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TV show's focus: 'Greening' Greensburg A reality TV producer and actor Leonardo DiCaprio want to film a series about Greensburg's eco-friendly rebuilding efforts.

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, July 24, 2007, at 1:33 a.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008, at 5:15 p.m.

— The rebuilding of tornado-devastated Greensburg ought to make for dramatic television.

And a big-name TV producer was in town Monday night to explain how he -- with the help of movie star Leonardo DiCaprio -- planned to capture that drama and help the town while he's at it.

Craig Piligian, whose credits include the first three seasons of "Survivor" and popular Discovery Channel shows like "Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe" and "American Chopper," is joining Discovery Communications and outspoken environmentalist DiCaprio to put together a 13-part series about the recovery called "Eco-Town."

The series is planned for Discovery's new channel, Planet Green, which should launch early next year airing environment-focused programming.

Piligian and the president of Planet Green, Eileen O'Neill, presented their plans to the Greensburg City Council under a tent on the courthouse lawn.

"Eco-Town" will focus on Greensburg's efforts to rebuild with ecological concerns in mind, O'Neill said.

"What really struck us was your purposefulness after the disaster to rebuild and to rebuild better and to incorporate greenness into your plans," she said.

The network hopes to draw sponsors who will donate substantially to the rebuilding efforts.

But, she said, Greensburg would be in charge. Her network doesn't want to rush the rebuilding for the sake of the show.

"We're partners," she said. "We're not going to dictate anything in terms of how the city is going to recover. We hope we're here to help."

City Administrator Steve Hewitt said that once he was satisfied that the producers weren't interested in making a negative, controversial reality show, he was on board.

"Some of the things we want to do cost money and time," he said. "And if we can use the Discovery Channel to speed up the recovery efforts as well as help financially, we should look into that."

Piligian said he and the channel had considered Katrina-ravaged New Orleans for "Eco-Town."

But the area -- and the job -- was just too big.

When they saw aerial photos of Greensburg and heard about the city's wish to "go green" when rebuilding, they knew they'd found their town.

"This is a very dramatic recovery, and it's very dramatic what happened," he said. "There are so many personal stories, so many touching stories, I don't know where to begin."

Filming should start soon, Piligian said. His crews will live in Greensburg, and he hopes they'll be able to follow the recovery beyond the initial 13 episodes -- all the way through to completion.

"We'll be a presence here for quite some time," he said.

DiCaprio, the co-executive producer, wants to visit Greensburg, said Annie Howell, Planet Green's public affairs director, who also attended the meeting. But he'll have to see if he can squeeze it in with the three movies he's working on.

"We'll just have to see."

A few residents were skeptical.

One, who asked not to be named, said he was in favor of the project only if it made good on its promises of aid.

"If it gets us what we need to move on, then that's fine," he said.

But Devin Bundy, who lost his house in the tornado, said he wasn't impressed.

"I think it sounds like another distraction to the rebuilding of this town," he said.

Reach Denise Neil at 316-268-6327 or at dneil@wichitaeagle.com.

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