Francis P. Garland
Lode Bureau Chief
Published Monday, April 4, 2005
SONORA — Wishes will indeed come true this week for a handful of Mother Lode residents.
But just who they are remains mostly a mystery.
This much is known — some five dozen cast and crew members from NBC arrived here last week to start filming “Three Wishes,” a special/pilot that could become a reality television series.
Jamie French, an NBC spokesman, said the show would establish its headquarters — under a large tent, no less — in a downtown parking lot between Stewart and Shepherd streets.
Filming is scheduled to begin today and is expected to continue downtown through the week, said Greg Applegate, Sonora´s city administrator.
However, crew members also are preparing to set up elsewhere around the Mother Lode and film those whose wishes will come true — courtesy of the network.
That filming could continue through most of April, French said.
Hollywood types visited Calaveras and Tuolumne counties about two months ago looking for individuals and organizations with wishes and wants.
At that time, they weren´t sure if they would return to film a pilot, shoot it elsewhere or not shoot it at all.
But last month, NBC announced it was moving ahead with the special — also known as a “back-door pilot” — and that five-time Grammy winner Amy Grant would star.
NBC also decided to shoot the pilot in Tuolumne County and grant the wishes of at least three individuals or groups.
“Everyone secretly wants the chance to fulfill a lifelong wish that seems beyond their grasp,” said Jeff Gaspin, an NBC official. “And this show will help transform those dreams into a life-changing reality.”
Jerry Day, the Tuolumne County Film Commission´s executive director, said he knows whose wishes NBC will grant but he can´t say because he is sworn to secrecy.
French verified that one of those who will be featured in the pilot is Abby Castleberry, a 10-year-old Sonora girl who suffered major injuries in a car accident in November.
She spent weeks in a drug-induced coma at a Sacramento hospital and now is recovering at home but preparing to undergo more surgery in a couple of weeks.
LeAnn Castleberry, Abby´s mother, said family members are excited to be featured in the show but they are more concerned about Abby´s upcoming operation.
“This is fairly serious surgery,” said LeAnn Castleberry. “That´s why we have some trepidation.”
French would not talk about any other potential wish recipients.
“There are three wishes that we´ve identified and will make come true — and those wishes will take a little time,” he said. “We´re going to start the wishes and come back to see how they´ve progressed.”
As for why Abby Castleberry was selected, French said, “She has a very unique story and a wish we could not refuse.”
French said community members may show up at the filming tent Monday and talk about their own wishes because some of them could be granted in the future.
Day said NBC´s decision to film in Tuolumne County is essentially a wish come true for him in his film commission role.
“My job is to promote the beauty, the structures, the landscape and everything about this county,” he said. “I produce a DVD showing locations and mail them and hand them out at trade shows trying to give exposure to Tuolumne County. Now they´re giving us all this free exposure, enabling people to see the beauty of the area. It´s going to help me tremendously.”
It´ll also aid tourism, a major Lode industry.”The idea that our community is going to have an hour of prime-time TV and that all the best things about it will be shown is the kind of publicity that can´t be purchased,” Day said.
Even though Calaveras County wasn´t selected as the home filming base, the county also figures to benefit from its neighbor´s exposure and from the exposure it received while NBC was on its scouting mission in February, said Lisa Reynolds, the Calaveras Visitors Bureau´s executive director. “It never hurts to have producers from NBC spend time here and see what we have to offer,” she said.
Several residents who made their wishes known during the February search said they weren´t holding their breath during the last two months waiting to learn if they were chosen. “I just don´t plan on something until it comes,” said Tri-Dam Lions Club President Gene Ogletree, who asked for financial help to turn an old Burson firehouse into a community center. “I´m always hopeful, but I´m also a pragmatist.”
Sally Scott, an Angels Camp resident who asked for a second car for her daughter — an aspiring artist — said she´s thought about her wish from time to time.
“Boy, it would have been nice,” she said. “But when I heard a lot of the other wishes, I thought, mine doesn´t compare. My life´s not so bad.”
Reprinted with kind permission from The Record
To reach Lode Bureau Chief
Francis P. Garland, phone
(209) 736-9554 or e-mail