LA PUSH, Wash. – For the first time ever, the Quileute Nation granted ReelzChannel cable network access to film a documentary-style episode on their reservation for the “Twilight Weekly: Spotlight” series, which aired Sept. 28. The series highlights everything “Twilight,” whetting the appetite of hardcore fans from around the globe, known as “Twihards.”
“Twilight,” the first book in a series of four vampire romance novels written by Stephanie Meyer, was released in 2005. While the characters in the series are fictional, the Quileute Nation and the nearby town of Forks, both located on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, are real places.
The phenomenon isn’t exactly new, but the fanfare has gained momentum since the release of the movie “Twilight” last November. And with the upcoming release of the second movie, “New Moon” on Nov. 20, the tribe expects tourism to reach new heights, said Spokesperson Jackie Jacobs.
Before Meyer’s first novel hit store shelves, the small, secluded reservation town of La Push drew tourists to First Beach for a picturesque view of James Island, and of the huge jagged rock spears protruding straight out of the sea, unfazed by the unforgiving thrashing of the Pacific Ocean. The high waves attract surfers during the spring and summer months, and nature lovers year round.
Despite the “Twilight” phenomenon, the tribe did its best to keep media groups from filming on location, primarily in an effort to protect the tribe’s culture, people and way of life from exploitation. Jacobs said the tribe gave the “Twilight Weekly: Spotlight” crew the first opportunity to shoot on location due to their willingness to address the tribe’s concerns.
“I was very mindful of protecting this nation from exploitation, and from someone who didn’t really understand the dynamics of this story, just looking for a surface level, ‘Twilight’ fan sort of sound bite,” Jacobs said.
The 30-minute episode highlights students from the Quileute Tribal School, tribal language and culture, budding entrepreneurs, and focuses minimally on the vampire buzz. Jacobs was an integral part of the show, and led host Naibe Reynoso on the journey. She even interviewed teenager Vern Ward Jr., who explained how his hand drum was crafted, and about a wolf dance he performed, also featured on the show.
Tribal elder Chris Morganroth III told the Quileute creation story, explaining that they are descended from wolves – a true fact revealed in “Twilight.”
In the movie, Taylor Lautner, Ottawa/Potawatomi, plays Jacob Black, a Quileute werewolf that vies for the affection of protagonist Bella Swan. Most likely a coincidence, the spotlight episode reveals that the fictional Jacob has an honorary grandfather on the reservation by the name of Roy Black. A sign on his front door reads, “Jacob’s grandfather.” He entertains tourists and locals by informing them of Jacob’s activities and whereabouts.
“The crew fell in love with him,” Jacobs said.
In another coincidence, actress Tinsel Korey, who plays Emily Young in “New Moon,” was visiting La Push the same week the ReelzChannel crew was on location. She told Reynoso that she came to the reservation to teach acting lessons and share her experiences as an actress with the children.
“All of these actors are just going to go through the stratosphere once ‘New Moon’ is released,” Jacobs said.
The series Executive Producer Coryn Kiefer said when she first contacted Jacobs, she had no idea the tribe routinely rejected media requests to film on the reservation. It required jumping through some hoops on both ends before the film crew could head from their Albuquerque, N.M. headquarters to the Northwest.
“It wasn’t just a phone call, and yeah, let’s pack up the car and go, there were a lot of restrictions,” she said. “There are always restrictions and things that you have to work around. I think because this was their first time there wasn’t an exact agenda set down.”
Kiefer said when the crew arrived they were pleasantly surprised by the warmness of the people, and enjoyed the charismatic charm of both Black and Morganroth. Once the episode was released, the hard work paid off for the crew in the form of positive feedback from tribal members.
“We wanted to tell their story in a way that they would be proud of,” Kiefer said. “I think this is the episode that we will all remember the most, and it was great to meet the tribal members and hear their stories.”
Tourism in the area reached record levels this past summer. The town of Forks went from entertaining 500 visitors per month to 500 visitors per day. In the month of July, 18,000 people went through the town’s visitor center. “That’s more than they had in two years combined,” Jacobs said.
When asked how the tribal youth deal with the influx of curious tourists, she said they are like the rest of the nation, taking it one step at a time. “They embrace the notoriety the tribe is receiving and they embrace the visitors.”
The “Twilight Weekly: Spotlight” series kicked off its first episode by filming on location at TwiCon in Dallas in late July – a convention for the “Twilight” obsessed.
To view trailers from the Quileute episode and for more information on the series visit www.reelzchannel.com.