After watching HBO’s “Big Little Lies” and living on the Peninsula since last November, non-scripted television producer/director Philippe Denham decided to create his own “more realistic version” as he described it of the “Monterey Five.”
Denham, who re-located to the Monterey area after coming consistently to the Peninsula for the last six years to visit his girlfriend Melena, said the impression given about the Peninsula isn’t accurate.
Based on the same-titled best-seller by author Liane Moriarty, the popular and critically acclaimed series that stars Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon have garnered multiple Golden Globe and Emmy Awards.
For his part, Denham wants to showcase real-life moms who live on the Peninsula.
“Every woman except one is this high-powered person who drives their Land Rover and is super intensely protective of their 4 year-old,” said Denham about the HBO show, noting that it’s not representative of Monterey’s residents.
After working 30 years in Los Angeles, he now wants to showcase the real-life moms of Monterey – women with true stories of tragedy and triumph. “These are people who are being very open about very common but not very open problems – they’re significant social issues that these women are not afraid to talk about.”
For his upcoming docu-series “Monterey Moms,” Denham said he is almost entirely through the casting process for the show that he expects to pitch to producers by September. Like the HBO production, it will also feature five moms living on the Monterey Peninsula.
This project comes after Denham has spent decades working on shoes like History Channel’s “The Curse of Civil War Gold” (2018) and Animal Planet’s “Whale Wars” (2010). He foresees this project being picked up by a network like A&E.
It was after placing a free ad on Craigs List last month advertising casting for the show, that the idea really caught fire.
For Denham, it as after meeting the film community here and the creatives and his girlfriend’s childhood friends, that he said he came across these unbelievable stories.
“I feel like I’m well placed here and what would really be interesting and relevant and topical is to use the success of “Big Little Lies” to pitch a docu-series of the real mothers of Monterey from Marina to Carmel Valley,” said Denham.
Stories like that of Joleen Green, 40, who is just trying to make ends meet and financially support her teenage son and daughter after her husband of 20 years committed suicide due to what she described as “work pressures.”
Green, who has been a house cleaner and personal organizer has struggled to move on without her husband Richard and continues to struggle to live in such an expensive place.
“My hope is that my kids can see me moving forward and somebody out there who is stuck in their sadness can learn how to live,” said Green.
Meanwhile, the docu-series producer has also become involved in the community by working with down-and-out veterans at the Veterans Transition Center and other local endeavors.
“I interview them in a way where they can really see how far they’ve come – so that they see that maybe six months ago they were homeless, but now they look at it and say ‘Wow, I’ve seen the upswing my life … and want to keep this going’,” explained Denham.
He also hopes to eventually open the New Academy of Cinema Arts for those who want to learn more about the medium.
“It’ll be someone in the thick of things teaching what the industry expectations are and how to make a story,” said Denham. “I call it a film school for all.”
In terms of “Monterey Moms,” Denham wants it to be representative of the Peninsula in regards to socioeconomic and diversity.
“There are so many fascinating stories here on the Peninsula that are anchored to the mothers here if we stay true to who these people are,” said Denham. “So I want to give a voice to these women.”