Parmalee: Lyme NH on the Big Screen
Matt Bucy: Not Just About the Buildings
The town of Lyme NH turned out to watch itself on the silver screen Saturday night. "The Lyme glitterati," as one audience member described them, mixed with their Upper Valley neighbors to watch the world premiere of Parmalee, a soon-to-be web series about modern small town Vermont, shot in Lyme, New Hampshire. It was the hottest, best-selling ticket of the ongoing White River Indie Film festival at the Barrette Center for the Arts.
Skip right past any thoughts you may be having about mythically bucolic Vermont. There is an aerial shot of the requisite white steepled church amid some greenery, and a mention of the problem with ticks. Other than that, the film is not drenched in the usual Vermont iconography, although there's definitely a small town feel; the characters' lives have present and past connection, one "hits the jackpot on casseroles" after a death in the family, and the town police officer (Gordon Clapp) stops a car--not for the first time--to make sure that elderly Mae (Gillian Tyler) knows where she is. For good measure, there is a community theater production of Our Town in the making.
The "WRIF cut" was a compilation of the first four episodes of Parmalee. The opening scene is of four repellent teens (Jack Lynch, Noah Taylor, Linus Mayo and Pierre Mayo) with phones in front of their faces, filming the hapless Mae doing a face-plant into the concrete sidewalk. It's cruel, but followed by worse. Ernie Hemenway (Chris Ryan, who steals this film), a high school class and their teacher (Caitlin Clouthier), watch a live feed of tragedy involving Ernie's father, Guy (Brian Johnston). The gruesome podcast, captured by one of the students, goes viral.
Asked after the screening about the theme of Parmalee, co-director Richard Waterhouse said it was about modern technology and Vermont, and how "they don't go together." The juxtaposition produces "funny and not-so-funny stuff." Aside from the the fun of recognizing familiar landmarks, and the zingers of the town eccentric Aggie (Faith Catlin), Parmalee was less comic, more unsettling, with characters quirky enough to love. And with a boffo for-now ending.
A meta-story about this production is how elbow-deep in local talent it is. It is no secret that many well-known actors and movie folk have made the Upper Valley their home. A core group has been hashing out Parmalee over the past couple of years. Matt Bucy is best known as the man who helped to revitalize White River Junction, VT by renovating the Tip Top Building into an arts center, and an old American Legion Hall into micro-apartments for the burgeoning group of young artists in search of hip and affordable housing. Turns out that Bucy is also a filmmaker, a co-creator of Parmalee along with Catlin, John Greisemer, author of Signal and Noise and actor living in Lyme, and Waterhouse, of Newbury, VT
Gordon Clapp, currently of Norwich VT, is known for his role as Greg Medavoy in television's NYPD Blue. Northern Stage fans know him for his work in A Christmas Carol and in last fall's staged reading of Trick or Treat (on next year's Stage lineup). Dan Butler, formerly of the television show Frasier, now of Newbury VT, portrays Parmalee's principal, with playwright Marisa Smith (last fall's Northern Stage's world premiere of Mad Love) as the school superintendent. Caitlin Clouthier is temporarily local as she stars in the Stage's and two other area theaters' productions of the Norman Conquests.
Whither goest Parmalee? The creators plan some final edits and the posting of the first four episodes onto their website (parmaleethewebseries.wordpress.com) for watching binge-style. Asked whether future episodes will be forthcoming, Waterhouse said that he hoped so. The project thus far has cost $6500 with the actors deferring salaries.
The film festival continues this Sunday and Monday. A complete schedule and information about tickets can be found at WRIF's website. Since sitting, even to watch a film, is said to be the new smoking, you can redeem yourself and your health at the festival's close on Monday evening. It's a zydeco dance party.
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