NAPLES — Naples may be getting real.
Or at least as real as reality TV gets.
On a steamy, summer morning at the Naples Municipal Airport on Thursday, four women wearing fashionably big shades and light carry-on baggage climb out of a Learjet onto a private airstrip.
Standing outside, they chat about exploits from a wild trip to Vegas.
A stocky man with a shaved head and red goatee interrupts by yelling “cut.”
The camera crew that’s been filming the ladies relaxes. Director Chuck Ardezzone instructs the women on how to deliver their lines.
“It was good,” he says. “But come out and say it quicker.”
This is a scene for a speculative reality show with the working title, “Elite Housewives of Naples.”
It’s being shot locally by an independent production company that hopes to get the show nationally broadcast. The producers are currently in negotiations with Dick Clark Productions.
“Elite Housewives” is one of several projects by Naples-based start-up company ITZ Reality TV.
It follows the exploits of several wealthy Naples women. Producer Elizabeth Garzi called it “The Real Housewives” meets “Dynasty.”
The primary owners of ITZ Reality TV, Ardezzone, Jean Pierre Fatta and Mike Smith, are all local businessmen. They are financing the production of the shows themselves with the hope of scoring the support of national TV big shots.
Ardezzone has Hollywood credentials and connections.
He spent several years working as a film and TV actor. His credits include episodes on the “Law & Order” series.
He owns another local film and video production company, InTroubleZone, which shoots a lot of local car commercial ads and the fishing show “Florida Adventure Quest,” which plays on World Fishing Network.
The crew has been shooting footage for weeks at local bars, hotels and beaches to create a pilot episode and a “sizzle reel” — which is essentially a minute-long trailer to entice network interest in the show.
For something called “reality TV”, though, there are quite a few theatrics involved in the shooting.
The scene at the airport was completely manufactured. The women didn’t fly from Vegas. They drove their cars to the airport and boarded the jet, only to walk back off for the cameras.
The Learjet was borrowed.
In another scene, shot at Edgewater Beach Hotel, three of the women gossip about a fourth, Jada Anastasia, as she stands 20 feet off camera listening.
“We’re all friends,” shrugged one of the show’s principals, Julie Coleman, before the take. “And it’s fake.”
“It’s not fake,” said Fatta, who was directing the scene. “It’s drama.”
He later explained that for a pilot episode and sizzle reel, the producers needed to put together certain conventional reality TV scenes for the networks. However, he insisted 80 percent of the situations were “real,” but the “drama was heightened” by artistic direction.
Four of the possible rising stars of “Elite Housewives” were on location Thursday: Patty Egan, Hanna Roppo, Coleman and Anastasia.
Anastasia said she knew all of the other women, but a few met for the first time during filming.
They aren’t getting paid for filming the pilot, but they have gotten their fair share of free meals and cocktails.
When asked why they are participating in the show, the “housewives” — some of whom are widowed or divorced — give one of two answers. They are either in it for the fun or to garner enough exposure to promote some special project.
Coleman wants to “springboard” a new business venture through the show.
She declined to explain the company’s concept, but explained that if “Elite Housewives” gets picked up, she could get enough exposure to “springboard” her company.
Egan, who said she’s having a blast filming the show, is trying to publish a book written by her deceased husband, Joseph Egan, a nuclear engineer and lawyer who battled the Environmental Protection Agency over nuclear waste disposal.
“Maybe this would be a good platform,” she said.
Aside from “Elite Housewives,” ITZ Reality has several other projects in the works too.
There’s one about motorcycles, “V8 Muscle Bikes,” and one called “Catch ‘Em and Cook ‘Em,” which combines elements of fishing and cooking shows.
The producers are also working on a charitable TV project they’re calling “Home Again.” Fatta explained the show would document wealthy donors giving away a dozen local homes to families in need. A film crew would capture the drama of the giveaways, like “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
But “Elite Housewives” may be the most ambitious show they are trying to produce now.
If “Elite Housewives” or others ITZ Reality shows get picked up by a major network, it could also do wonders for the Naples economy, said Maggie McCarty, director of the Collier County Film Commission.
ITZ Reality TV is currently seeking production crew members, and Fatta has promised any show would spotlight Naples’ businesses and the city’s natural beauty.
With that in mind, McCarty said, “It would create a buzz, and that would be beneficial to tourism.”
She pointed to 1980s TV drama Miami Vice, which offered sweeping Miami skyline shots in the opening credits.
“It was huge for (Miami’s) tourism and it was all about the city’s seedy underworld,” she said.
Ultimately, Fatta and his partners are dreaming on a huge scale. Reality shows are just the beginning, Fatta said.
They anticipate ITZ Reality TV transforming into a company that creates TV shows, commercials and movies for national audiences.
“We’re starting with reality TV because it’s what’s hot,” he said.
With a national production company showing interest, Fatta said his company has reason for optimism right now.
But Fatta admitted ITZ Reality TV has a long way to go before realizing its dream.
“There’s no guarantees in anything,” he said.
In other words, Naples will have to wait to see if the dreams of ITZ Reality TV creators come true, or if they’re only as real as what’s on TV.