SURREY — This weekend, two longtime pals will begin filming a project that could win them $50,000 and inter-provincial bragging rights.
At the same time, Kashif Pasta and Shyam Valera are also aiming to put Surrey in a better light.
They’re the creative forces behind the comedic “Welcome to Surrey,” one of 30 projects vying for top prize in a Telus-backed Storyhive contest, a community-powered funding program for emerging content creators in B.C. and Alberta.
Makers of the winning web series will be given $50,000 to fund production of a full season that will be broadcast online and also on Optik TV.
The five friends of “Welcome to Surrey” live in that stage between being a kid and having their own, according to Pasta, the project director.
“Surrey gets a disproportionately bad rep, usually based on outdated stereotypes, and we wanted to tell a story that takes place in a city we know and love,” Pasta told the Now.
“We have such an incredible blend of cultures here,” he continued. “Where else would you see chai at a hockey game, samosas at a Superbowl party, a Christmas tree as massive as our city hall tree and a Vaisakhi parade as large as ours in the same place? We live in and enjoy this multicultural landscape we’ve built, but often don’t notice because we never see it reflected back to us.”
Earlier this spring, “Welcome to Surrey” was named among 30 Storyhive finalists following the first round of contest voting. With $10,000 in prize money, the task now involves filming the pilot episode for the final round of voting, which takes place from Aug. 8 to 12.
The pressure is on, but Pasta and Valera have confidence in their Surrey-centric story, which is the biggest project they’ve tackled since first meeting at Tamanawis Secondary a decade ago. After high school, they created a Dunya Media channel on Youtube as a portal for their short comedies and social commentaries.
“We’ve seen a lot of positives here (in Surrey),” Pasta underlined. “I mean, this isn’t a ‘Yay Surrey’ show either, but it’s a normal place and there’s lots of good here and people don’t usually get a chance to notice.”
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The “Welcome to Surrey” story follows Suneet, a law student living in Toronto who comes home to Surrey to look after her ailing father. She reconnects with old friends and reignites a romantic relationship that forces her to choose between the predictability of her old life and the exciting but scary potential of her new one, confronting what it really means to leave home and become an “adult.”
In addition to Valera and Pasta playing characters with their real first names, the project stars Suneet Maan as Suneet, Courtney Rufh as Skylar and Bikram Singh as Jag.
They’ll begin filming the pilot episode this weekend at several sites in and around Newton, including key scenes at Old Surrey Restaurant.
“It’s a 10-minute pilot, that’s the time limit, and we’re trying to get it down to 10 minutes,” Pasta explained. “We have our whole season written and what we did with this first episode, once we got the funding, is we combined the first two episodes into one. It’s a swift 10 minutes.”
The script is “feeling right” and rehearsals have been going well, Pasta related.
“I feel confident with this because honestly, the community in Surrey has really been behind it,” Pasta said. “Almost every city councillor was voting in the first round, posting it on their Facebook pages, things like that. And it was an incredibly diverse range of people behind it to, from 13-year-old kids at LA Matheson to 75-year-old white women who are contemporary artists in South Surrey.
“It was really incredible to see that community support and so, with that in mind, I feel really confident about it going into the next round. People are so hungry for content like this.”
Pasta calls “Welcome to Surrey” the most local show among Storyhive projects while also enjoying the most global reach during the first round of voting earlier this spring.
“During that week we reached 34 countries, maybe because we are such a multinational society here, with the network effect of having friends and family seeing it around the world,” Pasta said.
“Our top cities that week ended up being Vancouver, Surrey, Johannesburg and then Richmond, Delta. And it did really well in New Zealand and Sydney. I think people respond well to the idea of people telling their own stories, they can relate to that aspect of it.”
For more details about “Welcome to Surrey,” including a video description of it and other projects entered in the contest, visit Storyhive.com.