Friday, May 2, 2014


In the studio today on the couch, as it were, responding to our editorial team's questions is Veteran LACo OL & Hollywood Producer/Director, Gregory J. Bonann (aka, Bone).  The topic, his new network action-adventure tv series, SAF3®.

Q.  What is "SAF3" ?

SAF3® is a one-hour, action adventure, drama series that celebrates the heroics of Firefighters, Lifeguards and Pilots.   The concept of the show occurred to me as a "fictionalization" of a perfect world that would allow the LA County Fire Department to create a specialized division that took "the best of the best" from each existing division (SAR, USAR, Air Ops, Lifeguards, Swift Water, Paramedics, Hazmat, etc.) and create a unique division (run by it's own Chief) that combined the 3 most dangerous elements of: SEA, AIR and FIRE specialists into one 'team' that was qualified to go into almost any situation.   Thus the name SAF3 (pronounced "safe").

(C.R. comment:  SAF3® is a Registered U.S. Servicemark.)

Shameless Plug: 


Q.  How does SAF3 differ from a previous somewhat popular show that you created called BAYWATCH?

Let's break this down into two parts:  Creative and Business.
The creative similarities are obvious if you compare SAF3 to Baywatch.  First and foremost it shares the same creator (me), style of photography, method of story telling, character values and target demographics.   It is aimed at the "family audience" and focuses on "action" not violence.  "Romance" not sex.   This is a huge difference in the international marketplace from many of today's television series and is one of the principal reasons that "Baywatch" was so successful worldwide - it appealed to a broader, more family oriented audience than most shows on the air today.   I also direct many episodes and bring my own personal style ("slo-mo"!) to the series. With my love for music and visual story telling you will see many "music montages" in the series as well.   The other directors follow this same style and have a similar love for music in the story telling process.    Tai Collins, the co-creator of SAF3, wrote many, many episodes of "Baywatch" so she brings much of her knowledge and experience for story telling in that same style to SAF3.

The business similarities between "Baywatch" and "SAF3" are also pretty obvious: Just like Baywatch, there is NO network and there is NO studio involvement.   I own the show and suffer the consequences myself!   I must do, on my own, everything that the network and studio does for their shows.  Sell and distribute it domestically and internationally, finance it, cash-flow it, market it, promote it, cast it, produce it, deliver it, etc.    Duplicating the network and studio infrastructure is not as difficult as it may sound, but it is extremely difficult to compete with them and the playing field is not level.  Where they spend millions of dollars- I can only afford to spend thousands of dollars!

There are other differences between SAF3 and Baywatch that are substantial in my opinion:  The "franchise" of the series (franchise is another word for "world") includes many emergency response opportunities outside of the limited franchise of lifeguarding which Baywatch limited itself to.   Firefighters and pilots make up at least two-thirds of SAF3 stories and Lifeguarding is less prominent...  so, much less "beach" and much more "flame" than Baywatch...

What is exactly the same about both series, however, is my love of telling 'heroic' stories, in a dramatic fashion, about people who care more about others than they do themselves.   I also love to take what I know about the lifeguards that I work with and create characters that are "true" to those people, and from that I can create a cornerstone of character fundamentals that I know will "feel" real to the viewer.   One simple example would be to create a character who is just AWESOME in the water (Olympic caliber) but on land he just can't seem to get his act together.   How many of those guys do you know?   I know a lot of them, and watching them go from one "life" situation to the other can be really fun!

I have created characters in the past who are one part Phil Topar, one part Mike Newman, one part Mel Solberg and a dash of Sean Lemm, Craig Hummer and Mike Inscore.   Can you imagine that character?   I also can create a character who is one part Chuck Locko, one part Will Maguire, one part Mark Newman with a dash of Danny Matthies and Bob Janis!   How fun would that character be...   When I was creating "Baywatch" in my head in the 1980's, I thought that Diane Graner was about as beautiful as any girl I had ever seen.  To me she exemplified all things that were attractive about a woman, one of the first and foremost was her athleticism, the fact that her body was awesome, her face gorgeous, her personality infectious and her intellect off the charts only made it seem more crazy.   Casting that character was really fun!!   Take a look back at Baywatch and let me know who you think played her! (no it wasn't Pammy).

(C.R. comment:  that second character you've imagined above sounds more frightening than fun!)

I also used another stunning lady lifeguard of the 80's as inspiration and modeled a character around her:  the actress was Erika Eleniak, the lifeguard was Nathalie Locus.   If you take a look at their pictures at the time, they are almost identical women.   Men were not as fun to cast, for obvious reasons, but I really enjoyed the process.  My favorite was Billy Warlock (actor) who was a clone of Mitch Flyer (stud, real life lifeguard).  The physical similarities were freaky and I just molded the character from there.   If you use a good actor which Billy Warlock undeniably was, you can create just about anything on camera.

Newmie & Saars

Now I get to do it all again with the next generation of lifeguards... and there are a lot of them to play with!!!      Take a look at the cast of SAF3 and tell me who you think I used as inspiration for our lead actors:

Dolph Lundgren?
JR Martinez?
Katie Meehan?
Jocelyn Osorio?
Lydia Hull?

If you watch the main title (cut to our hit song "White Light") you will get a good idea of what each person looks like, then you can take a guess.   Hint: Dolph = Fernando.

Q.   Why South Africa?

I discovered South Africa by accident.  It was introduced to me by process of elimination.   I really wanted to keep SAF3 in the United States but financially it was proving very difficult.  The union's here do not care what your budget is.  The minimums that must be paid to union members (writers, directors, actors, drivers, office workers, crew, etc.) are the same regardless of wether you are making a movie for $100 million dollars or for $3 million dollars.   It is not fair, it is not right, it does not work and so I had to look elsewhere in the world.   For a show like SAF3 which required a gorgeous beach, Headquarters set, beautiful water, etc. I could go to: Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Mexico or So. Africa.   Some locations were eliminated because of cost (Hawaii), some because they were almost as expensive as the USA (Australia), some because they did not have sufficient crew (Costa Rica, Mexico) and a few remained attractive: So. Africa!

As much as I hated to leave the USA and take millions of dollars to another country when there are Americans who desperately need jobs and opportunity, I am so happy that I did it.   Just like Steve Jobs and many other's like him, I now realize that I will probably never produce another television series in the United States again.   It is just too expensive here and the talent elsewhere is equal to and greater to the available talent in the USA.   My first boss in film production, Jack Hennessy, taught me this lesson in 1978 when I lost my first "bidding" war with another production company because I was charging too much money to produce a documentary and our competition under-bid me.   Jack was furious that I let our competition get the job because I would not lower our asking price... He said to me in the only conversation we had where he raised his voice to me: "don't ever let a client get away again because they will not see the difference between our production and the film that the other company will produce.    The other company will do a good job and they will keep that client forever and we will never get back into that door!   He was right about that client, it was Mobil Oil and I lost it.    That philosophy is now carried over to the United States (the client).   American's have let me go out and discover So. Africa and I have learned that they can do the same job (even better) for less money.   Just as Steve Jobs told the world that he would never make another computer in this country, (and Apple has not made a computer in the USA since), and just as we lost our leadership in manufacturing (shoes, cars, electronics, etc), so have we now lost film and television production to other countries.    The lesson:  do not let business get away because it may never come back!!

Q.  What lifeguard equipment does SAF3 use?

Technology now dominates modern day first responders.  Google glass, Golden-i, computer technology is making emergency rescue much more scientific and safe.  We can now monitor rescue workers (firefighters for instance) when they go into a burning building.   We can see their heart rate, we can monitor life support, we can visually see what ever they see via camera.   Just as Barack Obama and the joint chiefs could see every moment of Osama bin Laden's take down, so can our incident commanders see every moment of a major rescue from their position at IC.    We now have the technology to see inside a burning building and determine whether or not the victims inside the building are still alive OR NOT, and if not, we would not risk firefighters lives by sending them in to rescue dead bodies.    SAF3 will use this technology.

Q.  What is your favorite restaurant in South Africa?

Our Hotel in Camps Bay, Cape Town: "The Bay Hotel"!  I hardly ever left the hotel, office or set to eat at a restaurant.   Although the food in So. Africa is wonderful, I didn't have much time to sit down and relax.  It was a 7 month marathon for me.

Q.  What is your training regimen to stay in shape as a LACo Ocean Lifeguard for the past 20 years?

I lift weights for an hour and swim 4,000 yards every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning at Pepperdine with the women's swim team and a small group of lifeguards and masters swimmers.   On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings I road bike 36-42 miles in the hills next to my house (Encinal, Mulholland, Decker, Yerba Buena and Latigo) in Malibu.   I paddle my surf ski in the evenings up to Leo and ride waves!   I love my workout time!!!

But, when I was in So. Africa, for the first time in my life, I did NOTHING for 6 months.  I was overwhelmed with work and just couldn't "relax" when I was working out and that seemed to defeat the purpose.   If I couldn't "enjoy" my time in the pool or on the water, what benefit am I really getting.   Only after we wrapped production and everyone was gone home and the editors and I were the only one's left and we only worked 10-12 hour days, did I start to swim and paddle.  


*** Many Thanks to Greg for talking with us about his new show, SAF3®.  We really appreciate it.

(Photo credit:  All photos courtesy of Greg Bonann.)


Until next time.....

"County Recurrent" News

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