Film series pulls back the curtain, reveals how Pawtucket’s TEN31 Productions ‘Makes Pretend’

Film series pulls back the curtain, reveals how Pawtucket’s TEN31 Productions ‘Makes Pretend’

A promotional image for “Make Pretend,” a series about Pawtucket-based TEN31 Productions set to debut online next spring.

PAWTUCKET – Inside the fun-house factory of TEN31 Productions, the players have spent nearly two decades flaying the bounds of what art can convey. And now, through the lens of a Rhode Island-born filmmaker and producer, the company’s creative force is coming to life onscreen in the first season of “Make Pretend.”

Where history, performance and fantasy converge, members of the Pawtucket-based collaborative group, along with Lincoln native Jordan Burbank’s Bold-n-Brash Productions, will add color to reality and documentary television.

Highlighting community along the way, they plan to portray real drama instead of contrived scripts, in a series scheduled to air online next spring.

The series is working to secure a larger distributive network, but crowd-sourced funding has allowed Burbank to plan a springtime digital release for season one. The finished product will offer a glimpse into a mysterious, artful world where TEN31 players do what they do best, which is to “make pretend.”

Named for the Halloween date that launched it all, TEN31 was founded in 2000 by Eric Auger and Joe Pari. The two originally landed in the spotlight for signature “living statues,” which later went global and have sparked similar companies around the world.

The company is now located on Roosevelt Avenue along the Pawtucket riverfront.

A painter and photographer, Auger describes himself as a fine artist who has since ventured into acting and performance art.

“Because we have allowed TEN31 to grow and expand organically over the past 17 years, all of us involved have grown that way as well; meaning that we constantly move and shift, following our bliss so to speak,” he said.

The artist noted the key to their success has been consistent experimentation and a willingness to take lessons to heart.

With an extensive background in producing for ABC, Fox and Discovery networks and digital platforms, Burbank has established himself as a compelling storyteller, say those in the industry. While searching for a new tale to tell, he reconnected with his relative, Auger.

Burbank and his small production crew documented the days leading up to TEN31’s Halloween blowout at the Providence Public Library, “Mysterium at the Eternal Masquerade.” Intricately costumed performers enact why spirits come to life on that night in spoken word and live theater, another facet of the company’s platform.

Burbank noted his director’s inclination is to keep the story’s integrity intact without falling into the pitfalls of reality-TV-driven tropes.

“One of the things I do is I try to really make sure everything I’m developing has a positive message … it’s more for a purpose,” he said. “There’s a level of humanity and community I think is really important to convey in television, especially nowadays.”

Seeing the TEN31 players in action emboldened that positive energy, the filmmaker said, adding, “Seeing you can work in a place everybody is laughing and still getting the job done is very inspiring to me.”

Similarly, Auger noted the filming experience gave him pause to reflect on the blood, sweat and tears that have flowed into the company, reflections of his commitment to authenticity, he said.

“Authenticity is a rare thing in this business, but if you can keep yours in check, it does liberate you and allow you to be proud of your successes without being arrogant,” he said.

And as Burbank returns to the West Coast to put the final touches on the show, TEN31 will launch its winter schedule, while looking toward the future.

Auger noted that the group is partnering with Pawtucket’s Slater Mill next year to transform the whole of downtown Pawtucket into a Halloween weekend festival fit for the entire family.

And in the spring, viewers will see the fruits of TEN31 and Bold-n-Brash onscreen with the debut of the web series’ first six episodes – offering a rare peek behind creativity’s curtain.

“Through the crew’s eyes, I was able to really appreciate how we’ve just not broken any sort of mold by working in the arts, but actually created the mold and the entire recipe from scratch,” Auger said. “There’s really nothing else like us out there as far as reality series are concerned.”

Viewers will see it all, he said, from the day-to-day office grind to on-site performance preparation, plus plenty of comical banter between Auger and fellow TEN31 runners, Pari and Alicia White.

Viewers will also see how the team copes when methodical plans go awry.

But mostly, Auger explained, the team hopes people will encounter a compelling introduction to the heart behind TEN31 – why they spend their energy bringing joy to people through unique performances.

“When we connect with our audience, there’s a tangible connection,” Auger added, “and we hope that the online audience will be able to tap into that as well.”

Keep up with TEN31 at www.ten31productions.com and Jordan Burbank at www.boldnbrash.com .

Learn more about Burbank’s project at https://igg.me/at/MAKEPRETEND .

Some of the performers from Pawtucket’s TEN31 Productions.