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Kristie Gronberg, 15, plays Sirus Spark in the online television series “Ghost Sniffers.” - Brett Cihon
Kristie Gronberg, 15, plays Sirus Spark in the online television series “Ghost Sniffers.”
— image credit: Brett Cihon

Under a canopy of trees and in front of a mock pirate ship, “Ghost Sniffers” writer and director Jennifer DiMarco instructed her cast.

“That was good, Faith,” DiMarco said to her 9-year-old daughter. “But this time I want you to mean it.”

The four cast members riding the mock pirate ship prepared for another take. Faith tried her line again.

“The-rrr she blows!” Faith yelled.

DiMarco and the cast and crew were filming a trailer for season two of “Ghost Sniffers” Tuesday. The show, which features a cast of child and teen actors with real-life disabilities, already has 12 episodes completed in the first season. Now, “Ghost Sniffers” is looking towards season two with the hope, said season one producer Cris DiMarco, of attracting a bigger audience and expanding the scope of the show.

“We want the characters to develop and we want to expand,” Cris said.

In each episode of “Ghost Sniffers” the characters use given superpowers to combat a mystery or some lurking evil. Their superpowers are bestowed in companion to their real-life disabilities, which are also incorporated into the show. Faith, who lives with type 1 Diabetes and has an insulin pump attached to her body, plays Faith Forge, a ghost hunter with the ability to sniff out ghosts. Her 12-year-old brother Maxwell has Asperger Syndrom. On the show, his twin characters, Maximillian and Maxo, use their photographic memory to help solve problems. Each child has a disablity and each child has a superpower, Cris said.

“Jen came up with the idea that kids with disabilities each have a different kind of power,” Cris said. “It’s something different.”

The show came about when Faith, a fan of shows and books about ghosts, told Jennifer she wanted to be in a show about ghosts. She started writing and a couple of episodes were filmed late last year. In January, Jennifer and Cris held an open casting call for new characters at the Port Orchard Library. More than twenty local kids were added to the cast of characters and the show took off.

With season one mostly filmed and some episodes garnering more than 3,000 YouTube hits, attention has turned to season two.

One of the main goals for season two, Cris said, is for Ghost Sniffers to achieve nonprofit status. This would open the show up for receiving local and national grants, Cris said, from places like Fred Meyer, Wall-Mart and diabetes care provider Novo Nordisk.

The first season was funded primarily through a Kickstarter funding campaign, donations and private funds. Though they squeaked by, the crew wasn’t paid and some of the audio equipment wasn’t up to par, said Jennifer.

“It was really difficult for me to say to the crew ‘we can’t pay you,’” Jennifer said, noting how the crew, many of them parents of the cast, worked tirelessly through all kinds of weather.

“Ghost Sniffers” is also hoping for more local sponsorship. Six local businesses, including Sk8Town, Cosmo’s and ArtsWest gave space for “Ghost Sniffers” to film an episode. Cris hoped more businesses would step forward and provide fiscal sponsorship along with a place to film.

“Since local people watch the show, it would be a great way to advertise,” Cris said.

“Ghost Sniffers” is also looking for a new producer with experience in growing audiences.

But not all of the goals for season two are about expanding the audience and finding fiscal backing. The storyline and the arc of the show will also progress, Cris said. For season one, the episodes largely focused around ghost sniffer extraordinaire Faith Forge. Season two will expand to a cast of four main characters including Faith, her brother Maxwell, 15-year-old Kristie Gronberg and 14-year-old Kyra Boatwright-Frost.

The show will also switch to a mythology episodic trend, where the writing moves away from focusing around episode-to-episode mysteries to a plot that progresses each episode. Jennifer said the cohesive episode stream helps build an audience who care about the characters they watch.

“We’re moving to something more of an ensemble piece,” Jennifer said.

Gronberg, a student at South Kitsap’s Explorer Academy, likes the idea of moving to an ensemble cast.

“I like that the main four of us our going to be together,” she said. “We’re like the Four Musketeers.”

Gronberg suffers from Osteogenesis imperfecta, a disease commonly known as brittle bone disease. Wheelchair bound, Kristie said she hasn’t done much acting outside of school performances. In January she auditioned for “Ghost Sniffers”, and was so enthused with the online show, Cris said, that she even wrote her own character for the audition. She now finds herself in a position where her friends see her act online. Kristie’s mom, Bridget, was surprised to see her daughter take a shine to the craft.

“I honestly didn’t think she’d want to go out for it,” Bridget said. “Now she really enjoys it.”

Kristie said the hardest part about filming the episodes, which can sometimes run an hour long, is hanging out in the cold weather.

But her character, Sirus Spark, who is able to create incantations to stun ghosts is enough fun for her to play that she bares the cold, she said.

Blue Forge Productions, the production group, owned by Brianne DiMarco, behind “Ghost Sniffers” is hosting a writing, acting and producing workshop for children and teens interested in creating their own web series.

The Forge It Workshop will help students learn scripting, story boarding, casting and more, said Cris. The workshop will run over four weeks in July with a Monday-Friday program from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. or a Saturday and Sunday Program from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Workshop tuition is $400 per person. More information can be found at www.blueforgeproductions.com or by calling (360) 550-2071.

And through most of the summer, “Ghost Sniffers” will be filming in the woods, parks and houses in the area. Because when the season one cliffhanger comes out later this year, everyone will want to watch.


 

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