When Martin von Ruden, a TV producer and once-long-time Pismo Beach resident, recently returned to the Central Coast to visit family, he did not expect his trip would lead him to produce a web series only weeks later.
His original, six-part online documentary series titled “Tales of Old Edna” is currently streaming on YouTube.
The series centers on Pattea Torrence and her tireless work and creativity in bringing the historic Old Edna Townsite back to life. Von Ruden looks to expand the concept for long-form formats for TV and possibly a book.
In the 1970s, while growing up, both von Ruden and Torrence spent time at the Old Edna property. Both of their families were also friends with Frederick Holley, an artist from Amsterdam who lived on the property. But von Ruden and Torrence did not know each other until high school.
A couple of years ago, while living in New York, von Ruden rediscovered Old Edna through mutual friends on Facebook and began following online.
“I was so impressed with what she was doing,” von Ruden said, “but I wasn’t quite sure what it was.”
Speaking about the photos that Torrence posted on Facebook, von Ruden said, “It was very comforting, very nostalgic to see these pictures of where I grew up. I was, as I always am, stunned by the beauty of it. It was my momentary online escape.”
Fast-forward to von Ruden’s visit with his family during Christmas last year, when he made a run to the grocery store for his parents.
“I had one item,” von Ruden said, “and the woman in line at the checkout turned around and said, ‘Is that all you have? Go ahead.’” That woman was Pattea Torrence, the woman providing the photos von Ruden had been enjoying on Facebook over the last two years.
The two took turns responding to the usual ‘what have you been up to’s’ when Torrence answered “I bought a town” von Ruden was further intrigued and wanted to know more. They arranged for him to visit Old Edna.
Once there, the property and Torrence’s work was an inspiration.
“I think the story is so special,” von Ruden said. “Her devotion is so profound that I was like, ‘Can I tell your story?’ And she said, ‘Sure.’”
Von Ruden returned with a camera and a crew to capture not only the property but also the story of a woman who gave everything to make her dream come true.
He plans to shop the concept around, mentioning its potential for networks such as HGTV and OWN.
“I haven’t even gone there yet because we’re so early in this phase,” von Ruden said.
First he will let audiences tell him what they want from the story.
“I know the story’s there,” von Ruden said, “but today’s media requires letting the audience tell you what they want to see.”
Pattea Torrence fell in love with Old Edna in the 1970s as a child. She and her husband, Jeff Kocan, purchased it in 2000. They have since restored several of the 11 structures at the Old Edna Townsite. Edna Hall is now home to Sextant Wines’ gourmet deli and tasting room. Suite Edna, the main farmhouse, and DeSolina Cottage now serve as vintage farmhouse vacation rentals where guests can stay and enjoy Edna Valley wine country. Old Edna also offers a popular venue for family reunions, bridal showers, and other celebrations. Producers and videographers often rent the facilities for professional video and commercial shoots. Learn more at oldedna.com.