A section of downtown Portland was transformed into the set for a reality television show Thursday night when several stretch limousines drove onto the plaza at Monument Square.
Dozens of spectators gathered to watch as smartly dressed chauffeurs, women in green prom dress skirts, cameramen wielding still and video cameras, people carrying clipboards with release forms, and television producers raced through the square as filming for a proposed television show got underway.
The chaotic scene was all part of a film shoot for the pilot of a new unscripted, reality television show that will be called “Passing the Buck,” according to its host, Jordan Zimmerman.
Zimmerman said the pilot episode will focus on a competition between two individuals, who are vying to succeed John Veit as owner and operator of Atlantic Limousine of Maine – a company based in Westbrook. Either Veit’s daughter, Virginia, or a longtime employee named Charles will be given the keys to the company. Veit declined to provide their surnames.
Zimmerman said the plan is for the pilot to air on SPIKE, a cable network. The show will not be just about who succeeds Veit as owner of Atlantic Limousine.
“We’re trying to build their brand locally,” said Zimmerman, who wants to highlight the company’s diverse and upscale fleet of limousines.
One of Veit’s limousines is a Cadillac Escalade EXT equipped with a fireplace and jacuzzi. It also features fiber optic lights, strobe lights, a “killer stereo” and built-in ice chests, according to Atlantic Limousine’s website. Since it was established in 2006, the company has completed over 17,000 reservations.
Thursday night’s production in downtown Portland was filmed by Loud TV of New York, according to city officials.
Jessica Grondin, the city of Portland’s spokeswoman, provided the Portland Press Herald with an email – dated May 21 –sent by Paul McGuire of Loud TV. McGuire sent the mail to the city to inquire about permitting the film and to let city officials know that some filming would occur in Monument Square.
McGuire said the pilot would be filmed in Westbrook and Portland from June 19 through June 27, adding that “the pilot concerns a family business that is a limousine company.”
According to its website, Loud TV produces a broad range of unscripted TV and digital content. Its clients include: National Geographic, Bravo, Animal Planet, Spike and HGTV.
Production company employees swept through the crowd of curious onlookers asking them to sign release forms – the forms will allow the show to use a person’s image or comments on “Passing The Buck.”
Veit tried to keep a low profile, watching the production crew’s antics from a sidewalk in front a of restaurant near the square.
Veit, who lives in Baldwin, said he is planning to retire and is looking for someone to take over his company.
“I started in 2006 with one limo,” he said.
His fleet has grown to 17 limousines.
Veit said a number of celebrities and famous politicians have used his service when visiting Maine. He says he will miss having conversations with them.
Newswoman Barbara Walters, comedian Bill Cosby, former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, and country western singer Reba McEntire have all rode in his limousines, he said.