National Geographic puts out Old Believer casting call

• Tuesday, New York producers begin scouting in Homer hub for new series
By Naomi Klouda
Homer Tribune

Correction issued in phone number to National Geographic producers: 212-730-4545

Photo courtesy National Geographic - Mennonite women are pictured in a previous National Geographic documentary-like series.

Photo courtesy National Geographic - Mennonite women are pictured in a previous National Geographic documentary-like series.

Three National Geographic producers are coming to Homer on Tuesday to begin casting for a new television series on the Russian Old Believer communities.
Executive Producer Lisa Blake considers Homer the hub of Old Believer villages for Alaska. The docu-series casting is 5-8 p.m. Tuesday evening at the Nikolaevsk School. Producers will stay in Homer talking with people interested in participating in the series through Feb. 1.
Each Russian Old Believer family will be paid to be in the docu-series, which the producers are planning to run for three seasons. This means a lot of episodes, for which each family earns $3,500 per show.
“We’re looking for families with big personalities and an interesting story to tell,” Blake said. “We don’t have a preconceived story line – this is documentary style. We are not creating anything. (The show) is simply to learn about and explore the people in Homer. It is open to anyone who wants to participate, who is interesting and interested in being a participant on camera.”
National Geographic has done similar series on the Amish, the Mennonites and the Hauterites, all closed religious groups working to retain their ancient traditions in a modern world. National Geographic research teams looked into the Russian Old Believers from New York, then sent a small team to Homer in October. Blake came to size up the assignment to see if Homer would be the right location for starting the series. “Even though it was October, I could still tell Alaska is this incredibly special place,” Blake said.
The initial visit Jan. 29-Feb. 1 would be just the casting.
“We are available to meet with people each day through Feb. 1,” Blake said. “We’re having a town hall meet and greet at the school on Tuesday night. We would like to see as many people as possible. This is casting a really wide net.”
The docu-series would focus on the day-to-day lives of men, women, children and teens in the Russian Old Believer villages. Homer has four primary villages, all located in remote ares: Kachemak-Selo, Voznesenka, and Razdolna are located 25 miles down East End Road overlooking the Fox River Valley and the hat flats that long served cattlemen in the region. The fourth village is Nikolaevsk, settled in 1967 off North Fork Road on rich farming land. Today it is across the street from a present day natural gas well.
Old Believers separated after 1666 from the official Russian Orthodox Church as a protest against church reforms introduced by Patriarch Nikon between 1652–66. Old Believers continue liturgical practices which the Russian Orthodox Church maintained before the implementation of these reforms, and were persecuted for it. Groups escaped to various countries around the world in the ensuing centuries, and are said to have come to Alaska in the 1960s.
“This is not a historical retelling. This is today. People want to know what their lives are like today,” Blake said.
National Geographic has already given the “green light” for a pilot on Alaska’s Russian Old Believer families. If that is a hit, the season would cut immediately into the first show.
“Homer is the hub as we are envisioning it now. If there are other Old Believer villages in Alaska, we would love to hear from them as well,” Blake said. “The religion is very interesting to National Geographic viewers, that devotion, the gravitas. Our viewers love that.”
Unlike shows such as Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel that go for the nitty grit and glory in a sensational approach, National Geographic is respectful.
“The National Geographic Society would never go for it being any other way,” Blake said. “We are looking at religious questions – such as ‘how do you maintain your faith and devotion to traditional values in contemporary America?’ Because it’s National Geographic our approach is very respectful – this is not Jersey Shore. The National Geographic Society would never let that happen.”
Each person interested in the series will need to sit for an on-camera test. At Tuesday night’s meet and greet, the producers will make appointments to meet people in their homes and do on-camera session with them at that time. Call 212-730-4545 for more information, and ask for Lisa Blake.

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Posted by on Jan 23rd, 2013 and filed under Headline News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

5 Responses for “National Geographic puts out Old Believer casting call”

  1. Elena M says:

    I think this National Geographic should ask permission to from the whole community of Old Believers before casting and piloting a show for the whole world to see. Some Old Believers are strict in keeping our faith and feel that this show would somehow ridicule us. As is it, some Homer and surrounding area residents already have a lot of issues with Old Believers. Some issues are not religious but to the success of our community keeping to our selves.
    And who knows what the person who is cast has enough knowledge to answer simple “Why is this done this way and what does it represent”
    It seems like that there is a lot of Old Believers in Homer- but are they all practicing faith? or are they wearing dresses and don’t know the reason why they are wearing dresses. Do they speak or read Slavic or Russian?
    Again, does the Old Believer community want to be on National Geographic? or will a few be cast and go with the show!

  2. Christina says:

    This number for Lisa Blake is no good. Is this a hoax?

  3. Alan Mairson says:

    Lisa Blake says (above): “Because it’s National Geographic our approach is very respectful — this is not Jersey Shore. The National Geographic Society would never let that happen.”

    I’m sure Ms. Blake is well intentioned, but she also must know that the National Geographic Society does not own the National Geographic Channel. The Channel is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, which specializes in tabloid television, not “National Geographic-style documentaries.”

    As for the pitch Ms. Blake is making to the people of Homer, it has been done before, exactly the same way — and with disastrous results. Please see:

    Alan Mairson

  4. Alan Mairson says:

    P.S. For more on The Art of The Sucker Punch, please see:

    Also: Thank you, Naomi Klouda & the Homer Tribune, for your detailed & revealing story. I only hope the folks in Homer & vicinity fully grasp what’s about to happen to them.

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