The two women have a lot in common, not the least of which is their mutual love of television production and Sedona.
Meet Dev Ross, Emmy Award-winning writer, and Summer Helene, producer, who have teamed up to create Shiksa Productions.
The new company is in the process of creating Sedona's first TV show, "The Rocks," a supernatural soap opera designed around Sedona's unique personality.
STRIKING GOLD IN SEDONA
The soap opera will be shown on Red Rock TV, the station that began in 1998 on Sedona Cablevision Channel 16, and today reaches more than 90 percent of the lodging rooms and homes in the region.
"Entertainment today is like the Wild West; anyone can strike gold," Ross said while sitting inside a coffee house in West Sedona in late May.
Ross, who attended UCLA, is an Emmy and Humanitas award winner for excellence in screenwriting.
Some of her writing credits include "Darkwing Duck," "The Land Before Time" and "Winnie the Pooh."
She has lived in Sedona for 10 years and is a teacher of screenwriting at the Zaki Gordon Institute for Independent Filmmaking in West Sedona.
Ross was also one of the organizers of the first Sedona Film Festival, which was in the West Sedona school library, she said.
The new TV show promises to be a soap opera of a very different kind and will feature local actors, as well as A- and B-list guest stars from Los Angeles in cameo roles.
"The Rocks" show will involve scripted material, written by Ross, as well as guided but let-loose improvisation that will keep things dangerous, such as mind-bending vortexes, and a trip into life and endless mystery.
The production will also highlight up-and-coming talent at the area's film schools -- students at both Zaki Gordon and NAU.
So, the crew will blend students with seasoned professionals, all guided by a local film director who has yet to be chosen.
"This will be the only place in the world students will be able to leave the school with real credits from an accredited union television show with an Emmy-winning writer," Helene said.
SHOW THAT BELONGS TO US
Helene, a former Victoria Secret model, is Australian and her family is from Tasmania.
As a child, she studied dance, and when in high school, she studied in Sydney with the best acting teachers at the illustrious National Institute of Dramatic Arts there.
Today, she goes back and forth from Sedona to Los Angeles, where she works with AFS (Another Fork & Spoon) Productions in Hollywood with Dylan Seal, her boss.
"This is a beautiful area that's not being utilized," Helene said. "What makes people know and understand the area is the fact that people can see it in popular culture."
There have been four really successful films made in Sedona, she said: "3:10 to Yuma," 1957; "Universal Soldier," 1992; "Karate Kid," 1984; and "Billy the Kid," 1941.
Helene said Shiksa Production is sensitive to the feeling of local residents.
"Oftentimes Sedonans are scared our city will be portrayed as too wacky," she said. "We know there are a lot of families here. We have not wanted to have anyone made fun of."
She follows a framed quote from an uncle: "You succeed the minute you start working towards a worthwhile goal," and wants to excite all of northern Arizona with the show.
"We're trying to use the show as a showcase for a lot of local businesses," Helene said. "We're hoping to shoot in local venues; we're trying to draw attention to the city."
Principal photography will start mid-September, and the show will also stream online.
Ross and Helene would like the show to expand north to Flagstaff.
"We'd love to get people involved," Helene said. "We would love to have everyone feel this is their show," she added. "I want this show to belong to Sedona. I want this show to belong to Flagstaff. I want this show to belong to us."
Both women want to operate with a sense of humor.
"We're not going to take ourselves too seriously," Ross noted with a laugh. "If anyone dies (in the show), they're not going to be reincarnated."
Betsey Bruner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 556-2255.
MORE INFO ...
To find out more about "The Rocks," e-mail Shiksa Production assistant Alexis Romero at email@example.com.