the fictional home to “Windy Acres,” a six-part
comedy series Kingdom County Productions (KCP) of Barnet, Vermont, is co-
producing with Vermont Public Television.  It is due to air during prime-time in
the late fall of 2004.

Lucien LaFlamme (to be played by Rusty Dewees), is the hard luck farmer.  
Stephanie Burns is the suddenly free and falling expatriate from New York City
who is trying to land on her feet.  Joined by the likes of Turkey Tatro, April
LeMay and Ug - who is the mastermind behind the lure that brought Stephanie
and her daughters to Vermont - the characters of “Windy Acres” are ready to
deliver some good-natured pokes at the clash and co-existence of local values
and big city ways.  

“It is a silly and fun look at who these people are.” says Lauren Moye, Executive
Director of KCP.

Kingdom County Productions was founded in 1991 by film makers Jay Craven
and Bess O’Brien.  It is a grass roots non profit organization whose mission is to
cultivate the artistic voice of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.  KCP produces
feature films and documentaries, as well as providing media arts education.
Some of KCP’s productions include the dramatic features “A Stranger in the
Kingdom” and “Where the Rivers Run North,” both based on works by Vermont
writer Howard Frank Mosher; and “Here Today,” a critically acclaimed
documentary about the impact of heroin addiction on Vermont families.  
Fledging Films, KCP’s educational division, was formed in 1997 to help give
young people hands-on experience through media workshops and production
projects.   

“It is important, especially for younger people, to see and create original work
that is not heavily commercial,” says  Moye.  “We work with kids in Vermont
schools, helping them to translate stories that are regional and compelling.  
There are some amazing statistics on how much media young kids are exposed
to now.  They watch television and use the Internet as much as they sleep.  Kids
need to learn to think and express themselves, not just absorb media.”

“Windy Acres” is KCP’s first venture into television. It is being co-written by Jay
Craven and Randi Hacker.  Mr. Craven, who is directing the show, originally had
planned for a feature film, according to Moye, but soon realized he had enough
material for a television series.  “Jay reworked the material because he realized it
was well suited to TV.  Also, there is not a lot of regional programming to be
found anywhere on television, and Vermont Public Television, which was
receptive to the idea, has a system in place that is not as costly as film
distribution.  Part of our mission is to cultivate an audience for our work.”

In addition to the commitment of Vermont Public Television, other Northeastern
Public Stations have expressed an interest in “Windy Acres,” creating the
possibility of the show reaching millions of households. Nationally, Arkansas
Public Television has said they would like to air it.  Much of this has to do with
Jay Craven’s reputation as a filmmaker, says Moye.  “Jay’s been making films
since he was seventeen years old.  Public stations have broadcast his films.  He is
respected not only as a filmmaker, but as a teacher as well.”  

Depending on the success of “Windy Acres,” there is hope for other annual
television shows rooted in Vermont culture.  They could be comedies, dramas,
or mysteries.  In the meantime, a post production “Barnstorming Tour” is
planned for venues across the state.  People will be able to meet the cast and
crew, as well as view episodes.  DVD and video copies will be made available to
video stores and retail sales.

All of KCP’s productions are brought to communities throughout Vermont.  
People see the films and then have discussions afterwards. “The experience with
our work,” says Moye, “is that people feel a sense of local ownership and pride.  
It resonates because it is so rooted in our area.  And because we are always
working on such tight budgets, we look to the kindness of neighbors.”  That
often translates to food for crews, lodging and donated use of locations for
filming.  Local actors are sought out as well.  Moye hopes local actress’ can be
cast as Stephanie Burns’ daughters.

“It’s all meaningful work, coming out of the soil of Vermont.”

To learn more about Kingdom County Productions, visit their website at
www.kingdomcounty.com
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