OGDENSBURG — The first episode of the homegrown web series “Zburg” is available for viewing on the St. Lawrence International Film Festival site, http://www.stlawrencefilm.com/.
The locally produced web series was filmed in Ogdensburg and created by Mark Valley and Ethan Henry. The series has been highlighted as one of four series worthy of watching this month by regional film festival officials.
“‘Zburg’ is getting some recognition from film festivals,” Mr. Valley said on Monday. “Episode one is going to be on the Stlawrencefilm.com site. We were selected for their final four films.”
Mr. Valley, who grew up in Ogdensburg, said the official release of the series is Sept. 2. He also said the project is a labor of love.
“I’m from Ogdensburg, New York, and grew up there like any other kid trying to stay out of trouble,” Mr. Valley said in director’s statement. “As a young teenager I threw a snowball at the wrong car and met someone from the other side of town. He was violent, gritty and living by different rules. I was lucky. I wondered what might have happened if I wasn’t.”
Decades later, the noted television and film actor said he decided to team up with Ogdensburg filmmaker Ethan Henry. Together they developed the story and soon started casting locals.
The goal was to create something regional.
“So much of our news and entertainment is directed toward a national audience, a re-purposed set of stories that we have heard before from the usual places,” Mr. Valley said. “I wanted to tell a story from an unusual place I hadn’t seen on screen before, my hometown. A large swath of America stopped telling its own stories, and is losing it’s regional and personal identity; their own local flavor and history are being ignored in favor of more popular or provocative commercial choices.”
He said community support and interest in Ogdensburg and around the north country has been invaluable.
“We tried to tell a humorous and accurate story of people in conflict with a specific place as it changes right underneath them,” he said. “I hope you enjoy it. I think we really captured something rough, unique, local, funny and at times, maybe meaningful.”
Mr. Valley describes the web series as an offbeat crime mystery, about a detective and the local characters whose lives intersect or collide during a murder investigation. It’s told in short pieces during a season of 15 episodes. Each segment is seven to eight minutes long.
It was filmed in Ogdensburg over the course of a year, with three seasonal or episode arcs, shot across two December holidays and one summer, according to Mr. Valley. He said the story chronicles haunted and sidelined former detective Harry Mallette as he negotiates with a violent nemesis, mysterious newcomers, petty thieves and misfits of all ages to solve the murder of a local drug dealer.
Although Ogdensburg is the filming location, the story plays out in fictional Zburg, a rust belt community on the Canadian border. Once a thriving industrial town — like others across the Northeast and Midwest — the community has been wracked in recent years by unemployment, drugs and competing criminal elements.
He said the show also delves into the need to find one’s own identity in a remote landscape. A place where choices are sometimes limited, and there are constant reminders of the looming benefits — and pitfalls — that come with living in such a close knit community.
The series was shot on a shoestring budget with an all-local cast and crew, Mr. Valley said.
“I’ve submitted the show to festivals and we have about a 60 percent acceptance rate, which is exceptionally good,” Mr. Valley said. “I have screened it with some locals as well. There were some rumors the show poked fun at the ‘burg, but the response has been very good. Most see the heart and humor I tried to bring into the production. Of course the episodes are only seven to eight minutes long, all in all the season comprises the length of an independent film.”
He added, “It feels great to be finally launching this ship into the Seaway and the world.”
The official Zburg website is http://zburgny.com/