There's a new video web series being shot on the Upper Valley. It’s about two kids who make their sleepy little town instantly infamous.
The series title, Parmalee, is the fictional name of a Connecticut River town a lot like Lyme, New Hampshire. That’s where co-director, John Griesemer, lives and works in a big house with his wife Faith Catlin. With co-creator Richard Waterhouse and a lot of other friends in the theater business — both famous and undiscovered — they’ve been making this web series right in their neighborhood and they’re in the home stretch.
As some actors rehearse around his kitchen table and others get make-up and costumes in the living room, Griesemer settles into a comfy couch and sums up the plot.
“It’s about a small town in Vermont where several kids come across or create a rather horrific and kind of terrifying video from a tragic event,” he explains. “And they upload it. And it’s what happens to the town when that video goes viral — when the world finds out about where this place is and what happened there.”
The events in Parmalee are set in motion when an unstable guy named Hemenway, who idolizes Ernest Hemingway, does something shocking to show his irrational devotion.
To disclose more than that, Grieseman says, would be a spoiler.
Griesemer sees the Internet as an ideal format for short episodes that don’t have to fit into a rigid time frame. His cast includes a few pros, including Gordon Clapp, who has recently moved from Los Angeles to Norwich. Clapp is the Emmy-award winning actor who created Greg Medavoy, a quirky cop on the long running TV hit, NYPD Blue. More recently he’s been touring a one man-show called “This Verse Business,” about one of his favorite poets, Robert Frost. In the Parmalee series, he plays a police chief based loosely on a composite of law enforcement officers he knew growing up in New Hampshire.
Especially one named Bob Macomber.
“He ran the skating rink as well,” Clapp recalls, slipping easily into a north country accent. “He was never the chief but he was on the force, and he was my goalie coach in hockey. So these are the small town cops I remember. But I’ve had a few run-ins over the years on the way through towns in this part of the world, you know,” Clapp admits before getting fitted for his uniform.
In one scene, Clapp goes on patrol in a cruiser borrowed from the Lyme Police Department along a riverside stretch of Route 5. He spots a dotty old woman named Mae plucking wildflowers.
"Picture's up!” calls the camera man.
He’s Matt Bucy, a White River Junction developer, architect, selectman and, on this afternoon, videographer.
Portraying the apparently demented Mae is local thespian Gil Tyler. Many years ago she and her husband helped start the Thetford-based Parish Players, but this is her first foray into film. Wearing a perky little hat bedecked with silk flowers, Tyler must pretend to be disoriented, even though in real life she lives in a little stone house just down the road.
“This is very familiar territory to me, so I won’t feel lost at all,” she notes.
But on camera, she seems authentically batty as Clapp gently asks if she knows where she is, and where’s she’s going.
“Well, one of us knows where she is,” Mae replies, peering curiously into the cruiser’s rear view mirror.
"Just wanted to make sure you were safe and ... sound," Clapp, as Karl the cop, replies.
Theirs is one of the last scenes in the shooting schedule. Now comes the editing phase. When the first four episodes go online at the end of the year, producers hope to catch the attention of a well-financed distributor willing to take this small town story big time — into cyberspace.
Update September 22, 2015. This post has been updated to include Richard Waterhouse's role in the web series.