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Fairy tale comes to life for Skidmore student

Fairy tale comes to life for Skidmore student

Children’s TV show being filmed around Saratoga County for Amazon Prime
Fairy tale comes to life for Skidmore student
Actresses Callista Zorbas (center), playing Rose Red, and her sister Demetra Zorbas, playing Snow White, on the set.
Photographer: ERICA MILLER

SARATOGA SPRINGS — When Alexandra Marello started writing her version of Rapunzel, she did so at the request of her Skidmore College screenwriting professor, Nicole Coady.

She said it felt like a fun assignment — not like she was writing for a show set to air on Amazon Prime early next year.

This week, the 20-year-old English major from Manhattan saw the episode being filmed in the Alumni Memorial Garden on her college campus, with child actors donning elaborate costumes and saying her lines, and suddenly the fairy tale felt real — if not a little surreal. 

“That's when it hit me,” she said. “I was like, 'I wrote these things' — it’s kind of, really, weird. It was basically a wedding. There were people frolicking down the steps with this huge dress and corset and flowers — and I wrote that episode. I didn’t see it, but now I’m able to see it. It’s crazy.”

Marello spoke Wednesday from the set of “The Adventures of Snow White and Rose Red,” a children’s television show being filmed around Saratoga County by Trident Fantasy Films, a local production company, this month; other locations include Galway, Charlton and Moreau Lake State Park.

Andrew Balog, a Shenendehowa High School graduate who co-founded Trident with his wife, Katie — another Shen grad — and Coady, said he's hired about 90 people to work on the production, including costume designers, directors, actors and writers like Marello.

Balog, 27, of Ballston Lake, also runs a distribution company, through which he pitches other filmmakers’ projects to 22 platforms such as Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and Google Play. Last Friday he opened a 700-square-foot studio in Burnt Hills under the name Logs Leisure Entertainment.

“I worked with contacts in LA for a couple years learning about distribution," he said, “and there was this one point where I was like, ‘I can do this myself, I don’t need to work with other distributors — I can start this.’”

In explaining why he went with Amazon for the film company’s first project, he said he created a pilot for a show called “Solitude,” which aired on Amazon in December, and it received “amazing exposure.”

He said the Trident team plans to film the rest of the show, which he described as a “film noir psychological thriller” aimed at adult audiences, in Ballston Spa and Lake George this fall. 

“They have a really good royalty spread,” he added, referring to Amazon. “It just made sense to have that be the home.”

Back on the set, Marello said her Rapunzel is nothing like the “very traditional” Rapunzel she grew up with — “a girl that’s stuck in a castle and a prince has to come save her.”

AmazonSaratoga_ELM04.jpg

“She’s still stuck,” she said. “She’s very poor, and she has this long, beautiful hair, and I just didn’t want her to be an item, so I made her cut her hair off.”

Rapunzel trades her hair to a wizard in exchange for food for her family, “and he can have his wig because he’s a bald wizard,” she said. 

“I am very into gender studies,” Marello explained, “and I know this is going to young girls, so I wanted to focus my episodes on a moral that helps empower girls.”

She also wrote the final episode, called “The Golden Key.”

There are seven episodes in the series, which follows two sisters, Snow White and Rose Red, as they meet various characters penned by the Brothers Grimm. After taking a break from shooting the Rapunzel story Wednesday morning, the crew was preparing to film the Alice in Wonderland episode in the afternoon. 

“I’m really excited for it,” said Cordelia Padovan, the 12-year-old Ballston Spa girl cast in the role of Alice. “I’m gonna watch the whole season.”

Wearing an elegant blue dress and lace white gloves, she described her character as “really crazy and adventurous and exciting.”

“She doesn't really stop. She doesn’t really have an off button. She just keeps going.”

Cordelia has danced with the New York City Ballet at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, but this is her first “professional acting situation,” said her mom, Nicole Coady — Marello’s screenwriting professor.

It was Coady's idea to film part of the series in the memorial garden at Skidmore, tucked away behind the Surrey Williamson Inn on North Broadway.

“Saratoga is a fantastic place to shoot fairy tales,” she said. “We’ve got gardens like this, we've got woods and streams and lakes — it just feels like a fairy tale here.”

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