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Alaska TV in the making: trio turns dreams into reality and has huge plans for Alaska television.

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If dreams could make money then the three owners of Anchorage-based Upper One Studios would be rich.

Rick Mallars, Tom Karpow and Jason Martin are three amigos who live the life many of us would love to: taking risks, working hard, pursuing passions and seeing sometimes the future is more than dollars in the pocket for the moment.

And they are taking flight.

Formed in 2008 by Mallars and Karpow, Martin joined the duo in late 2009.

"Upper One Studios was created with one purpose and one goal," said Mallars. "To bring quality all-Alaska video productions to the great state of Alaska. Our motto is--The Lower 48 can have the rest, but Alaska has the Upper One!"

Their programming is filmed and produced by Alaskans, with Alaskans and for Alaskans, and currently three shows are in production or being aired.

* "Late Night Alaska," a mostly non-scripted comedy variety talk show hosted by Bob Lester, a DJ from 106.5 KHWL. The show mirrors Saturday Night Live with a unique Alaska flavor, and packs it full of Alaska humor, local politics, music from local bands and musical legends, dancing and more. It is filmed live at Alaska's famous Chilkoot Charlie's, with scripted spots interspersed, and regular features such as "Where's Taquito." There are also fake commercials. Demographics show those ages 18 to 55 are the main audience.

* "Halfway There," a unique and refreshing look at the oftentimes hilarious side of corrections. The sitcom is set in a town hundreds of miles from anywhere. Halfway is a federal residential corrections facility on a five-year quest to rehabilitate inmates back into society. Currently there are four scripts written and ready to roll in a monthly episode. Youth to age 35 appeal to this show, typically.

* "Scared Scriptless Improv," a comedy group that is known statewide and is now bringing their humor to television. The first filming was in November for a weekly TV show coming out this month. It's a PG13 production for a teen and older audience.

Upper One Studios has partnered with KACN Channel 38 (analogue) and local GCI cable Channel 95, utilizing their broadcast capabilities to place their programming in favorable time slots to both urban and rural Alaskans. Both "Late Night Alaska" and "Halfway There" were hoped to be aired by press time, with "Late Night Alaska" on Friday, 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., prime time for weekends. There are also plans to air reruns on Channel 1 from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays. They'll soon be on Dish Network, statewide. In addition, they have a full feature film called "Probation" being shopped around Hollywood, with hopes it will soon find a slot on national TV.

"We're not just talking the old traditional outdoor shows and the fired nature programming that everyone else is doing," said Mallars. "We're talking TV shows, sitcoms, talk shows, business spotlight programming and shows that demonstrate to the rest of the world that REAL filming and REAL programming can actually be done here and that the people who actually live and work here can make that happen.

"We don't need a full Hollywood crew and we don't need millions of dollars to entertain people. We simply need Alaska."

VOLUNTEER CAST

The cast for their productions is large and all volunteer, at least for the moment, said Mallars. There is an agreement that they may be paid later as the shows become more successful and turn profit.

Volunteers were selected, in part, from a joint audition with another firm for a Lower 48 production. "These amazing people showed up," said Mallars. "They just kind of knocked our socks off with their abilities. We're building this troop of people and talent pool and all are very excited about being a part of the projects.

Why work for free? "They just want to be involved in something special," said Mallars. "Take Scared Scriptless for instance. There's a lot of people in there who do plays. You do it because you like to act, be around people with similar interests. We say 'look this is a nonpaying project with a lot of great talent behind it, would you be interested in joining up and see how goes?' Haven't had anyone say 'no'--110 percent--I've heard them say 'absolutely.'"

The pilot episode of Late Night Alaska has already been filmed live at Koots, just before Halloween.

"We completely packed the place out," said Mallars. "I remember starting filming and I turned around and there were just wall-to-wall people. And it was amazing, there was this huge energy in the crowd and it just took off. I felt like we weren't ready, weren't ready, weren't ready, weren't ready and then it was just 'we're here. We're doing it.'"

"That's my experience with everything Upper One has done," added Martin, also founder and director of Scared Scriptless. "It starts out as a spark and then just explodes."

Things are happening so fast, so quickly conceptually, it sometimes overwhelms the trio. But their focus is still the same, just bigger gears on where they want to go.

Their ultimate goal in two years is having their own full-fledged studio where they can run and produce shows, picking and choosing topics as they please, and not have outside interference,

IN THE FUTURE

They have several other programs in the planning stages, including "Successful Neighbors," about local businesses and Alaskans who give back to the community in some way, and "Alaska Fitness Show," which is a version of the "Biggest Loser," only Alaska-based. They hope to eventually produce full-length major feature films.

"It's something we'd really like to do," said Mallars. They are looking at funding sources for future productions, as well as sponsorships and in kind donations. There has been even national interest.

"We believe in partnering with longtime Alaska businesses and lifelong Alaskans that can add the very flavor to our productions that we need to make them the best we can," said Mallars. "By the 'best,' we simply mean not only interesting to the people who live here, but also entertaining and fun for those Alaskans who are now living in the Lower 48 looking for that little taste of home."

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They also have a huge Web presence, with Webisodes of all shows available. For samples, type in "Halfway There a Sitcom" in the search engine on the Internet. There are past shows available for viewing, as well as interviews with cast members called "Inside Halfway There."

"One of neat things about Web, we have a Facebook group, just word of mouth, that just went wildfire," added Martin. "We had one member one day, 10 the next, 100 the next and we are now up to 1,600 (mid-November).

"One of the neat things Facebook brought to 'Halfway There' and 'Late Night Alaska' was the number of Alaskans, and even those not in Alaska, who want to see these programs. Some say 'man, I miss Alaska,' or 'It's so neat to see friends I know from Alaska' or places in Alaska where they've been. They're making connections."

All footage is also available on You Tube.

Links to Upper One Studios and antics and shows include:

* www.upperonestudios.com

* www.halfwaytherealaska.com

* www.late nightalaska.comhhtp://

* www.facebook.com/home.php?#/group.php?gid=166506638773 (for "Late Night Alaska")

* hhtp://www.facebook.com/home.php?#group.php?gid=106437612033 (For "Halfway There")

BY DEBBIE CUTLER

MANAGING EDITOR
COPYRIGHT 2010 Alaska Business Publishing Company, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Comment:Alaska TV in the making: trio turns dreams into reality and has huge plans for Alaska television.(FILM)
Author:Cutler, Debbie
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1U9AK
Date:Jan 1, 2010
Words:1241
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