Reality TV Comes to Local Dealership

By Isaac Baker

After releasing films like The Hunger Games and The Expendables 2 this summer, the Lionsgate production company has recently started filming an eight episode series called Family Trade about G Stone Motors, a car dealership on Route 7 just outside Middlebury, Vt.

The premise for the show centers around the longstanding trade-in policy that G Stone Motors has offered its clients since its inception nearly forty years ago. While many dealerships are happy to take an old car off one’s hands, G Stone Motors goes a bit further, offering to take anything from an airplane to a pig as part of the transaction.

“I’ve always taken anything in trade,” said Gardener Stone, president and founder of G Stone Motors. “I mean anything – anything that [can be sold]. I’ll put a number on [it]. It’s not a scam. I’ve done it my whole career.”

Vestiges of these trades are visible all around the dealership and its parking lot: a jug of maple syrup by the entrance, an antique gas pump on the back wall, old trucks and campers sitting outside and a quark board filled with photos of pigs, cars and horses, all with pricetags.

“Last night Todd took in a whole tattoo parlor,” said Stone, referring to his son’s most recent trade. “That’s the first time we’ve done that. [We] had no idea what it was worth; we just rolled the dice. He’s out in Burlington trying to sell it right now.”

Interesting trades like these were what drew Lionsgate, Rogue Productions and eventually the Game Show Network (GSN) to rural Vermont. In spring 2011, Lionsgate began its search for a business that was operating, at least in part, on a bartering system. Preliminary research led them to a phone number for G Stone Motors.

“About a year ago last spring, Todd got a phone call from someone at Lionsgate in California,” said Stone. “At first he thought it was a hoax. You know how that is, you get a lot of weird calls.

“[Then] we researched it, and yeah, Lion’s Gate’s a big deal. I mean that’s a big production company,” added Stone.

Further conversations led to the filming of a six-minute clip that was then brought back to California to introduce the idea to different networks. GSN, a network in the process of changing its image, has decided to incorporate more “real-life games” into its 2013 line-up, according to Executive Vice-President of Programming Amy Introcaso-Davis in a press release. GSN picked up Family Trade as the first of these reality shows, showing “how people become winners in everyday real-life situations,” said Introcaso-Davis.

With a network on board, Lionsgate and Rogue Productions sent their crews back to the hills of Vermont in March to shoot a formal pilot, the first episode of the series that would then run for test audiences.

“It was strange and new for all of us,” said G Stone Motors’ General Manager Travis Romano, reflecting on being in the pilot. “It was an experience that none of us ever planned on – just one of those things we’re taking as it comes.”

Audiences who watched the show were asked to rate it out of ten based on the experience.

“Most of “˜em come in around six; ours came in around eight or ten,” said Stone with pride, recalling the stellar reviews from three different test audiences.

After this final check, GSN gave the green light, setting off the flurry of shooting for the rest of the episodes.

“I started yesterday morning at six o’clock and didn’t get home until eight-thirty or nine p.m.,” said Stone. “And my son was still doing another episode when I left.”

This busy schedule will continue for the next six weeks as Lionsgate representatives man the phones along with G Stone’s normal sales staff to bring in as many bizarre trades as possible. Out in the field, cameras will follow members of the Stone family around to potential buyers in the community who have expressed interest in selling something.

“I’m not in this as a publicity stunt,” said Stone. But it is a positive for the business, and in this day and age with all businesses suffering terribly because of the economy, anything you can do to help yourself, you need to be thinking about.”

In addition to helping the business and providing publicity for the state of Vermont, the rich culture here was also a part of the decision to host this show.
“I think it’s great for the state,” said Stone. “There’s nothing ever been filmed like this. They’re seeing a lot of old Vermont.”

“The majority of the reality shows you see are based down south,” added Romano. “Or in the Bayou, or out west, or Las  Vegas – we never see anything here in Vermont.”

Family Trade is forecasted to air in January 2013.

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Reality TV Comes to Local Dealership