Young Durango actor K8e Rhodes spent a day last spring being hoisted on pulleys 30 feet to the roof of the Powerhouse Museum by local stunt experts Nathan Disser, Scott Massey and John Kent. Her flying appears in the live-action webidsode series "The Powerhouse Kids," where she plays one of five preteens given superpowers to help finish the museum.Someone has to do it, the kids conclude, because the grownups are too slow.
Rhodes leapt tall buildings in aid of that perpetual bugbear of arts organizations, fundraising.
Haz M. Said, Durango Discovery Museum's manager of marketing and communications, said Thursday the idea for the seven webisodes started several years ago when he was analyzing the museum's traditional communications.
He noticed people clicked on videos in preference to text by a margin of 4 to 1.
Then came a stroke of good luck in a $40,000 grant from the Preserve America Initiative for signage for the historic, if once-dilapidated, building. The grant included $8,000 to film a documentary about the historic building.
Said talked with Marc Snider of Exposure Productions who does the filming for the city, and they decided that up-to-the-minute videos would be more effective than a PBS-style documentary.
"We developed a story line that would both tell the story of the building and the story of what we're trying to do to bring it back to life," Said said at the Herald's office. "Then we developed that into seven scripts focusing on each kid's superpowers."
He praised the contributions of the city of Durango and Exposure.
"They donated so much in kind that what you see on the screen is more than 10 times $8,000 worth," he said.
When Ashley Hein, the museum's manager, set up auditions a year ago, almost 300 people poured in. Hein also served as the casting director.
As the production went on, inevitable conflicts arose between the producers' desire for glitz and going local.
"Sometimes it was hard for Marc, who wanted to add the glitz, but we went for a hometown production every time, sacrificing a day of vocal coaching, for instance, because we had to keep to the schedule," said Said.
The result is nearly a Children's Television Workshop feel but with more grownup children.
Fine special effects have been added in postproduction, and the young actors pull off their speaking parts with panache and energy and good jokes.
The webisodes, which can be seen on City Span 10 on Durango Cable, isn't the whole of the museum's campaign, Said said.
The next step will be to take the cast on a tour to local schools and boys and girls clubs to get them enthused.
And whenever there's a parade in town, the museum brings out its float and calls the young actors to ride and wave.
"This new kind of fundraiser is easier for us as an interactive museum," Said said. "We're also doing Twitter and Facebook."
Whether there will be a second season of "Powerhouse Kids" will "depend on dollars in a big way," Said said. "After all, our primary mission isn't to make TV shows."
The museum staff members hope to be in their new home by the end of this year, albeit on a smaller scale than they had planned. They're currently lodging upstairs at the Durango Arts Center.
"We had hoped for a grand opening with adjoining buildings, but we thought it was better just to get down there," Said said.
With superkids and their super supporters behind them, the museum officials should have a good shot at that target.