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Film Notes: Web Series Shot in Lyme Debuts Next Month

  • Gordon Clapp, left, of Norwich, and Gillian Tyler, of Fairlee, discuss a shot with cinematographer Matt Bucy, of White River Junction, right, and co-director John Griesemer, of Lyme, during shooting last fall of the web series Parmalee.

  • New York actress Caitlin Clouthier gets ready for one of her close-ups on the set of "Parmalee," a web series shot in Lyme.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, April 28, 2016

Will online viewers of Parmalee care that most of the scenes in the Upper Valley-crafted web series set in small-town Vermont show the actors hitting their marks in Lyme?

Co-creator and Lyme resident John Griesemer doesn’t sound worried, two weeks before a compilation/pilot of the first four episodes about small-town dysfunction in the digital age premieres at the White River Indie Festival in mid-May.

“We talked a lot about the irony,” Griesemer, who directed last summer’s shoot of the first season with wife Faith Catlin, actor-producer Richard Waterhouse of Newbury, Vt., and developer/filmmaker Matt Bucy of Hartford, said this week. “ ‘Well, how does Parmalee, N.H., sound versus Parmalee, Vt.?’ When we were still in the abstract discussion phase two winters ago, Richard and Dan,” Waterhouse’s husband and Parmalee co-star Dan Butler, “thought it would be great to do something about a town in Vermont.”

“Something” evolved into an exploration of the ripple effects on a rural northern New England community after kids stumble upon “a horrific video” and post it on the Internet.

In addition to Butler, the radio sports-talk host in the 1990s sitcom Frasier whose acting credits also include The Silence of the Lambs, portraying the besieged principal of Parmalee School, NYPD Blue co-star and Norwich resident Gordon Clapp plays police chief Karl Parmalee. Meanwhile, Catlin plays “citizen-at-large” Aggie Pennington, Waterhouse depicts the director of the local Parmalee Players theater troupe, Hanover playwright Marisa Smith plays the superintendent of schools, and Caitlin Clouthier, now co-starring in Northern Stage’s production of Allan Ayckbourn’s Living Together, portrays a teacher at the school.

In addition to having so much talent based in and around the Upper Valley, including Bucy and his facility with the latest in digital cinematography and editing, the production benefited from the logistical support of the likes of Lyme Police Chief Shawn O’Keefe, who provided uniforms, police officer Anthony Swett, who artfully directed rush-hour traffic away from one shooting site on River Road, and of the mechanics at Lyme’s Veracka’s Garage.

“John and Faith are local fixtures and in some ways celebs in Lyme now, so what they managed to pull together in terms of people, locations and vehicles, was just amazing,” Waterhouse wrote during an exchange of emails on Thursday. “Any time any of us mentioned what we were doing, the stock response was ‘what do you need? Do you wanna use my barn, lake house, car, office, husband?’ I had the same experience on a smaller scale up in Newbury.”

With all the in-kind donations of time and talent and infrastructure, the core Parmalee team ended up investing a combined $6,000 of their own money, Griesemer estimated. The plan to groom the episodes for the Internet came early on, given the costs and logistics of producing a series for broadcast or cable TV.

“The amazing thing with the Internet is the ability to reach thousands or hundreds of thousands of people with your work,” Waterhouse wrote. “That’s especially rare in the Upper Valley, so that was fun to think about and a goal to shoot for. With a web series you can really make exactly the show you want. You don’t have to sell it to someone in advance or please a group of executives to get it made. The challenge is on the other end. Once it’s out there, will anyone watch it?”

Griesemer, who drew inspiration from watching the web series High Maintenance, about a pot dealer in Brooklyn, hopes that viewers who prefer watching their stories on their smartphones and their tablets to sharing a big screen with a crowd, will answer in the affirmative, once the creators have “sliced and diced it” for the web.

“It’ll get out there,” he said. “People will see it and pass on links. It just seemed like the way to go.”

So don’t have a cow at the sight of many of the cars in the series bearing white license plates with green lettering, tooling around an ostensibly Vermont town.

“Once it goes national, I don’t think that’ll be an issue,” Griesemer said. “I don’t think too many people in Oregon are going to be saying, ‘What are those strange plates doing in Vermont?’

“If they’re focused on license plates instead of the story, we’re in trouble.”

A compilation of the first four episodes of the web series Parmalee will premiere on the second day of the White River Indie Festival, May 14 at 7 p.m. at Northern Stage’s Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction. For tickets ($7 to $9) and more information about the screening or about the festival, visit wrif.org or call 802-478-0191.

On Location

Clapp and former Cornish resident Matt Salinger are among several people with Upper Valley connections in the cast and crew of Northeast Kingdom filmmaker Jay Craven’s now-in-production feature, Wetware.

In a recent email, Craven said that Salinger is playing the role of the chief operating officer of Galapagos Wetware while Clapp is portraying a cook, in the adaptation of novelist Craig Nova’s “near-future noir” thriller about the unintended consequences that people down on their luck encounter when they apply for genetic modifications. Members of the production crew include Kearsarge Regional High School senior Matt LaPrade and Colby-Sawyer College students Nathaly Abreau and Amy Blazej.

After shooting over the winter and spring at locations in Vermont, the crew moved to Massachusetts’ Nantucket island in early April. The shoot is scheduled to wrap this coming weekend, with the movie hitting theaters in 2017. This week, the Kickstarter campaign for the project surpassed its goal of raising $48,000; as of Thursday, the campaign had reached $59,000.

For more information about the production, visit kingdomcounty.org.

Coming Attractions

Norwich native Ben Finer, a 1997 graduate of Hanover High School, premieres his short fiction film, In the Bight, at Kimball Union Academy’s Flickinger Arts Center in Meriden on Saturday night, with screenings at 6:30 and 7:30. It stars 9-year-old twins Laura and Kyle Hines, following them through a romp through the woods and their imaginations.

This afternoon and Saturday morning, Community Access TV Channel 8 will air Beyond You and I, an animated science-fiction short, featuring puppets in outer space, that Hanover High School graduate Michael “Mike Sal” Salvatoriello wrote, shot and scored.

The starting times for the screenings are 2:45 this afternoon and 7:45 Saturday morning. The film also is viewable online at youtube.com/watch?v=f6Cz_wWXFf4.

Next Thursday night at 7 in Dartmouth College’s Loew Auditorium, the Hopkins Center will screen Peabody Award finalist Thomas Allen Harris’ new film, Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People. The documentarian is serving a Montgomery Fellowship at Dartmouth, and will lead a discussion after the screening. For tickets ($5 to $9) and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.