Capitol Hill’s super-green Bullitt Center isn’t producing much of a carbon footprint — but you might be surprised to learn it’s pumping out plenty of reality TV.
Michele Gomes and Jenny Ting have established what might be the only Capitol Hill-based television production studios. Interchange Media recently created its first nationally syndicated shows with The Legend of Mick Dodge, now airing on the National Geographic Channel. The reality show that documents the life of the eponymous wildman that has shunned society in favor of a life spent in the Hoh Rainforest for the last 25 years.
“I was at a solstice party on Whidbey Island, and Mick was actually living on my friend’s property at the time,” Gomes tells CHS.
“A few people asked if we had met Mick, and then when he walked in the front door, it was like a character had popped out of the page of a book or out of a movie. We started talking to him, and he was trying to teach us how to walk barefoot, so then we just asked him if he was interested in being part of a TV show.”
According to Ting and Gomes, the life of “The Barefoot Sensei” appealed to them for more than just the sensational nature of his life. To them, Dodge’s story was in-keeping with their own Earth-friendly philosophy that inspired them to move their company into Capitol Hill’s highly-sustainable and environmentally-friendly Bullitt Center.
“We really want to put the eye of the camera on life-sustaining values,” Gomes said. “Mick attracted us because his whole walk-and-talk was teaching people how to reconnect to the earth, and has a very strong interest in protecting the Hoh Rainforest. The Bullitt Center’s sustainable values are very much in-line with this.”
The Legend of Mick Dodge is certainly the biggest name that the company has produced so far, but this environmentally-friendly ethos permeates the rest of Interchange Media’s work. Currently, Gomes and Ting are in the process of creating children’s educational programs with an environmental slant as well as other television series with a message centered on green and sustainable living.
“I think Capitol Hill does inform [our work] because there is such an interest in protecting the environment and really coming together in unique ways,” Gomes said. “It’s like we’re going back in time to where we aren’t using as many wasteful objects here.”
Outside of the neighborhood’s love for reuse and sustainability, Ting and Gomes say that the Hill’s bohemian and creative atmosphere helps inspire them to create shows that have a more poignant and meaningful message than what can be found in most television programs.
“The reason for living on Capitol Hill is that it’s definitely the densest part of Seattle, and there is an energy and life here that’s unique,” Ting said. “There are so many artists and musicians, and the old Capitol Hill in particular, there were so many people of different backgrounds who are creative and supporting each other. It’s a great nesting ground for ideas, and so many ways to make connections with people who live here.”
But Ting and Gomes recognize that this culture is beginning to disappear as hole-in-the-wall, locally-owned hangouts are replaced with big business and open space is replaced with increasingly larger building developments.
“Some of the development is great, but at the same time I feel like the characteristics of the neighborhood aren’t there anymore,” Ting said.
Ting and Gomes hope that their work will help restore some of the Hill’s artistic atmosphere while also creating a message with universal appeal. By helping people connect to that message, the two believe that their success could help make Seattle, and Capitol Hill in particular, a bigger player in show business.
“Our goal is to employ people, and we would love to have a fully-functioning production company with several employees,” Gomes said. “We’re talking hundreds. We’d love to pioneers for Seattle’s production industry, and putting forth some really great programs that people really want to watch will help. We want to employ some locals, and we would love to create a powerhouse production company for the Hill.”