Amidst the waters of a small, closely-knit seaside Maine community, a series of unsolved deaths casts a dark shadow over the town, and the answers to the mystery will soon bubble above the surface. The drama/thriller web series RAGGED ISLE, entering its third and final season this summer, will bring an exciting conclusion to that mystery. First airing in March of 2011, the show, co-created by the husband and wife team of Barry and Karen L. Dodd (of the production company The Entertainment Experiment), was filmed entirely in Maine, with a cast of local actors of all ages.
Meghan Benton plays the show’s protagonist, newspaper reporter Vicki Burke, who investigates the unsolved deaths. Michael Dix Thomas portrays Vicki’s brother Eric, a local lobsterman. The cast also includes Ian Carlsen as Eric’s co-worker Paul Soucey, Todd Manter as their boss, Harrison Shaw, Rick Dalton as the local Sheriff (also named Rick Dalton), Erik Moody as his deputy, Dan, plus Kathryn Coccyx as local medium Madame Clelia, Greg Tulonen (who shared writing duties on the series) as Maine CDC (Centers For Disease Control) representative Dr. Brian Hoffman, and Denis Fontaine as Burke’s boss, newspaper editor Vance Trundle.
The development of RAGGED ISLE, according to Tulonen, began with a short film, featuring a setting and characters similar to what the web series would become, though not necessarily with the same storyline. “Barry, his wife Karen, and some friends submitted a entry in SOAPnet.com‘s soap opera contest, a short film about Criehaven, a real-life Maine island made up mostly of lobstering families. Finishing in the Top 5 of all submissions nationwide, they were asked to create a second “episode,” which they did, this one taking a more supernatural approach. They didn’t win, and that was the end of it. For a while anyway. But Barry has long wanted to return to the island, and thus his question to me.” The question: what are some strange things that could happen on an island? (In this case, Barry said, a small island off the coast of Maine, where RAGGED ISLE takes place).
The Dodds, both fans of popular TV mystery dramas such as THE X-FILES and TWIN PEAKS, were both influenced by the cult classic horror/soap DARK SHADOWS, itself set in Maine. Even Sharon Lentz (Smyth), who portrayed Sarah Collins on the original series, became a fan of the web series, after the couple met the actress at a fan convention. Along with co-writers Tulonen, Dalton and Jacob Lear, the Dodds began pre-production work on the series in earnest. After an extensive process of writing and re-writing each episode, the show’s cast of 30 actors was assembled from a large pool of local talent. “We asked local musicians to take roles, on the theory that they had built-in fan bases who would follow them to our island. We raided the talent pool of local theater companies and held open auditions as well.” Dalton and Tulonen cast themselves in the series as well.
Each episode proved to be a learning experience for the production team, and the overall quality of the series improved over time. “We learned so much from making the first season. We re-wrote the second and third season to beef up the roles of actors who had popped in season two. In addition, we got a better camera after season one and more people volunteering to help, including cameraman David C. Miller and musician Richard de Costa, who scored most of season two. Both of them came to the show as fans who wanted to get involved. We got a lot of that, adding to the energy and effort being put into the next season. Viewers have remarked upon the leap in quality between seasons one and two,” says Tulonen.
The final season of RAGGED ISLE promises to have its own share of thrills and drama, leading to what should be an exciting climax, one that will finally solve the chilling mystery that has haunted the series’ normally quiet setting. “We set up a lot of mysteries in the first two seasons, hinting at secrets that go back generations. The third (and definitively final) season will see those mysteries resolved. Everyone knows of serialized shows that have strayed from the path and failed to satisfyingly resolve their central stories. We were determined to avoid that pitfall and we’ve been driving towards a specific ending from the very first episode. We raised the stakes in season two, and we’ll raise the stakes even higher in season three. No character is completely safe.”
ON THE WEB: www.raggedisle.com