Questions have been swirling around Mille Lacs Lake for months since word of a reality show featuring the big pond leaked into the collective rumor mill.
Co-executive producer Hank Stepleton took a lunch break at Toucan’s at Fishermen’s Wharf on Jan. 29 and cleared up some of the misconceptions.
“A lot of people think this show is going to be called Ice Holes, but honestly, we don’t have any idea what it will be called,” Stepleton said. “We’ve considered a lot of names but none of them have really stuck. The network will end up making that decision.”
Stepleton admitted that the original concept for the show was geared toward conflicts between competing resorts, but he adjusted his sights after he spent some time in the area. “From what we’ve seen the resorts work pretty well together,” Stepleton said. “There’s not a lot of conflict.”
The crew ended up focusing their attention, and their cameras, on Fishermen’s Wharf, and the people who work there.
“Trying to make a living on the ice, with all the difficulties they face, makes for a compelling story,” Stepleton said. “There are some interesting characters, too.”
Stepleton and his crew have faced some bitter cold days on the ice since they began shooting in earnest in mid January, but it’s not the first time they have battled the elements.
“I spent seven months in Alaska shooting Wild West Alaska, so I’m pretty much used to the cold,” Stepleton said. “Still, it makes it pretty tough on the camera crews.”
Stepleton films for Jupiter Productions. In addition to Wild West Alaska, which Stepleton shot for Animal Planet, he also produced Sons of Guns for the Discovery Channel.
“This is one of the more difficult shows I’ve ever been on, there’s no doubt about that,” Stepleton said. “It’s tough out there.”
Daron Stenvold, owner of Fishermen’s Wharf, knows exactly how tough it is. “They got here and they had no idea how much work goes into running a resort, and all the difficulties we face,” Stenvold said. “They know now.”
Stenvold said he was glad for the exposure the Wharf was getting, but while the Wharf was the focus, the impact of the national exposure would benefit a lot of people. “It’s not just about the Wharf,” Stenvold said. “This is good for everybody that makes a living on this lake.”
Stenvold took the opportunity to clear up one misconception himself. “People need to understand that this is reality TV, not real TV,” he said. “It’s entertainment.”
Matt Jones works the bar and restaurant at Toucan’s. He hasn’t been out on the ice for much of the filming, but the film crew has gotten plenty of footage of him in the bar.
“They’ve been great,” Jones said. “Last night they got footage of me pouring a shot on a camera lens. That was pretty cool.”
There’s not a lot of spare room in and behind the bar, but Jones said the camera crews managed to get what they needed without getting in the way. “You hardly know they’re there,” he said. “They are smooth.”
Jones has high hopes that the show will be a success. “I hope they come back next year,” he said. “I hope the show is a huge success and they keep coming back.”