TV program gives South Whidbey kids platform to show talent

Soren Bratrude takes a break on the set of WhidbeyTV’s upcoming show

Child actors and aspiring film production staff are getting a taste of Whidbey’s version of Hollywood, and their work will appear on TV in the coming months.

There aren’t many live-action children’s television programs these days, and the lack of such shows has prompted Whidbey Island and Puget Sound-based actors, actresses and film producers to create a new program for WhidbeyTV that provides child actors with a platform to shine in front of a television audience.

“The Adventures of Captain Callie” is a nautical-themed educational show about a boat skipper and her crew who explore issues of growing up while hopping on board her ship to explore Whidbey Island. Showrunner Chelsea Randall of Edmonds has created original songs and choreography to go along with the conversations on topics such as recycling, healthy eating and bullying. The show is reminiscent of an educational show of old such as Mr. Rogers, with its whimsical and positive life lessons dished out left and right. The show has a Whidbey Island theme, as the crew visits different areas of the island in their travels.

The first season is a six-episode series that is slated to run on WhidbeyTV in the fall.

“It’s a really fun experience and my first on TV,” South Whidbey native Soren Bratrude said. “I do a lot of acting, but this is kind of different — I like it more because if you mess up you can go back and redo. I want to do a second season and I hope it gets syndicated.”

Show directors have enlisted teenage actors and actresses, including Bratrude, 13, and Lily Peterson, 12, from Edmonds. The program also offers summer internship programs for South Whidbey High School students interested in film production. They will gain experience behind the scenes, working with production equipment and stage setting. The high schoolers receive class credit for their efforts.

“Doing this brings out all of our talents, and if I move on I get to show people this,” Peterson said. “It’s fun to be in front of the camera, you feel like a different person on set.”

“Captain Callie” has provided Bratrude and Peterson the opportunity to jump in front of the camera in front of a television audience. Both have a background in theater, with Bratrude previously featuring in programs put on by Whidbey Children’s Theater. WhidbeyTV Director of Programming and Production Patricia Friedman said it’s part of WhidbeyTV’s mission to support and expose the Whidbey community’s talents, and also pointed out that the local aspect is a big draw with viewers.

And filming seems to be going smoothly.

Bratrude and Peterson both said they’ve enjoyed the challenge, and while they’ve previously thought of pursuing a career in acting, the process of filming the show has only stoked the desire to go into show business for both.

“I think doing this kind of got me interested in doing bigger things, and after this I’d probably like to go forward with acting,” Peterson said. “This has been super fun and I look forward to doing this in the future.”

Bratrude’s father, Aaron Bratrude, said the film opportunity his son landed is testament to the benefits of living in a small yet creative community. He says his son has been in discussions with members of the staff about future role considerations, and the director has made suggestions regarding what he can do to develop further.

“From a parent’s perspective this is the greatest part, that in this amazing, small island community there exists wonderful opportunities like this,” Aaron Bratrude said. “It will be immensely helpful for him on his current chosen path.”

The collaboration between WICA and WhidbeyTV also opens up a new window of performance opportunities for WICA staff for future projects like “Captain Callie”. The arts center’s facilities have never been used as a sound studio, but WhidbeyTV staff said Zech Hall in the center is great for that purpose.

Executive Director Stacie Burgua said there are many different ways to move forward from here, since WICA has never before meddled in the television medium. Through this experience, WICA’s staff are given the opportunity to work with WhidbeyTV’s production crews and seasoned TV professionals to learn the ins and outs of the industry, while stage staff get to toy with props and sets. And due to WICA’s close proximity to the Whidbey Children’s Theater, this could be a way into Whidbey’s Hollywood for both WICA performers and aspiring South Whidbey child actors.

“I would really love to act in the future; I’ve been studying TV shows and stuff,” Soren Bratrude said. “I’d love to try to do some commercials and get an agent eventually.”