Willow Polson, of Groveland, stands in front of a map used on the set of one of her favorite television shows and holds a signed photograph including the map. Maggie Beck / Union Democrat, Copyright 2013.
A television show about superheroes inspired Willow Polson, of Groveland, to pursue her Hollywood-sized aspirations.
Polson has been on a creative streak ever since the first season of "Heroes" aired on NBC in 2006 - publishing a novel, developing a comic book and creating a potential TV series of her own.
"It changed everything for me," Polson said.
Prior to "Heroes," Polson's longtime obsession with science fiction and fantasy culture seemed like it would never amount to much more than just a hobby.
Polson was introduced to comic books at a young age by her grandfather, Albert Law, who collected "Tarzan" comics. Law would often bring her and her sister, Karen Frank, titles like "Archie" as gifts on regular visits to their family home in the Bay Area.
When she got a little older, Law would take Polson to a comic shop in Berkeley for bigger-kid comics, such as "X-Men" and "Spider-man."
Comics made Polson feel "almost like the impossible was possible," she said.
"Ordinary people can discover they can do something extraordinary," Polson said. "It felt like all of it could really happen in some alternate reality."
In the 1980s, Polson attended San Francisco State University as an art major before getting a job as a graphic designer for a publishing company based in Concord. She worked her way up to an assistant editor position at the company.
One day around 1990, Polson skimmed through a magazine at a record shop near her workplace and saw an ad for a local progressive rock band, Puppet Show, that was in need of a singer.
She called about the gig and didn't get it, but instead had a four-hour conversation with her future husband, Craig Polson.
"What initially interested me, and certainly is still the case, is that she's really strong," Craig Polson said. "She has clear ideas and a very strong personality."
Willow and Craig were married three years later, had a child and moved to Groveland in 2001.
They celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary in September. Their son, Cian, is now 16 and attends Coulterville High.
Over the years, Willow and Craig have been hooked on various science fiction television programs, including the long-running BBC show, "Dr. Who."
"We kind of both really get into whatever it is that has our interest," Craig Polson said.
And nothing in 2006 would capture their imaginations more than "Heroes."
Craig, a website designer and programmer by trade, even built a fan page on the Internet dedicated to the show, which led to producers tapping Willow to help manage the show's official fan club in 2007.
Willow also receivedand purchased a number of props from the set over the years, including a world map prominently featured in the third season that she proudly hangs on the wall of her home office.
NBC eventually canceled "Heroes" in its fourth season amid a decline in viewership. Willow said she thought the initial success of the show had a lot to do with fans being able to relate to its characters, despite their superhuman abilities.
"Anybody could be a hero, and I think that struck a chord with a lot of people," Polson said. "Everybody needs those two things - to know they can make a difference and to have hope."
Polson made several key connections with cast and crew members before the series' cancellation, including"Heroes" creator Tim Kring, who invited her to the set of his other show "Touch," starring Kiefer Sutherland.
The visit made it clear to Polson that working on a film or TV production was her ultimate destiny.
"It didn't leave me. It was something I had to do," she said.
Polson had a hand in bringing a little piece of Hollywood to her small Sierra Nevada community this summer. She helped facilitate the shooting of several scenes for an independent film at the Groveland Hotel, where she has worked as the events and marketing manager for the past six years.
The film, "The Road Within," stars several up-and-coming actors, including Dev Patel, who also has a role on HBO's hit show "The Newsroom." The film's producers at the time said they were planning to keep the names of locations unchanged in the final cut, which could prove to be good exposure for the Groveland Hotel, said owner Peggy Mosley.
"Willow is a great asset, and she's very talented," Mosley said. "Her strong suits are her creativity and connections to Hollywood."
Polson has used those connections to help attract Los Angeles-area entertainers to perform at the hotel for various events, including the Winter Magic dinner theater series that opened its 2013-14 season last Saturday.
Polson has also been working on an idea for a reality program about people living the "vintage lifestyle," an emerging group of hobbyists interested in old cars, clothes and items from the era between the 1920s and 50s.
Ginger Pauley, a Tuolumne County native and actress who now lives in Los Angeles, acted as host of the program for a brief four-minute "sizzle reel," which will eventually be used to pitch the show to television and cable networks.
Pauley had a small role in one episode of "Heroes" that aired in 2009, so Polson contacted her on Facebook and invited her to San Diego for Comic-Con International later that year. That's when they discovered the Tuolumne County connection.
Ginger and the Hoosier Daddys, a vintage band Pauley fronts, has since played at the Groveland Hotel, and the actress filmed the "sizzle reel" with Polson earlier this month in the LA-area.
Pauley gave Polson's production skills a glowing review.
"She was so professional," Pauley said. "I didn't know what to expect because I've filmed shows and movies, but never one where I've been the host. As a producer, she kept everything running so smoothly and made me so comfortable."
In addition to the show, Polson has completed the second book in her planned four-volume fantasy series about three brothers who find out they're angels. The first 320-page book, called "Triune," released in 2010, is available in digital format through the online retailer Amazon.
Polson is also waiting to hear about the status of her comic book, "Isaac's Wings," set in the future about a prison-lifer who volunteers for an interplanetary exploration mission and gets stranded on a hostile world alone.
The potential artist, Ken Lashley, who has done work for major publishers including Marvel Comics and DC Comics, drew concept art for the book and agreed to shop it around at upcoming conventions after enjoying the four-issue script Polson sent to him.
In the meantime, Polson and her husband are in post-production on the recently filmed pitch for her proposed TV show. As soon as they are finished with the work, some of which includes cataloging shots and sound engineering, the footage will be sent to a professional editor and pieced together into the final product.
From that point, the groundwork begins. But Polson is hopeful that a network will be interested in picking up the show as a series.
"When she gets something in her head, she just does it," Pauley said of her friend. "She's a big fish in a small pond up there."