Two-and-a-half years ago a group of Tigard-Tualatin teenagers were so enthralled with the television series “Survivor” that they decided to create their own version of the show.
“I started watching ‘Survivor’ when I was 12 or 13 and was hooked,” said Hunter Klein, who is now a college sophomore and played the Jeff Probst host role in both seasons.
After months of planning and pre-production, the first season was filmed over two days in Cook Park in the summer of 2018 and released one installment at a time through the following winter on YouTube. Following its success, Klein decided to do another season and spent eight or nine months planning the second series, filming it last summer with a new cast and some returning crew members.
“We decided after season one that the biggest thing we could improve was the location,” Klein said. “There was a lot of background noise in Cook Park – people, vehicles, boats. My friend Spencer Sproul joined the second production, and his grandparents own a 60-acre property in the Tigard-Sherwood area. There were lots of trees for the camps, a big open area and a grassy hill for the challenges. It was spectacular, and we are thankful to the Sproul family for offering up their land.”
All that and improved audio equipment led to a better production, according to Klein. The show was filmed over Friday, Saturday and Sunday the last weekend in June 2019 with 13 actors, Klein and a crew of nine or 10.
The plan was to start with two seven-member tribes, with Casaya wearing gray and Solana wearing yellow. “We bought bandannas and asked the tribe members to wear those colors,” Klein said. “To get them comfortable in front of the camera doing ‘interviews,’ we had them talk into the camera ahead of time.
“Beforehand, we made the schedule, when the switch (of tribe members) and the merge would happen, even if one team lost (the challenges) over and over,” Klein said. “It was set in stone.”
But of course, unforeseen complications came up. One member of the cast called in sick right before filming started, so one tribe started with one less person, and there was a downpour during the very last challenge.
“I think the actors enjoyed the physicality, but filming was emotionally draining for them,” Klein said. “We rationed food. Each tribe got a bag of pre-cooked rice and a container of beans, and of course, water. They had water jugs they could refill.
“Initially we planned on not using tents, but there were coyotes out there, so we all used tents. The crew and I had more to eat.”
Majoring in biology and education and planning to be a middle school biology teacher, Klein had no video background or technical skills when he originally took on the project. A couple of friends with video experience taught him the basics and worked with him as he developed both his artistic vision and technical skills.
One issue was that with two cameras, they struggled to not get the other camera in the shots, but “all in all, I think we stepped up a lot in season two,” Klein said. “The production quality, the post-production editing were all exponentially better. And it really helped having a more controlled setting.”
The finale aired in mid-March following eight 30- to 40-minute shows, which Klein edited one by one in between school work.
“All of the crew and I have put in a lot of work and love sharing this project with people, especially members of our own community,” Klein said.
Would he do it again? “I would love to, and I’m open to opportunities,” he said. “I hope to do a season three, fingers crossed, and I hope to improve more in season three.”
All episodes from both seasons of Survivor Oregon can be found on their YouTube Channel.