Web-based series based on tomato grower
A web series called “Heirloom” was filming in the Healdsburg area last week starring a local tomato grower, Paten Hughes, who lives part time in Healdsburg and New York.
“It’s important to stress that this series exists because of Paten Hughes,” Producer James Richard said. “She’s the driving force behind it. She is the creator, producer, lead actress. None of this would have happened without her vision and persistence.”
Hughes and a crew of about 27 are working on the 10-minute, nine-episode web series about a girl named Emily Nethers who moves to Healdsburg from New York and inherits a tomato farm.
The light-hearted, aspirational comedy – with a touch of romance – is based on the true life of Hughes, owner of the Healdsburg based Heirloom Heiress Tomato Company, which she started four years ago.
“The story was something we concocted as a team,” Hughes said. “Growing tomatoes was something I sort of fell into. A group of us starting thinking it was a funny story and that some of my adventures have been interesting and funny and that there was a heart there.”
Hughes graduated from Washington and Lee University in Virginia and began acting professionally seven years ago.
For about two weeks, the production team traveled around Sonoma County filming the main set at a farm house in Alexander Valley, donated by Clay Green, and filming scenes in Calistoga and Healdsburg.
“I really think the generosity of this place is very much embodied in the spirit of this series,” said Heirloom director Michael Melamedoff, who is also from New York. “There’s a romanticism and an optimism in the series that I think reflects the best of what I’ve see in Sonoma and in Healdsburg. There’s a warmth and a willingness to give opportunity, which is so much what the series is about.”
Kevin Kinsella of Kinsella Estates works as the series executive producer, and Kat Westergaard is the director of photography.
Hughes began working on the story in December with writer Bekah Brunstetter, who worked on the ABC Family Series, “Switched at Birth.”
The series includes actress Margaret Colin, who plays Emily’s mom, and actor Tom Wopat, from Dukes of Hazard, who plays the character of Lynn Brown of Forni-Brown-Welsh Gardens in Calistoga.
The series will also feature local chefs and their restaurants including Valette, Chalkboard and The Blackbird Cafe.
Richard noted that although some days on set are long and tiresome, one of the best parts of this production was working in Healdsburg. “It’s a stressful job with long days that never go according to plan, so you’re always adjusting,” Richard said. “It can really take its toll on you, but then at the end of the day it’s so pretty here and everyone is so friendly.”
After finishing filming in Sonoma County, the crew was headed back to New York for a few more shots. The next stop for the production team is editing, which will then lead to figuring out where and when the series will be seen.
No air date is set in place yet, but the team already has plans for a second season.