Move over wannabe singers, Cajun gator hunters and the Kardashians, the next reality television stars could be trappers. At least two production companies are actively seeking trappers for programs set to begin filming this fall.
Both production companies have developed reality programs for major cable networks and promise to have trappers’ best interests in mind, but the reception from trappers has been mixed. While many trappers have expressed excitement to view the shows or enthusiasm for spreading trapping to new audiences, others are suspicious of the shows’ motives or what the public reaction to a show about trapping will be.
Trapper & Predator Caller was able to track down some information on both projects.
44 Blue Productions
Several trappers across the country have been contacted by 44 Blue Productions, which is based in Studio City, Calif. and boasts to be “known for telling the stories of ordinary people in extreme conditions.” The 28-year-old company has produced “Deadliest Warrior” and “U.S. Navy Pirate Hunters” on Spike, “Lockup” on MSNBC, “True Story of Blackhawk down” on History, “Pit Bulls & Parolees” on Animal Planet and more. They currently have eight series on the air.
Stephanie Drachkovitch, the co-owner of 44 Blue Productions, submitted a statement regarding the project to the popular trapping forum Trapperman.com.
“Our goal is to celebrate and showcase the disappearing and little-understood lifestyle of trapping in North America,” the statement read in part. “We want to develop a series built around those folks who still trap for a living, keeping an American tradition alive, often in very demanding and dangerous circumstances. Most Americans don’t know much about trapping, why it exists or the people who do it. We want to tell those stories in a weekly series for a major cable network.”
The company sought trappers from across the country and into Canada, according to Corey Rogers, the director of development for 44 Blue Productions. After word got out about the search, many trappers contacted the production company themselves to express an interest in the yet-to-be-named show. Rogers said 44 Blue Productions has “some really phenomenal individuals with interesting stories” lined up, but they haven’t chose who the stars will be yet. The company is in the process of determining which individuals “represent the community in the best light” while also bringing an interesting personality to the show.
“We’re looking for men and women who are really able to get their stories across and are also exceptionally good at what they do and have a passion,” Rogers said. “When people are passionate about something, it’s generally very entertaining to watch.”
The National Trappers Association became aware of the project after some trappers 44 Blue Productions had contacted asked for the NTA’s opinion on the show. After several conversations about the project, including discussions about a potential partnership between the NTA and 44 Blue Productions, the NTA issued a statement saying they will not participate in the project, partly because the organization “would have no right to refusal of any finished segment other than safety and potential game law violations.”
“We do believe that 44 Blue has produced some very good programs,” the statement read in part. “They have won many awards and are recognized in the reality world as a legitimate company. How any of this translates to trapping or the final representation of trapping and trappers is not clear. The NTA can do nothing to control the final product and gain nothing in the project with no ability to protect trapping or trappers.”
The statement indicated the NTA is concerned the show could go the way of other reality programming by focusing on over-the-top characters and extreme situations rather than the true lifestyle.
“Can that translate into bringing a positive spin into trapping? I don’t know,” NTA President Kraig Kaatz said. “Does the NTA have the ability to control what that perception is? No, absolutely not. That’s where our concern is.”
Drachkovitch addressed that concern in her statement to Trapperman.com.
“We are not looking to make fun of or lampoon the participants,” she wrote. “As you’ll see from the range of series we’ve produced and currently have on the air, that is not the approach we take with any of our shows.”
Other trappers worry about how the show will portray dispatch methods. Rogers said that question is part of an ongoing discussion but that the actual dispatch will not be shown.
“We will find a production answer for that side of the equation,” Rogers said. “As we continue our discussions with the trapping community and get closer, that’s something that we want to figure out with the trapping community.”
While Rogers understands the concerns some in the trapping community have with the project, he said that the project should be seen as an opportunity for the trapping community, not a threat.
“It doesn’t do us any good to show trappers in a poor light,” he said. “If trapping can’t live on, our show can’t live on either.”
Kaatz’s advice to trappers who are asked to be on the show is simple: Be careful.
“The best intentions get us in trouble sometimes,” Kaatz said. “That’s the biggest concern we have.”
After the development phase, 44 Blue Productions will begin shopping the show to interested cable networks. The network that buys the show will then lay out the schedule for the show’s first season.
The Movement Group
Another California-based production company, The Movement Group, of Los Angeles, is working on a similar show, but they hope to focus on trappers from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, northern Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota and eastern North Dakota.
“We are trying to depict a region within the sport,” said Robert S. Altman, who is the producer and head of development on the project. “It’s not just trapping. It’s that heritage that comes from that region.”
Altman said the North hasn’t been featured on many reality shows and that the general public isn’t aware of the outdoors culture in the area. He said the show will be a “celebration of heritage and a way of life.”
The Movement Group was formed in 2011 by David Roma, who helped produce the television shows “Miami Ink,” “LA Ink” and “NY Ink” on TLC, “Hogan Knows Best” on VH1, “Snoop Dogg’s Father Hood” on E! and “30 Days” on FX.
Altman, who is a lifelong outdoorsman and has been visiting Michigan’s Upper Peninsula since he was young, said he has always been captivated by the unique trapping characters he’s met through the years. He said he respects trappers for their intense love of nature and respect for the outdoors. Although he doesn’t have much trapping experience himself, he did tag along with his uncle on a snare line when he was young.
The show, which also is not yet named, will give trappers a voice, Altman said. He hopes the project can change the negative stereotypes surrounding trapping and the fur industry by introducing the world to true trappers.
“The director that we’re working with is pretty well known for breaking down stereotypes,” Altman said. “We are trying to do something that the trappers would love to watch and would help them and the fur industry and the sporting community as a whole.”
Altman has already had a great response to inquiries for trappers in the area and said he’s in touch with about 25 trappers from Wisconsin and Michigan. He is looking to add a few more trappers from Minnesota and perhaps North Dakota.
“Hopefully we’ll find the right people who really want to see this sport and way of life around for their grandkids,” Altman said.
The show will feature authentic, relatable trappers, Altman said. It will focus on the trapping culture of the North Woods, not on goofy characters and cutting room magic. However, the show could very well feature an outspoken trapper or two. Altman hopes the project will highlight a range of personalities from young to old and from boisterous to soft spoken.
“With any good story or any good reality show, there’s got to be a balance,” Altman said. “In any group of people, there are outspoken people, shy people, close-to-the-vest people.”
Altman has not been in contact with the NTA or state trapping associations yet. He said he’d like to work with them in some capacity on the project, but that he wants to have more to show the organizations before he reaches out to them.
Filming for the project will begin this fall. The Movement Group will then offer the show to cable networks. There is currently no timetable for when the first season will air.
What’s your opinion? Will these shows be good for the trapping community? And would you be interested in being on the shows if you were contacted?