Builder to the stars looks toward series
JOHNSTOWN — Many might not know it, but since 2002 Jonathan Sweet — a builder and city resident — has been quietly putting together world class wood crafted furniture for customers all over the country in a workshop on Perry Street, right in the center of downtown. But Sweet’s anonymity is about to change, as he is set to star in a new reality series which will put his workshop and craft on center stage.
The cast and crew of “Building For the Stars,” gathered Thursday night in Sweet’s workshop at 10 N . Perry St. to celebrate the kick off of the series, which is due to begin filming in the coming weeks.
“This is where I hibernate, really,” Sweet said of his workshop. “I’m really quiet around town. I really just like coming in here, closing the door — nobody knows what I’m doing — and just kind of let my mind spin.”
“Building For the Stars” will film 13 episodes, with each episode featuring a different celebrity guest for whom series star Jonathan Sweet, newly donned “the Godfather” will design and build a custom piece of wood furniture. The series will be partially filmed on location in Johnstown as Sweet builds the custom furniture inside his workshop on Perry Street.
Lou Pizarro, creator and former star of the series “Operation Repo” as well as a producer for “Building For the Stars,” will be the celebrity guest featured in the first episode.
Pizarro, who was present at the open house, expressed his excitement for the series and the satisfaction of being a financial backer, saying “I think it’s important that they have a dream. In the beginning, I didn’t have that support, so it’s so important [for me] to help out. I do whatever I can. I’m excited to be here.”
“Building For the Stars,” was dreamed up by creator Ted “Teddy-G” Gatto. Gatto, along with producer and partner Jeremy “The Boss” Lynn filmed a pilot episode of the show in the Summer of 2016, with Johnny “Woodchuck” Bennet of Johnstown being the star furniture builder. The pilot featured Nickelodeon celebrity Drake Bell, and caused enough of a splash for Gatto to gain financial backing. But with Bennet’s departure to Florida, Gatto was left without a builder. That is until reacquainting with old high school classmate Jonathan Sweet. Both are Fonda-Fultonville graduates — Sweet graduating in 1988 and Gatto in 1992.
“Other than about an hour ago, the last time I saw Teddy was in 1988,” Sweet said.
The two were put in touch through mutual friend Todd “St. Todd” Bailey, a photographer in charge of the local film crew for “Building For the Stars” whose art studio is also located in the same Perry Street building as Sweet’s.
“[Bailey] kind of rekindled my relationship with Teddy who ironically I knew from high school,” Sweet said. “I had long forgotten about Teddy. So it was just ironic that his name came up about a year ago. He gave me a ring and said I saw some of your furniture online and told me about [Building For the Stars]. At first I really wasn’t sure. But you kind of marinate on some things and finally I said all right we’ll give it a shot. It’s maybe a launching pad for something.”
Sweet’s work, which includes “a throwback cross design of an Adirondack chair” among many other unique creations, is marketed as “modern Adirondack and rustic industrial.” But Sweet says that he hasn’t yet been able to really define his work.
“I’ve had several different design professionals try to understand what our design is,” Sweet said. “I think it’s still ever evolving. It’s just our sensibility.”
“Building For the Stars” will also feature work by Jordan “Popcorn” Kalinowski, who will be working in collaboration with Sweet, doing metal work on the furniture. Kalinowski, who runs Kern Creations in Palatine Bridge, began doing metal work at the age of 15.
Kalinowski started out doing custom metal work on motorcycles, before expanding into custom pieces that involve wood and leather, in addition to metal.
“I like to take that cold, industrial material and force it into something that could have grown and been picked right off the ground. That’s kind of the style that I like to go for,” Kalinowski said.
After several years in the making, with the crew assembled, and with the financial backing of producers like Lou Pizarro, “Building For the Stars” is set to begin production in the coming weeks.
“This show started a couple years ago, and it went up and down, and it was hard and we really kept on pushing forward and now we’re finally here at this spot,” said Gatto. “And this is really important because we have a real builder, which is really great and it’s like the magic and fun is about to start.”
Gatto said he tries to set up concerts and other events to help fund the series, which he hopes to release through various streaming services as opposed to being picked up by a traditional network.
“When we do these concerts, it helps fund the TV show. I set it up where we don’t have to rely on a network. By doing it the way I’m doing it, it gives me an opportunity to have [Sweet] as a character on the show. To work with people in town. Because networks, when they own you, whatever they say goes.”
For Gatto, “Building For the Stars” is as much about benefiting the community as it is to grow his own career. His goal is to not only feature local artists and businesses, but to give back to the community through contributions to high school music groups, the make-a-wish foundation, and the military.
Johnstown Mayor Vern Jackson, also in attendance at Thursday night’s open house, said, “We appreciate what you do. You’re bringing us on the map here, even more.”
Gatto is actively seeking local sponsors for the show, saying that whatever a local business is able to give, 20 percent will be returned to the city of Johnstown.
“It’s a whole big community getting together,” Gatto said. “We’ve got this big show and it’s just going to be fantastic. Once it goes we’re not going to stop.”
For more information on the show and for information on how to become a sponsor, visit their website at www.buildingforthestars.com. or follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/buildingforthestars.