Folsom's Steven Moll said he couldn't land one sponsor for his first season of "Dangerous Waters," the reality television show that has Moll and four buddies traversing the world's oceans on Sea-Doo personal watercraft.
The sponsorship tide has turned for Season 2, which begins shooting in June. Moll will be taking roughly $200,000 in free gear, including Columbia Sportswear, Kokotat dry suits, Sea-Doo, Pelican waterproof cases and Hydro-Turf matting.
"From our dry suits ... to our camping gear to the underwear my team is wearing to our stoves and sleeping bags and tents to the vehicles themselves, everything is being provided by sponsors," he told me.
Certainly, it helped that broadcasters in dozens of foreign countries have acquired the rights to air the show and will begin doing so later this month. And Moll has received enough interest in U.S. broadcasting rights that he's backed away from a deal with the hi-def cable network HDNet.
Moll said calling his sponsors 50 times might have helped, too.
"I had to spread the word," he said. "I am the president of the company, and I am the janitor of the company, and I am the sales guy at the company."
Moll's expedition launches June 16 from Nome, Alaska. Last year, Moll and his wife, Annette, let mortgage payments lapse and used retirement savings to help pay $1.25 million in costs from the first season. He now has money from broadcast rights and investments from Jim and Jacquelyn Anderson, part-owners of Sacramento's Pacific Coast Building Products.
Bringing Hollywood north
Steven Moll wanted Emmy-winning editors to shepherd his show in post-production. He found them a short drive up Auburn-Folsom Road: Doug and Todd Stanley and their Ridgeline Entertainment.
The two brothers, both Roseville High School graduates, did work on "Deadliest Catch," helping to draw tens of millions of viewers to the Discovery Channel.
Moll and the Stanleys tackle the world's most extreme adventures, so it seems fitting that they work in a region that shares an ethos for grueling challenges the Western States 100 and the Death Ride, among them.
Doug Stanley said he hopes to bring more Hollywood north. He's not the first local resident to try it, he said, but he believes the idea is gaining momentum.
"My entire life, I've been working out of Los Angeles but living in NorCal, going out across the world to produce television shows," he said, "but only recently have the technologies been available for us to manage ourselves as professional producers and broadcast entities ... here."
Sizzle, then plop
Gary Davis and Andy Armstrong have dreamed up and coordinated stunts for "The Amazing Spider-Man," "I, Robot," "Thor" and dozens of other films, but the duo have yet to truly indulge their love of pranks.
They will do so now with the TV reality series called "Armstrong Action," and they are calling upon Doug Stanley because of his "Deadliest Catch" experience.
Davis described the concept he and Armstrong formulated: "We decided that it would be fun to bring someone of extreme caliber whether it's an extreme motorcyclist or bicyclist or skier or whatever and have them do what they do best, but then take it to another level and take them out of their safety box."
Pity skateboarding phenom William Spencer, their first victim. He agreed to do an aerial trick that would propel him and his board up onto the hood of a car, then over its roof and trunk. Davis and Armstrong didn't mention they would be setting him afire until much later.
They shot footage of Spencer for a sizzle reel the term reality TV types use for a pilot segment in Auburn's Old Town. (See footage above.)
Spencer did quite well until he put on the heavy, flame-retardant suit, said Davis, an Auburn resident and 1969 graduate of Del Oro High School.
"Add that to the fact that we set him ablaze," Davis said. "It takes a lot of your concentration away, so he attempted it six times."
Starting May 30 and continuing into June, Stanley will shop "Armstrong Action" at two TV industry conventions.
Hundreds of ideas get pitched for each one chosen, but if the series is picked up, it brings a little more Hollywood north.