“You have no idea what’s happening here, do you?”
Well someone does and her name is Robin Sweet. She’s the producer of J.J. Abrams Castle Rock new TV series for Hulu Originals in production in conjunction with Warner Bros on stages set in the grand location of Orange, MA and in studios at New England Studios in Devens, MA.
Here’s the set up: “Castle Rock is a psychological-horror series set in the Stephen King multiverse, Castle Rock combines the mythological scale and intimate character storytelling of King’s best-loved works, weaving an epic saga of darkness and light, played out on a few square miles of Maine woodland. The fictional Maine town of Castle Rock has figured prominently in King’s literary career: Cujo, The Dark Half, IT and Needful Things, as well as novella The Body and numerous short stories such as “Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption” are either set there or contain references to Castle Rock. Castle Rock is an original suspense/thriller — a first-of-its-kind reimagining that explores the themes and worlds uniting the entire King canon, while brushing up against some of his most iconic and beloved stories.”
As we all know there has been so much pressure on Massachusetts to land a television series that will create an abundance of work for local talent and crew. Our goal is TV series that would be in production six or seven months a year and come back again and again. The last major TV series was way back in the 80s when Robert Parker written books “Spenser for Hire” (s not a c) turned out to be a hit starring Robert Ulrich. A bit of Deja vu as Spenser was also produced by Warner Bros.
When I learned that Castle Rock’s Producer Robin Sweet has been a resident of Concord, MA for nine years, I couldn’t wait to interview her. And it’s amazing how she got there (Concord) and how she got the job of producing “Castle Rock”.
Robin was born and raised in Atlanta. She went to school in North Carolina and then took off to New York City to get her MBA. Cautioned by her strict parents to be responsible and make something of herself and make a lot of money she went to work on Wall Street. She had been on an accelerated academic program so she was still very young when at twenty three she decided that Wall Street was not a good fit for her. She quit, went to work as a bartender, living off her retirement (retirement at age twenty three?) when a customer intervened in her life, literally.
And it went something like this: you have an MBA and know how to handle money. Why don’t you come on board with a friend of mine who is making a documentary film and let’s see if you can help out.
She did and it went well. As a result she was called by a producer who was making a short film with Cindy Crawford on Martha’s Vineyard. Wow, she thought, that sounds exciting and so off she went….
So you see, she fell into it. Robin said “If I were able to be the architect of my future career and life, I could not have done a better job. It was a perfect fit for me.” She loves the work she does. Her early work in film and television began in NYC.
Soon state sponsored film tax credits made it possible to produce anywhere, to live anywhere and travel to work in the business. Nine years ago her husband (a noted composer) was offered a position at Berklee College of Music and they moved to Concord, MA to raise their son in Massachusetts.
Of course, there are sacrifices she said. My work requires long days, extended travel for extended periods of time.
Robin Sweet was Emmy nominated two times as Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama in 2016 and 2017 as well as once for the same category by the Producers Guild of America for “Better Call Saul”.
She has worked in Massachusetts before. She line produced two Massachusetts productions previously and one was one of biggest budgeted films ever shot in the Commonwealth: Tom Cruise’s “Knight and Day”. She also line produced EQUALIZER, which recently filmed its sequel here. Much of her work has been in Albuquerque and Atlanta.
She was just coming off two years producing “Better Call Saul” when her agent called her and said I know you usually like to take a few months off between assignments, but this one is set in your own backyard. You might like to take a look at it (Castle Rock).
Robin interviewed with “Bad Robot” and writers Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason. “I loved the show. They asked me if I were comfortable bringing a TV show to Massachusetts being that there was no TV here, TV particularly TV series can be very demanding in many ways a feature film is not.”
She said she would be thrilled to bring a TV series here and looked forward to being close to home and sleeping in her own bed.
A TV series can be more complicated than feature film she explained. TV is a totally different beast. It needs an enormous amount of space with offices close to the production. J.J. Abrams and the writers scouted Maine for reference. The series was scheduled to shoot in Canada. But, when they scouted Canada they discovered Canada could not be shot for Maine. They then scouted Massachusetts and found the town of Orange. Imagine three guys in a van coming upon Orange in central Massachusetts where they found their Castle Rock. They fell in love with Orange.
Massachusetts locations will contribute so much to this series. Orange is the genuine article – the real McCoy if you will. Robin says all their locations are tremendous.
“It is so fortunate that New England Studios is only forty five minutes from Orange,” Robin said. “New England Studios is perfect. The stars definitely aligned for this project in Massachusetts,” she added.
Castle Rock is using three of the four NE Studios. Two with permanent sets and one filled with swing sets that are constantly changing and being rebuilt. Construction is a heavy lift for TV series. The day I interviewed Robin, the New England Studios’ huge parking lot was full to the brim.
“Daily there is a crew of 150 and an offset crew of about fifty – so we’re preparing a crew lunch for 200 to 250 people to say nothing of the actors and extras,” said Robin in answer to my question during our interview. All of whom are on payroll for six to seven months. And there’s a great extra story here as well.
Robin explained that one of the reasons she does this particular job is that she is always meeting a new group of creative and talented people; there are always new locations, new challenges. And she enjoys reconnecting with local crew she has worked with before and noticing how far their careers have come since she worked with them last.
She says the cast is lovely, kind, professional and that she enjoys that with every episode she gets to work with a new director. Remember when she is prepping a new issue, she is managing the one in production. It’s always a big job. But, now she gets to sleep in her own bed every night.
It is expected that Hulu will premiere “Castle Rock” next April.