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Morning Sun
  • Patrick's People — Daniel and Keith Shepard dive deep into "Swimming Lessons"

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  • The Riverside Beach Family Aquatic Center in Independence, while a great place to have fun, isn’t usually a source of artistic inspiration and bids for stardom.
    Except, of course, for Daniel Shepard and Keith Shepard, who worked there several summers as lifeguards and swimming instructors while growing up in Independence.
    Those experiences spurred the creation of  the latest project to come out Woodland View Productions, their company based in New York City. “Swimming Lessons” is being shown Wednesdays on YouTube after being sold to Above Average, a comedy network that’s a member of the Broadway Video family, which brought viewers such shows as “Saturday Night Live,” “The Tonight Show,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” “Portlandia” and “30 Rock.”
    “We’ve done three episodes of ‘Swimming Lessons,’ with seven minutes of content in the three,” Daniel Shepard said in a telephone interview from New York. “We’ll have a meeting in a few weeks to see if any distributors are interested in picking up the pilot, and if so we can proceed with developing it.”
    He said that “Swimming Lessons” features a man suffering from depression and a midlife crisis who’s teaching four dysfunctional  7-year-olds how to swim. Shepard voices one of the youngsters, and his fiancee, Danielle Scherr, does another.
    “My brother has been developing a slate of other projects, around four of them,” he said. “The next two or three projects will probably be based  in Kansas. Kansas was such a great place to grow up. Independence is my home, and Pittsburg is a great place to be.”
    Shepard came to Pittsburg State University in 2002 and graduated with a major in broadcast journalism in 2006. He also played on the Gorilla baseball team for all four years of school.
    “I loved Pitt State,” he said. “It’s small enough you could stand out, and not so big that you could get lost.”
    Shepard also said he had two important mentors at PSU.
    “Steve Bever, my baseball coach, is a great guy and was very patient with me,” he said. “I still e-mail Dr. Cynthia Allan, who’s now the communication department chairman, all the time. I would take classes I didn’t have to take to be around her. As far as mentors go, she’s second to my mother.”
    He spent the summer between his PSU junior and senior year in New York City.
    “I got a post-production internship with ‘Inside the Actors Studio’ on the Bravo cable television channel,” Shepard said. “After I graduated from PSU, I went back to Independence for a while, then I got a phone call that they needed a production assistant on the show. I got pretty lucky.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The majority of the show is devoted to a one-on-one interview between executive producer James Lipton and performers and creators of film and theater. The huge guest list ranges from Amy Adams to Renee Zellweger.
    “About five of us run the show, and I’ve been associate producer for a handful of shows,” Shepard said. “It’s a great day job, with time left over for me to do the things I want to do.”
    In 2011 he started Woodland View Productions with his brother. One of the first projects he wrote was a five-part web series titled “Nice Guy.” Then came the first animated web series, “Chicks on a Bench,” which he based on conversations he heard between Danielle Scherr and her roommate, Lindsay Simon. He posted an ad on craigslist and found an animator
    “For whatever reason people really liked ‘Chicks on a Bench’ and I got an agent out of  it,” Shepard said. “I sold the concept to MTV, and it’s still in development. It might not make it, because a lot of shows get sold, but only a small percentage make it to a series.”
    The latest, of course, is “Swimming Lessons,” but it won’t be the last.
    “You just hope you put the right project out and the right person sees it,” Shepard said. “It only takes one project to change the trajectory of your career.”

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