Nick Jr. airing Hattie Mercier video

03.07.2012 Dean Rhodes People, Entertainment

This story ran in the Nov. 1, 2010, Smoke Signals. The video is now airing and also can be viewed by clicking on this Web site:

Before it was over, the folks from Nickelodeon Junior spent two days in the West Valley area, shot five to six hours worth of digital video, and will, in a month's time, have that edited down to a 60-second television spot ready for broadcast.

Tribal member Hattie Mercier, 5, was the focus of all the filming. She may not yet know that children in Amsterdam and India, across the Middle East, Europe and China will be seeing her beautiful smile before the year is out.

The project called "Kids Around the World" aims for a documentary style. Interviews with 4-to-6-year olds from around the world each fill 60-second spots as they show and talk about their lives. At the end, each child says: "This is my world. What's it like in your world?"

Nick Junior is Nickelodeon's channel aimed at pre-schoolers.

Nick Junior does not run commercials, so short form pieces like this are used to separate programming with the underlying idea that "education comes first," according to Nickelodeon Production Manager Chad Parker.

"Kids all do the same stuff," said Parker. "They go to school. They eat meals. But there are things that make them different, too. Unique."

The 60-second spots explore both.

The crew followed up auditions earlier in the month with two more days focusing on Hattie.

"When we auditioned," said David Poulshock, a writer/director for Portland-based Red Door Films, the Portland point man on this shoot, "Hattie was chosen because of her delightfulness."

The crew filmed Hattie at home in Willamina, at the home of her grandfather, Tribal Elder Darrell Mercier, in Grand Ronde, in the South Yamhill River that runs behind his home and at Hattie's Tribal kindergarten Chinuk wawa immersion class.

"The goal is capturing Hattie as she is," said director Koyalee Chanda, a New York-based freelancer who specializes in children's programming. "She's so smart, so expressive," she said. "She's such an amazing kid."

It is easy to see why. After the first day, Hattie told her mother, Hollie Mercier, that she had made a lot of new friends. Nickelodeon had supplied three of them, including Chanda, Parker and writer/producer Kim Chalmers, who also created this series that is not yet a year old.

Portland-based Red Door Productions, hired by Nickelodeon to do the auditions and coordinate a local crew, supplied Hattie with eight more friends for what they called a "small" filming project in Grand Ronde and Willamina on Oct. 20-21.

"Naturally, we're very excited," said Hattie's father, Tribal member John Mercier, who is also director of Program Operations for the Tribe. "We feel very privileged that we were selected for this. Part of our philosophy as a family is we want to see our children be friendly and socially secure and feel confident. We want to expose them to a wide range of opportunities."

But not necessarily a skewed look at fame.

Before the audition interviews, said Hollie, "We told her they just want to interview some cool kids, and you're a cool kid."

Still, the hours of set up and practice and takes and then delays with the promise of more of the same, the many strange faces all focused on Hattie, the managing of not only people, but the beautiful labs, Barkley and Mater, the four horses and assorted lady bugs finally took their toll around noon on the second day. It had been cold all morning and nobody saw it coming.

"And here, I thought I'd be the one having the jitters," said Hollie.

"We have to let her know that there's no wrong way to do it," said director Chanda, heading over to the swing set to give that exact message to Hattie. Hattie's older brothers, Tribal members Kalim, 14, and Nick Larsen, 11, pushed her and baby sister and Tribal member Gracie, 3, on the swings.

Poulshock called, "Lunch."

"It truly does take a village," said John after the sun finally came out and calm returned to the neighborhood.

Hattie fed her pizza to Barkley and the crew headed to the Tribal Education center to film a cattail weaving lesson in the language immersion class.

"It was really interesting to see how it was done," said Tribal member and Chinuk Immersion Kindergarten teacher Kathy Cole, who was, at the same time, showing the world how her work was done. Tribal Elder Connie Graves also lent her expertise to the demonstration.

On the production side, Chanda encouraged the young students by name, and sought "BIG smiles" on their faces. Alternately, she talked to the crew about "bullet points" and "process" and "watch that they step over the wires."

After class, the crew returned to Hattie's home where they filmed some last shots before the Mercier family hosted the crew to a salmon barbecue.

"I think it's pretty crazy that my 5-year-old sister is so outgoing," said Tribal member Devin Larsen, 16. "I'm really proud of her."

When it was over, John said, "Then, we all caught our breath."