Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of stories on Sarasota's Amish and Mennonite village Pinecraft dealing with an increased demand of television coverage.
Sarasota's Amish village Pinecraft will be featured in the second season of TLC's "Breaking Amish," to the dismay of a few members of the community.
The show is controversial all around, with some members presenting themselves as just now going through their journey of leaving the Amish community, while some have been out for quite some time, according to published reports and members of the Pinecraft community who know one of the cast members.
In the first season, the cast was placed in the middle of New York City, left to discover the "English" world, getting tattoos, finding love in a hopeless place and doing plenty of drinking. The show received the highest ratings for any first-season series for TLC.
The second season is due air in May, but had filmed part of the season in Pinecraft on around Feb. 19. The press previews on E! and NBC tout that the second season "promises more drama," and that is what a Sarasota-based location scout had apparently told a business owner in Pinecraft.
The crew was in Sarasota last month to see if a cast member could find work in Pinecraft along with capturing their life in Florida, according to Pinecraft business owners.
Kathryn Graber, co-owner of The Village Cupboard grocery store in Pinecraft, refused filming at her store multiple times, and an employee saw one of the cast members with a flip camera shooting footage in the store as another cast member was shopping. Graber was adamant to the production company that the footage was not authorized to be on television, she said.
Graber was approached by a location scout for the show, whom she asked, "What's the premise of this show?" The response didn't entice her at all.
"She was real kind of quick and flippant about it and said, 'Oh, you know, it's a reality show. Come into the community and stir up drama and film it,' " Graber recalled. "I just remembered going, 'And I want to be a part of that, why?' "
Graber stands by the account, and the interaction didn't stop there, with crew coming in the store three times.
"We had a little conversation about these kids and how some of them aren't in a good place in their lives and are struggling, and she said, 'You could be a part of changing that for them," Graber recalled. "I said, 'Why would I believe anything that this production company is going to do? They can edit it anyway they want.' "
Patch reached out for comment to the show's production company, Hot Snakes Media, but a voice message was not returned. The production company is also behind Discovery's hit show "Amish Mafia
Viola Mast, Village Cupboard co-owner, was inside when female members of the cast came into shop.
"I look up and at the end of the aisle, there's a guy with a flip cam," Mast said. "… A couple minutes later they're up here checking out, and he's there with a flip cam, and I asked, 'What are you filming?'"
So Graber called the production company twice to make it clear that filming was not allowed in the store and should not appear to television, and received an apology and the inside of the store shouldn't appear on the show.
"We'll see," she said.
Graber is not a fan of either "Breaking Amish" or "Amish Mafia" because of the creative license used in the shows.
"I think because there's so much false much information, it's hurtful to the community for that reason," said Graber, who is a former member of the Amish church.
Other Pinecraft community members were keenly aware of the production company's presence in February.
"We're only eight blocks wide. They had approached almost every Amish-owned business in the village asking if they could film. They were turned down by all but two businesses," said Sherry Gore, a nationally known cookbook author in Pinecraft and who had an appearance in a rival production company's documentary "Amish: Out of Order" on National Geographic.
Among the businesses that allowed filming are Alma Sue's Quilts and Der Dutchman restaurant. When dealing with "reality" shows, producers can suggest situations to participants that may detract from reality. Local management made sure they wouldn't participate in those scenarious, including one scene when management was asked to not hire an employee because they were not Amish or Mennonite. (Several members of the staff aren't Amish or Mennonite anyway.)
"When you want something that's exciting, sometimes you have to create excitement," Der Dutchman General Manager Willard Schlabach said about the experience.
However, overall the production company "did not give us a problem," he said.
Schlabach is aware of the concern and the protection needed for Pinecraft and hopes to not cross that line.
"Pinecraft is unique having people from the Amish community coming together from different sections of the U.S., and we get along quite well, and we want to keep it that way," he said.
The segment of the show is expected to air in early June, Schlabach said.
Gore helped guide her son's girlfriend, Mary Mullet, 20, through questions she received from a casting director via Facebook looking to talk to her about a show, too.
Curious, Mullet called and found that the show's premise is to bring Amish youth out to the Los Angeles area and film them "fulfilling their dreams in Hollywood," Gore said. The casting director disclosed to the family this would be for a different season of "Breaking Amish" than the Pinecraft-centered season, Gore said.
"She said she couldn't work on a show that badmouths other people, and she didn't want any other Amish slammed, and before she got another word out of her mouth, the casting director hung up on her," Gore said.
Mullet, a full-time Pinecraft resident, has not been Amish since she was 10 years old, Gore said.
This version corrects Der Dutchman's approval of the filming inside of its restaurant.