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Partners - A New Media Police Drama

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Partners is a new police series from someone who knows police drama.  Darren Conrad has been a North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper for nearly twenty five years.  He understands what it's like and it's reflected in the story he tells and portrays.

Filmed mostly in the Cramerton, Lincolnton, and Charlotte areas of North Carolina Partners has the feeling of a small town community.  In this New Media series Darren wants you to see not only the things that go on behind the scenes in an officer's workday but also the personal side of his character and that of his fellow officers.

"Darren's a great guy and highly motivated.  He is developing a strong technique and professionalism and while he learns his craft, he is entertaining and moving, folks. And learning it he is, every step he takes, every movie he works on, and now with his new media series project, he is seamlessly developing into an artist before our eyes.  With Darren it's not so much the goal he aspires to, and I do think he will end up making fully professional full length features, but the journey he is on, because every project he undertakes he gives it his usual one thousand percent and treats all those who work with him in the same way.  He has real humility and not pretentiousness and I think genuine talent that will only become fuller and get better.  All the best to you Darren, my friend."  Marco St. John - Actor

Darren, in addition to writing and producing the series plays officer John Walker.  His on-screen partner, Mandy Kain,  is played by Candace Blanchard who does a fine job of displaying the dignity of the job.  "Female police officers are  wives, moms, daughters, etc...just like all of us. The difference is when they clock in to work their lives are on the line. The nature of the job causes daily stress that most of us will never experience." 

Candace went on to say "They put themselves at risk so that we are safe and protected. This has been a reality I have sought in my role of Mandy Kain. To be able to be truthful and real about how it feels to be under that kind of pressure on a daily basis."

Darren tagged Jesse Knight who he had worked with before  to direct the series who brought along Jason Ledford as the director of photography.  

Jesse Knight.jpg
"I am thrilled to finally be working on an episodic series with a great cast and crew. I enjoy the challenges that I have faced and overcome so far and the strategy involved in its orchestration." Jesse Knight - Director

Brad Hord along with Chris Ferree, his partner in Cutshawkane Studios, are scoring the series.  Brad told us "We were fortunate enough to have worked on Jesse Knight's The Orbs and when Darren Conrad brought Jesse on board for Partners I think our names may have been dropped at some point. Darren got in touch and we knew we wanted to be involved not only because of our prior relationship with Jesse but also because the passion that Darren had for this project was obvious. That's the kind of projects you want to be involved in, the ones that are driven by passion."

Some of the other regulars and guest stars you will see are Tim Ross as Mandy's ex-husband. Lilly Nelson as John's estranged wife. Maureen Dowdell as the police chief.  Janice Lea Conrad as the dispatcher.  Tamarah MurleyBonnie JohnsonDavid SchifterThom Gossom Jr.Addy Miller, and Taylor-Grace Davis are but a few of the actors involved.  To see the full cast and crew to date check out Partners on IMDb here.

Though there is often a serious tone to the stories in this series, with lessons to be learned, there is also a bit of humor to be found as well.  You will see the interaction of the people involved in and around police work from their point of view and the drama the guest stars bring to each episode. Maggie Batson plays Mandy Kain's twelve year old daughter, Julie Kain, offering a perspective from the younger generation that makes this a great series for all members of the family.

Darren is a big fan of the In The Heat of the Night TV series.  Bonnie Johnson who was in a few episodes of that series said "We were both (her and Darren) on the jury in The Trial, and have kept in touch ever since.  I'm excited to see how Darren has pursued both the acting side and now the producer side of this crazy business.   He always makes sure his actors are well taken care of and is very diligent about making sure all his ducks are in a row before a shoot.  It's an honor to play his mom...and this is not the first time so I hope he'll let me continue."

Also, from the In The Heat of the Night series is Marco St. JohnSharon Pratt, and Beth Spanier.   Look for these actors to pop in for some of the episodes coming up along with Phanie Napolie of Miami Vice

" I played Robyn Medford in Episode Two. Darren was very kind and gracious to invite me on the show. It was a wonderful challenge to play this emotional role. Thank you, Darren! I loved working with this incredibly talented cast and crew."  Tamarah Murley - Actor

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Tamarah Murley is an actress from the Gulf Coast who met Darren at a film festival he was speaking at and screening a couple of his films, Last Call of Duty and Park Bench

 "At the end of last year, I met Darren at the Sun and Sand Film Festival in Biloxi, Mississippi through our mutual friend Marco St. John. That same week my episode of American Horror Story aired. I believe about the same time, the original actress for the Robyn ,Medford role had to release it due to a conflict with a theater production. So it was luck, the stars, a blessing, all of the above that Darren and I met and that Darren thought of me for the Robyn Medford role after seeing my American Horror Story performance. I had not worked with Jesse Knight before either. The pleasure was mine being on their set! Both are stellar at what they do!"

It takes a lot of people, planning, organization, skills, and logistics to deliver a series like this.  A great team has been assembled for the production and they are off to a great start.

Now we get a chance to hear from the creator himself, Darren Conrad,  a man of many hats, in the interview below where he tells us about this other-side-of-police drama.  We get an idea of how the story came about and the process it takes to complete such a task.

How is Partners different from most police dramas?

Darren Conrad.jpg
Darren   Most typical police dramas are extremely over heightened for Hollywood and entertainment purposes. Car crashes, shootings, explosions, serious policy and conduct issues, violations of law and policy are always the center of attention of   the typical police drama. It gives the public a sense that is the way day to day police operations are like, and that is so far from the truth. 

Partners is not meant to be overly exciting, glamorous, and unrealistic. It's goal is to focus strictly on the lives, emotions, and feelings of these two characters and the people who surround their direct life. I want the audience to see things with these two characters that normally one would never envision with the Hollywood type cop characters. Family life, loss, children, pain, frustration, etc. I want to show how the typical uniformed street cop can go from one emotion to the next and still maintain the utmost professionalism while wearing the uniform. 

I want to show real human beings who are no different from any other professions. They serve and protect for so many hours a day, and then go home to a life like any other person lives. I want to show how sometimes the job can make officers take things to heart very easily, but how quickly they move forward and continue to do the best job they can do for public service.

How did you get involved in making films?  Did acting come first or writing?

Darren  I started acting on stage when I was five. Children's theater and musicals. I always enjoyed creative writing and comprising stories in my head. This lead through high school and college. Twenty four years of police work just allowed me to experience things so many of the population will never see in a lifetime; or never. The good, bad, and the ugly..and how we cope and deal with it before, during, and after the fact. 

After writing Last Call of Duty in 2011, it really opened the door to writing and producing both my own projects and others. Though you will never truly master it, it does seem to get a little better with each project you do. I feel pretty confident I am a better writer, producer, and actor than what I was several years ago. I pretty much can accomplish anything I put my mind to. I have had some great mentors along the way who have guided me and made me better. And yes...I am still learning! Everyday!

Are the stories you tell in this series ones that you've experienced yourself or have heard from fellow officers?

Darren   Well, as far as the actual characters, they are all fictitious in actual name and do not represent any actual person living or dead.  Now, there are certain aspects of each character that are a blend of things and real life experiences from the job.  Some of the off duty situations with each character may have some relevance to my own past or personal life.  It is amazing what the mind absorbs doing police work for over two decades.  As a writer, you definitely know your material.  

As far as the settings of the series, most of that inspiration came from In the Heat of the Night.  It is not meant to be a copy of that story by any means; but I believe anyone who followed that series will see some of it's style and feel.

Since this is trying to be a different kind of police drama (and kudos because it sounds incredibly interesting), have you had the chance to show it to police officers still on the job and if so, do they appreciate that side of their lives getting the spotlight?

Darren  With the series not being officially released yet, only a very small group of actual officers have seen Episode One.   The officers who have seen the first episode are extremely pleased with the story content and the attention to detail with each character.  I think they appreciate the more, small town feel to the series instead of the hustle and bustle of large departments.  

I think a setting such as Partners gives more personal attention to each character.  In other words, in a smaller department, officers are a "name", not a "number".  We had around five hundred people view Episode One for a test screening online.  The comments were very very positive.  A lot of experienced actors and writers felt the writing flowed well and each scene made sense.  

What are some of the challenges in keeping with that format as well?

Darren  With the series being episodes that are only eighteen to twenty three minutes in total length, it is always important to keep the audience engaged and interested.  The goal is to make them want to see more.  

In keeping with the format, what I do as the writer is make the story flow with each episode.  In other words, I don't go off in left field somewhere.  Each episode, the audience will learn more and more about certain aspects of the character's lives.  Even though you want to leave things to the imagination, some things need to be explained more or shown.  With each episode, I give the audience a little more to go on.  I feel this makes it interesting and you win them over wanting to see the next episode.

As far as the general time line goes, do you try and stick to day-by-day or also look at story arches that stretch out over the season?   

Darren  So far with episodes one through three, I think the audience will find through present time of the story, that it is somewhat day to day or maybe like a week a part. Now, once episodes four through six come to life, the gap may stretch somewhat to indicate some time lapse has gone by; But not too far apart. As far as the writing, the biggest thing I want to accomplish is just staying consistent and insuring each scene flows and makes sense to the audience. I don't want to go off on a tangent and write scenes that make no sense to the story.

What is the hardest part of producing a series like this?  Logistics, scheduling, editing, locations, filming, soundtrack, something else?

Darren  Well, generally anything which involves law enforcement in film is going to be extremely expensive with locations, uniforms, cars, props, etc.  This is one reason why Partners is the type of story it is; character driven, not action driven.  The budget for Partners is definitely not low by any means, but it can not afford crashed cars, high liability stunts, explosions or damage of personal or city owned property.  

Once I presented the Mayor and the Town of Cramerton with the concept of the story, they were fine realizing it focuses on the actual people, not the action.  Locations have been very easy to date as the town in general is very excited about the project, and feels it represents the feel and mood of it's own people.  Shoots will most always be on a Friday through a Sunday since all the cast and crew either have other jobs during the week, or are really busy as professional actors on other projects.  Our director, Jesse H. Knight is also our editor and sound mixer, and "CutshawKane" does all the original score.  There are always challenges to any project, but for the most part, Partners has been a wonderful experience through all aspects of the process.

Partners is being released in the "New Media" category.  What is "New Media"?

Darren  New Media means the product will be distributed and released through Internet means such as YouTube, Vimeo, Hulu, Netflix, amazon, iTunes, personal web site or any other web series site. Per SAG-AFTRA Rules, you can not do theatrical or DVD release like with the other signatories. So, making money from the product will come in the form of the customer paying for the episode download.

When and where can we begin watching Partners?

Darren  The first three of six episodes will up for paid, New Media download on the forthcoming, updated Partners Web Site by July 2014.  Once all six are completed by 2015, I will be seeking other outlets as well.  I thought a personal web site set up in a fashion like Amazon or iTunes would be a good start.

How long do you think it will be before New Media becomes just media?

Darren  Good question!  I think theatrical release feature films are going to be far and few between.  DVD rentals and sales are also slowly moving out.  People today simply want to watch content in the comfort of their own home or mobile device.  It is just simply the way of the world.  

I hate to see the old fashion methods go away, but as a filmmaker attempting to make money in this business,  to continue the craft, I also must adapt to the change of the times.  Partners has a large following.  There is a massive amount of interest in it.  I feel with a little more promotion of the project, especially once the new web site is up, it will do well.  People want honest and real stories.  Reality Shows are killing the old fashioned writer and storyteller.  I see Partners doing well with the middle age viewer and especially with the national police community.

How did you get Duane A. Sikes and Louis Green Black on board as producers?

Darren  Duane Sikes has been so instrumental in my young producing career. He trusts me and believes in the work I am doing. He and I go all the way back to Park Bench and Last Call of Duty. He is a great man and a great friend. Louise Greene Black is my mother in law. She fell in love with Last Call of Duty, and wanted to see me do another police style drama. 

Duane and Louise are the blood running through the veins of Partners. They are the ones who financially make this a reality. I love them both dearly and it is an honor to have their names front and center on this project.

What do you most want people to know about the series and take away from it?

Darren  My hope is that people will walk away from it with a fondness and caring of both story and characters; and a better understanding that police officers are real human beings out of the uniform.

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I retired as a police officer after twenty three years working downtown Cincinnati for all my career. The second career choice was acting where I have been semi successful. I believe you have a shire thing here with real police issues and how to portray that on camera. Great Job and thank you from an old cop tired of hollywood Idea of how police are portrayed.

Jeffry Winkler

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