The Sizzle Reel Pete shot and edited that helped green light Chasing Tail
How did right out of film school
end up with a reality show?
In 2009, Pete enrolled in a documentary Masters program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. His thesis project was a documentary about his blue collar cousins from Vermont who hunt deer in the wealthy suburbs of Connecticut. A cross between Fargo and Leave it to Beaver, the film's premise is rooted in the unlikely union between blue and white collar folks who share a common enemy...The Whitetail Deer.
New Canaan, Connecticut is wealthy bedroom community an hour from Manhattan. It's also overpopulated with Whitetail Deer. Car accidents and the destruction of pricey landscaping is commonplace. As a result, the State of Connecticut allows for the harvest of virtually unlimited amounts of deer.
Pete first experienced suburban hunting in 2005. He was living with his grandmother Edie Andronaco at the time. After work one evening he came home to find the living room filled with cigarette smoke.
This is what happened on Pete's first day
of filming for his thesis film project.
He heard a familiar voice. "Hey Petey! Want some venison?" Through the blue Marlboro haze Pete's cousin Mike Andronaco emerged with an outstretched hand and a fresh cigarette dangling out of his mouth.
Pete saw that his other cousin Lou Andronaco was there. They in their long johns, laid out in their sleeping bags, watching Jeopardy with Pete's grandmother.
Anyone who goes on a hunting trip away from home needs a place to camp. Pete's grandmother's living room was their "Deer Camp". From then on through the fall of 2005, he came home to see deer after deer hanging from his late grandfather's apple tree. The CEO of JetBlue Airlines lived next door.
By knocking on mansion doors and asking for permission to hunt, Mike alone killed sixty nine deer that season. To put that into perspective, the average hunter might take eight to ten deer in one season. Mike's gift of gab and impressive hunting skills made him a local legend.
Pete knew that Mike's suburban hunting adventures had the potential to be a great documentary. But with a full time job, he knew embedding both myself and a camera with Mike for months on end would be out of the question.
Pete's opportunity to devote that kind of time arrived when he enrolled at the School of Visual Arts in 2009. Only this time around, Mike and his friends had a different place to stay. It was now located on the property of Pete's other cousin Dave Andronaco. Dave is a jovial landscaper with a long beard and magnetic smile. His property is surrounded by mansions and his neighbors know little of what goes on the other side of their bordering hedge rows.
Pete and his cousin Dave at Deer Camp
Dave's blue collar fortress of solitude is his big red barn, and Mike and his friends slept in the hay loft. This was their new "Deer Camp", and it would become the perfect set for a future reality show.
Pete started filming at "Deer Camp" in the Fall of 2010. For weeks which turned into months, he found himself in the thick of suburban deer hunting.
"Surrounded by all these million dollar mansions
we got Deer hanging up like rednecks. Only in America."
Pete's documentary "The Real Hunters of Fairfield County"
was complete in the spring of 2011. This was during the rise of "Duck Dynasty", one of the most popular reality shows on television at the time. Networks were looking for blue collar buddy comedy shows to compete. Pete always knew that suburban deer hunting was a unique concept that might play well on television.
The Real Hunters of Fairfield County
From the footage Pete shot over many months, he cut together a sizzle reel and reached out to a few production companies to gauge interest. Leftfield Pictures, the company that produces "Pawn Stars" wanted to partner up. Pete was excited that a successful company like Leftfield took interest in the concept and his comedic sensibilities. The History Channel ordered ten episodes in the summer of 2012.
Pilot Episode - The History Channel
Pete was a very active Co-Executive Producer on "Chasing Tail". Between casting and location scouting, he continued my role as a camera operator. Twice a day, right before sunrise and sunset, he donned camouflage and a safety harness, and climbed up trees to film Mike and his friends (they hunt from tree stands). When they placed an arrow on a deer, he filmed their tracking routine. Some of the tracking missions ended up as multi mile long treks from one mansion yto the next. Mike would be pulling a deer off a property in the front yard while homeowners played tennis in the backyard. Between sets, residents would give Mike enthusiastic thumbs up.
Would they encounter people who were pro or anti hunter? Would people freak out and call the police after watching guys in camouflage pass through their yard? Absolutely. It's this clash of cultures that made Chasing Tail so interesting.
The ten episode series of Chasing Tail premiered on History in the spring of 2013. A million people on average tuned in every week. Pete's very grateful to the Brent Montgomery, Dave George, Matt Braley, Ryan Pender, Allan Title, and many others at Leftfield who worked extremely hard to make this reality show...reality!