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Screens & Tech

Fighting obesity, bullying, draws director and cast to local TV project

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Real-life siblings Alex and Elizabeth Poncio in the BOOK pilot, going for the gold at Canada's Banff World Media Festival.

Local actors (and real-life brother and sister) Alex and Elizabeth Poncio are at the center of a budding San Antonio version of all those ABC after-school specials. In the 24-minute pilot for BOOK, a would-be SA-based TV show, they confront two of the most crucial problems affecting kids today: obesity and bullying.

"This show will connect with people because it's ... very relatable," said Alex, scheduled to star in a "pivotal role" in the Adam Sandler sequel Grown Ups 2 next summer. "Everyone knows a family like this, a kid like this, a bully like this, a fellow student like this."

Produced and directed by San Antonio Film Academy director Brad Milne, the pilot episode of BOOK titled "The Spaces Between" was nominated for the Best Dramatic Pilot award in the International Pilots Competition at the Banff World Media Festival in Canada. Milne and the cast will find out if they won on June 13. With the attention earned from the nomination, Milne hopes to connect with television executives interested in developing the series for a network or cable channel.

In the show, Alex plays David Garza, an overweight teen constantly bullied at school because of his appearance. As an outlet for his frustration, he takes to journaling. Elizabeth plays his younger sister Ashley, torn between standing up for her brother and conforming to the popular crowd who pick on him.

Shot during a SAFA summer camp in 2010, the pilot began as a teaching tool before it evolved into something with a bigger reach, Milne said. Building the camp's curriculum around the BOOK script, Milne wanted to use the project as a lesson in character development. As the story grew, however, he saw opportunities to expand the narrative into a series. "I wanted to do something on a more significant level," he said. "The broad goal was to empower people and give them something positive to work with. Everyone needs to hear this message because, if there is going to be a sweeping change, it's going to take planning and people."

According to a study published earlier this month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 42 percent of the U.S. population will be obese by 2030. As a self-proclaimed fitness activist, Milne has long wanted to help combat the epidemic. "At first, we weren't completely confident that we had a great script, but we had great passion," Milne said. "We knew who these characters were and where we wanted to go. Everyone was living it."

Besides Milne's desire to turn BOOK into a full-fledged series, he'd also like to somehow work the series into the local campaign against obesity linked to the health and fitness portion of Mayor Julián Castro's SA2020 initiative. "Looking at what our characters are going through on the show, it's a way audiences can look in the mirror and think about the choices they're making," Milne said. "That's what we're really trying to do here — we want people to take something away from this experience and use it in their own lives." •



BOOK premiere

7:30pm Mon, June 4
Pearl Studio
200 E Grayson
(210) 236-4203

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