What do a small town, divorce and a local television show have in common? They make up the world of New Alfren, Kentucky and the web series “Local Air,” created by former Winchester resident Josh Raby.
“Local Air” tells the story of Gil Cotton, New Alfren’s favorite adopted son and star of local public access station WKAW and all-around face of the town.
When his personal life comes crashing down live on the air, he’s stuck wondering how much of his world is show and how much is the real thing.
The show was created by Raby as a way to showcase his love of the South, along with embracing and working through some of his own life experiences.
Raby recently spoke with The Tullahoma News about his project that has been almost a decade in the making and how a dream is always worth pursuing.
To tell the story of “Local Air” correctly, Raby said you have to go all the way back to his childhood, where he said he can vividly remember watching a local television show reporting on happenings in and around the area.
“When I was a kid, I grew up in Lincoln County and there was a show that came on each morning called ‘WAAY Too Early’ with Jamie Cooper,’” he said. “It looked like a basement-type set. I’m pretty sure he still does and it airs online. I was always really fascinated with that and someone who would get up every morning and basically their whole thing was to sit there for hours and talk about things going in a relatively small area. I always kind of loved that and wanted to do something like that.”
That show stayed with him up until his adult years and in 2008 he began to write a show that would focus on small towns.
“I really love small towns,” Raby said. “One problem I have when I watch something Southern-based, it’s overalls and trailer parks. There is so much about the South that is interesting to me that isn’t about that kind of stuff.”
He also made the decision to incorporate some his own life experiences into the show.
“In the show, Gil is going through a divorce. I’ve also been through a divorce myself,” Raby said. “Everyone said I should write about it. I initially said no, because when you go through something personal there are people who will tell you to write it out as a way of therapy. Also, they think that great art comes out of pain. My whole feeling is that really good stuff comes when you get perspective. While at the time, I didn’t think it was a good idea, but I just kept coming back to it. I then decided I would make something about a guy who does a show and his wife leaves on the show, and it just spiraled from there. The show, ultimately, is more about the way people interact with one another. I got really into this idea of talking about Winchester or Tullahoma and how hard it to go through something personal in a place where everyone knows who you are.”
He began filming in 2009, but ultimately became unhappy with how to the project was turning out and, due to time and financial constraints, he pulled the plug on “Local Air.”
“Being and adult and a single parent of two girls, I decided I was going to be a grown-up,” he said. “I got myself a job working as a food salesman. I was going around to these small towns for work and I kept thinking, ‘I’m working six days a week and I’m never going to be able to take on this project.’ I kept finding myself going back to the town of New Alfren. When I was traveling I would go through all these small towns and seeing all of these things I could use for the show. Eventually, I quit the job and said, ‘I’m going to make the show.’ In 2012, I quit and decided to give ‘Local Air’ another go.”
Raby said a total of five years of writing, filming and editing went into the show.
“The short story is we started writing in 2013, shooting in 2014, editing and tried to raise more money in 2015 and 2016 and we finally got it out just now,” he said.
The show stars David Alford, Josh Raby, Richmond Ross, Jeremy Childs, Daniel Bissell, Marin Miller, J.J. Rodgers, Jeff Boyet, Anna Felix, David Chattam and Tricia Cast.
Raby said Alford, who plays Gil Cotton, paved the way for what he calls an all-star cast.
“The key piece is David Alfred as Gil Cotton,” he said. “I was told he was on the show, ‘Nashville.’ After seeing him for just a few seconds on ‘Nashville.’ I knew that I wanted to talk to him. Eighteen hours after we sent him the script, he said he was all in. Getting David was a like really big piece of it. When we got David, we found a lot of other things falling into place. Because he is such a well-known and respected actor, we found ourselves in a situation where people where contacting us and that’s how we were able to get a lot of great people. We also went through a great agent in Nashville, Jimmi McCarter, and she was able to point us to a lot of great people.”
Raby, himself, plays a role in the show as Lee Cotton, Gil’s son.
“I was also in the show and I did not want to be in the show. However, I was convinced by my producer and in the end I was glad that I did it,” he said.
There are more than 100 locations used in filming the show, some of which Raby said are local locations such as the radio station WCDT, located in Winchester.
Other locations included small towns in and around Clarksville, where Raby currently lives.
“The great thing about Clarksville is that it surrounded by a lot great smaller places,” Raby said. “You can drive 20 minutes in any direction outside of Clarksville and you’re in a whole different small town. New Alfren is about the size of Winchester. I knew we wanted to use some of Winchester, but not everything. Time and money kept us from doing that. Because we used so many different Kentucky and Tennessee towns, it really combines to create this really unique place. There’s a lit bit of every small town.”
The final product
After almost a decade of creating the show, Raby recently released the show on the video sharing website Vimeo.
He also held a premiere where his friends, family, crew members and the show’s actors came out to view the final product.
“Leading up to the premiere, I had watched the show five times in preparation for release,” he said. “As the guy who made it, you can only watch something so many times and have it work on you. But when you sit and watch it with all those who have made it possible and devoted so much time and energy to it, when you hear them laugh and get emotional and to see them feel like their work has been honored, that was a special thing for me.”
Raby said while he’s still getting used to be on the other side on a finished product, he’s proud of his crew and all the hard work that went into making a longtime dream come true.
“I had never finished like this, so what’s been important for me with this project was that even though this has been just a silly little show for the internet, the people involved who gave so generously with their time and energy and everything, all I can think is that I hope they feel like they spent their time well. That seems to be the case,” he said.
For the future, Raby is looking to make a horror movie, something he has also always wanted to do. He also has hope for a future for New Alfren and continuing to promote his love for the South.
“There are plans for more ‘Local Air’,” he said. “The writers and I have drawn out three seasons of the show. We hope that becomes a reality depending on how people react to the show. Everything I want to do is in the South. It’s really important to me that everything I do be in the South. I love working and living in the South. There are a lot of differences I have with the area, but ultimately, I love the South.”
To watch “Local Air,” visit online at https://vimeo.com/CHANNELS/LOCALAIR.