GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A TV series that’s soon coming to an international streaming service was shot in Grand Rapids.
The whole production was organized by staff, alumni and current students at West Michigan’s Compass College of Cinematic Arts.
“You don’t have to be in New York, you don’t have to be in LA – you can be in West Michigan,” said Jay Greer, president of Compass College of Cinematic Arts. “You can be shooting a TV series in West Michigan.”
Production on a full, eight-episode series recently wrapped up and was all shot around the region.
It was written, shot and edited entirely by the college’s students, alumni and staff.
The project is the first season of a show called “The Watchers.”
“I think the people here are more gracious than in Los Angeles,” said Kevin Porter, an actor from LA. “Things are a little more passionate and a little more appreciative of the opportunities that are here. And I love that.”
While the production flew in several Los Angeles-based actors, some of the actors call Michigan home year-round.
“I live in this area in Zealand, actually,” said Davis J. Gries. “So there’s not – I don’t want to say not a whole lot of opportunity to do stuff like this, but it feels really good when you get to do it.”
There was a time more than a decade ago when major productions were consistently coming to Michigan.
Back in 2008, the state began using tax credits to lure companies here.
Incentives changed in the years that followed, eventually being eliminated completely in 2015.
“What’s changed in the industry is the streaming services are now... actually you can shoot them off-site,” Greer said.
And that’s part Compass College’s long-term goal: to provide students with opportunities to work in the industry right here in West Michigan.
“Not to sneeze at any other sets I’ve worked on, but by far this has been the set that I felt the most comfortable,” said Ciera Foster, an actress based out of LA. “It has like a very homey vibe.”
The show, written and directed by Compass College’s in-house director, Aaron Greer, has already been sold to faith-based streaming service Pure-flix.
“I hope this is the first of many, many projects that we do here in West Michigan, and we do it in partnership with the college because I think the college is a natural place to draw talent from,” Aaron Greer said.
For the actors who traveled in for the project, they were pleasantly surprised with what Michigan has to offer.
“Michigan has a very particular type of energy that’s just very calming,” Foster said. “The people here are lovely and I can’t say enough good things about campus and the students that are involved.”
Production wrapped at the end of May.
Now comes post-production, with an expected release date on Pure-flix sometime early next year.
“We approached this season like we already knew a second season was going to happen,” Aaron Greer said. “Like we wrote the story that way, we shot it that way.”