What a better place to put together a kids' show than Provo, Utah? That's what the producer of an HBO family special says about the recent filming of "Encyclopedia Brown: The Case of the Mysterious Time Capsule."
Filming of the one-hour special concluded last week at the BYU Motion Picture Studio with star Scott Bremner and a number of local actors on the set.Bremner - from "The New Adventures of Beans Baxter" - plays the part of Leroy "Encyclopedia" Brown, a brainy 10-year-old Sherlock Holmes in sneakers who has a gift for solving baffling mysteries.
Rick Overton - of "Back to School," and "Willow" - co-stars in the production. The program is based on the characters created by Donald J. Sobol in more than 20 "Encyclopedia Brown" adventure books.
The special is a pilot program for HBO, but if it is successful it could result in a series, said Ned Kandel, producer. The program is scheduled to debut next spring.
"There is a good possibility we will shoot more here," he said. "We are really impressed with the place. The BYU Motion Picture Studio is a well-kept secret."
Most of the crew, except the director, is from Utah, Kandel said. About a third of the cast is from the area, with the rest coming from Los Angeles.
"We were just astonished as to how good they are. They have been a joy to work with. They are efficient and enthusiastic. This is a fun little story."
Kandel said about 60 percent of the shooting occurred outdoors in the Provo area. The cast and crew spent 14 days shooting the special.
"The kids are the story. It talks to them in their own language. It is not preaching but pure entertainment. This is a tightly scripted play with a mystery."
Kandel said Encyclopedia Brown is an average kid who is smart and solves crimes. He never sees anything the viewers don't see. All the clues are there. If they aren't visible, "E.B." tells the audience what they are.
"We are hoping that a third to a half of the audience can solve them. The mysteries are not out of left field."
Many people see HBO solely as a movie channel, but Joan David, HBO account executive, said the cable station shows 50 hours of children's programming - ranging from educational shows to historical or funny shows - every month.
Kandel said he works a lot with cable because "major airing for family movies is on cable. There is no leeway on networks. There would be no chance of getting Encyclopedia Brown on the networks."
Mindy Jeffries, state marketing director for TCI Cablevision of Utah, an HBO affiliate, said, "We have an ongoing commitment to family programming. Every year shows are produced exclusively for HBO. Encyclopedia Brown spans the generations."
The program will most likely be scheduled to air sometime in the afternoon and early evening hours, David said. The "Encyclopedia Brown" special is not to be confused with the series "Encyclopedia," an educational show for 7-to-11-year-olds presently showing on HBO.
The special is directed by Steve Holland, the young filmmaker of "Better Off Dead," and is a production of Encyclopedia Brown Productions Inc.
In addition to Kandel, who during his 41/2-week stay has taught a few classes at BYU on studio and film production, is Howard David Deutsch, the executive producer. The script was written by D.J. MacHale.