They’re “Reel Paranormal” and they’re here to help.
You can call them the first Blaine County-centric ghost hunting team or you can call them the alter egos of local actors Jana Arnold and Rich Rush—either way, the duo is hitting the big screen with cameraman Peter Burke. The public is invited to their pilot premiere of tongue-in-cheek ghost and paranormal hunters show “Reel Paranormal” this Friday in Ketchum.
Arnold and Rush are both Company of Fools actors with a big interest in spooks. They connected seven months ago and decided as lovers of paranormal shows, both good and bad, to become “Ruby Ford” and “Rich Swanberg,” hapless but well-meaning ghost hunters. Arnold and Rush will appear in character at the Friday premiere in full bumbling regalia, along with a red carpet, emcee and paparazzi.
Their pilot episode is 50 minutes long and examines some supernatural happenings at a Bellevue home. Since going public with their project and creating social media pages, Arnold said people are coming out of the woodwork to tell her about Wood River Valley phenomena for future shows.
“We will be using real locations in the valley and are already being contacted by people asking us to come to their homes and businesses to investigate,” she said.
The show is a combination of parody a la Christopher Guest and ghost hunting, Arnold said. The over-the-top caricatures of real people and circumstances as popularized by British actor and screenwriter Guest’s “mockumentaries” merge well with modern supernatural shows, say the “Reel Paranormal” actors, and a whole lot of the latter—think mistaking a chicken bone for a human finger or a moth for a spectral orb—simply begs for parodying. They call themselves paranormal experts because there are no oddities off-limits: the pair welcome Bigfoot sightings, alien invaders, anything on the opposite end of normal.
While characters Ford and Swanberg might reinforce the sillier aspects of ghost-hunting culture, the actors are quick to differentiate between their authentic belief in the supernatural and the comical nature of the show.
“[Our] goal is to make fun of the characters and not our clients nor the paranormal in general,” Arnold said.
Since embarking on this project, Arnold and Rush are collecting regional tales of the goosebumps variety as believers, not cynics. Arnold has had ghostly encounters, she said, so she approaches the hunts with an open mind.
“You know it when you see it and you never forget it,” she said.
Arnold and Rush want to uncover true ghostly presences during the filming. Their lines are largely unscripted, making all reactions to bumps in the night and specters completely authentic, she said. The B-roll, or supplemental material used in every show, was organized, but for most of the show, “the beauty of it is the improve,” Arnold said.
The pair was lucky to enlist the help of Community School teacher and videographer Burke. He’s a friend of Arnold’s and serves both as the technical wizard and as stoner camera dude “Pete Jones” on “Reel Paranormal.”
With a budget of “zero dollars,” Arnold said they are happy to take donations to keep the ghost hunters in business. It’s her dream to pitch the show to a network, eventually, but for right now she’s happy they’ve got the project off the ground. In the pilot, they’ve featured local businesses with careful product placement and supported area thrift stores, and will continue to do so in future episodes.
Among their future plans are a “ghost town hall” for valley residents to talk about things that go bump in the night.
“Reel Paranormal’s” pilot party is Friday, Oct. 24, at The Spot in Ketchum starting at 7 p.m. Refreshments will be served. RSVP and/or tell the ghost hunters about haunted spots in Blaine County at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy Busek: email@example.com