Posted: Aug 11, 2012 9:47 AM by Jen Hollenbach - MTN News
Updated: Aug 11, 2012 9:44 AM
GREAT FALLS- Hutterite members of the King Colony Ranch near Lewistown in central Montana want to set the record straight after a National Geographic TV series featuring them turned into a what they believe is a "reality" show - not a documentary.
The show is called "American Colony: Meet The Hutterities."
Several days ago, the colony demanded a public apology from National Geographic and asked that none of the 10 episodes ever be televised again. In June, Hutterite bishops said the show portrayed Hutterites in an inaccurate manner and said that scenes were scripted.
King Colony Ranch leaders say they were pressured into staging scenes because show producers felt their lives weren't exciting enough. The minister, John Hofer, says he is so embarrassed by the portrayal of the colony that he wont even watch any of the episodes.
Colony members say that show producers were bored with what they saw, and began pressuring the younger members to act out fabricated scenes.
But who is to blame for the transformation from a documentary to what colony leaders are describing as a reality show? After talking to some of those involved in the series, it looks like show producers aren't completely at fault.
Wesley Hofer is one of the main characters in the series, and says that show staff and colony members collaborated in creating story lines for each episode.
"They said if you have any story you want to tell or any ideas for a story, just throw them out there. We can play with them. Between us and the producers, we were talking about stories all the time," Hofer said.
The fact that there were even discussions as to what would be filmed for an episode has leaders upset, but Wesley says the stories they came up with are recreations of actual events on the colony: "The basis to every story is based in fact."
Wesley admits sometimes they pushed the envelope more than they should have; he added that as teens, it's just human nature.
King Colony Ranch is also one of the less traditional compounds in the Hutterite world, and broadcasting this specific colony to represent all Hutterites has the Elders upset.
"Each colony has their own culture of how strict or how liberally they want to apply each rule. And I guess the Elders when they saw the show that apparently it's getting out of hand, that is their perception," Wesley said.
The minister of the Colony, John Hofer, says the Elders have actually threatened ex-communication. While he doesn't believe this will happen, the entire colony is working together to fix this, and move forward.
Colony leaders say they weren't able to monitor everything being taped for the show, and therefore couldn't put a stop to it.
But Wesley says if anybody wanted to know what was going on, crews were on scene for 12 hours a day, six days a week during the several months of production and filming, and anybody could have asked to review the scenes or watch while they were being shot and then voiced their objections.