Reality TV show’s request to film B


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Dec 27, 2023

Reality TV show’s request to film B

Town residents say the “Summer House” series is a “horrible reflection” of Martha’s Vineyard. A request to film areas of Oak Bluffs for the second season of “Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard,” a

Town residents say the “Summer House” series is a “horrible reflection” of Martha’s Vineyard.

A request to film areas of Oak Bluffs for the second season of “Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard,” a reality television show broadcast on the Bravo network, has raised concern among town residents.

At an Oak Bluffs Select Board meeting Tuesday afternoon, Angel Johnson, line producer for production company Truly Original’s “Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard” series, said that the crew is planning on taking B-roll footage throughout Oak Bluffs over the next few weeks.

The production team has identified Beach Road, East Chop Road, Circuit Avenue and Seaview Avenue as potential filming locations, she said.

“We will be filming life on Martha’s Vineyard,” she said. “Whether that be shopping, walking down the street, getting beach life, park life, wildlife, a couple of signs.”

“When we shoot B-roll, we don’t film people,” Johnson added. “It’s mostly just buildings and nature.”

Per a location filming permit application filed with the town this week, the B-roll team will consist of a handheld camera operator, assistant cameraperson, and production assistant, who will be responsible for filming B-roll for the series’ next season.

But select board members were hesitant to give the crew carte blanche over filming plans, and instead required the team to provide specific dates and times they’d be out taking footage.

“It’s disruptive, and it does attract a crowd,” select board member Gail Barmakian said, noting that’s especially true during the summer. “I’d like to see that avoided,” she said. “If it was off-season, I wouldn’t be as sensitive about it.”

Select board member Jason Balboni called for “a more defined list of when and where” filming will take place.

To address issues with scheduling, the board voted to authorize two members, Jason Balboni and Gail Barmakian, to work closely with the production team and to make decisions about filming times and details, and provide final approval on behalf of the board.

Ultimately, the board unanimously granted the production company permission to shoot B-roll on August 29, Sept. 3, and Sept. 8, despite some local residents urging them to rule otherwise, citing potential impacts to the town and the Island the show could have.

“There is no way that I think this board should allow them to continue [filming] the series,” Islander Dr. Thelma Baxter said Tuesday. “This program is a horrible reflection of Martha’s Vineyard, of Oak Bluffs … It is embarrassing.”

Baxter said although she doesn’t watch reality television, she did see part of the Bravo series — the first season of which premiered earlier this year — on the suggestion of a friend.

“That’s not the Martha’s Vineyard that I know,” she said. “I seriously worry about the people who are attracted to come from ‘Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard.’”

Baxter added she’s noticed a “different clientele” in town this summer, some of whom displayed behavior she deemed “horrible.”

In a letter received by the town, Baxter urged the board to reject the filming request.

“Please do not allow this show to be filmed again in M.V.,” she wrote. “As a homeowner since 1988, and a vacationer since 1980, I was horrified by the portrayal of M.V. people in this television series … As a taxpayer, I fear that this series will affect my property value.”

In another letter to the town, Dorinda Hazell-Forde shared similar sentiments, expressing concern about approving the filming permit. “This type of television series does not reflect the culture or the lifestyle of the residents on Martha’s Vineyard,” she wrote. As an Oak Bluffs homeowner, “I feel that this not only affects my property value [but] the image of Martha’s Vineyard.”

Oak Bluffs year-round resident Leslie Fitzsimmons said the reality show has affected the town already, as it has given “the wrong impression about what goes on here, and what our values are.”

“This is our town,” she said. “The [show] content is abhorrent; it doesn’t represent us.”

Personal opinions aside, Fitzsimmons asked if allowing the filming permit would be fair to local public safety officers who’ve already been struggling with staffing issues. “Is this another burden that we want to add to our already stressed-out EMS, Fire, and Police?” Fitzsimmons asked.

“For us to continue to assist in making their show more attractive seems counterintuitive to our best interests,” she said, adding that the show is “not of service to our town.”

Although sympathetic to the residents’ concerns, select board members emphasized that their charge is to rule on the permit application and potential impacts to the town as a whole, regardless of personal sentiments.

They also pointed to correspondence with the town’s police chief, Jon Searle, and highway superintendent, Richie Combra, neither of whom identified immediate issues with the filming request, as long as the crew avoided blocking sidewalks or streets.

In response to some of the concerns raised, Angel Johnson stated that it would be “unfair” to credit the show and its crew with an influx of Island visitors. “I’ve known about Martha’s Vineyard for a long time,” she said.

She said the same is true for a number of show participants, some of whom have personal ties to the Island.

Regardless of the content of the show itself, she said, “you see the B-roll that we did [last year]. That’s not negative at all.”

“We’re not trying to portray negativity here on Martha’s Vineyard,” she said. “I don’t know the type of people you’re saying we attract … I don’t know what that means.”