Local filmmakers' new television show will see special Portland screening Monday
Ever watch a television show and think you could do better?
That's exactly the thought that Brianna Barrett and Jeremiah Adler had.
'Everyone watches TV and says they could probably come up with an idea better than some of that,' Barrett said, laughing. 'So we did.'
Barrett, 22, of Tigard, and Adler, 24, of Garden Home, have spent the last two years writing, directing, editing and pitching a new television pilot - the first episode of a new television series - that they hope will get picked up by a network like NBC or HBO.
It premieres Monday night at the Bagdad Theater in Southeast Portland.
Called 'Nick Bradley Might Be an Alcoholic,' the pilot and the series that would accompany it, follows the adventures of the title character, a 20-something party animal who becomes the CEO of his father's company the morning after he drunkenly crashed his car.
But don't let the show's seemingly dark premise fool you; Barrett calls it 'a smart comedy' - and not at all a downer.
'Beyond even the question of alcoholism, the heart of the show is the question we all face: When it's time to grow up and be a responsible adult? That's something I think everybody can relate to,' she said.
Now, they've shown their pilot to several studios in Los Angeles and have solicited feedback from Oscar- and Emmy-winning members of the Hollywood community. Barrett and Adler are returning to Oregon for a one-night-only screening of 'Nick Bradley' in Portland on Monday night.
'This is the one and only chance to see the original pilot before it's sold, reshot and stuck in a vault until it's released as a DVD extra,' Barrett said. 'Nobody on the cast and crew has seen it, and nobody knows what it looks like except us. We felt like it was the right thing to do, everybody worked so hard on it.'
'We call it a dramedy'
So what kind of a show is 'Nick Bradley?'
'We call it a dramedy,' said Adler, 24, who co-wrote and directed the pilot. 'It fits the mold of shows like 'Californication,' 'Entourage,' 'Weeds' - that mix of comedy and drama together. It's about a couple of guys who screw around and do stupid stuff, but there's consequences for that kind of reckless behavior.'
Barrett and Adler have pitched their show to various television studios in Los Angeles, with positive results, but they insist they wanted to work in television long before 'Nick Bradley' came into their lives.
'We were originally going to move to L.A. with a stack of scripts we'd written and hustle ourselves to get an agent,' Adler said. 'But then we realized that we could cut about 10 years of working up through the ranks as a staff writer, then story editor, then co-producer until you're able to come up with your own shows - or we could just make one and start from there.'
The two were attending Willamette University in Salem when they got the idea for a possible television show.
'We got to asking questions about what an alcoholic is,' Barrett said. 'There's always a guy in rehab who thinks he's not supposed to be there. But then we figured, probably, most people in rehab think they are that one guy who's not supposed to be there.'
That concept was all the spark they needed. Barrett and Adler wrote 30 drafts of the script before the cameras started rolling.
The cast and crew - all Portland-area talent - worked for free on the project, based on the strength of the script.
From the start, Barrett said, the plan was never to accept mediocrity.
'We were wild perfectionists about the whole thing,' she said. 'We said from the beginning that there was no point in making it at all unless it was going to look as good or better than anything on TV.'
That was a challenge. The average television pilot can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Barrett and Adler worked with only a $4,000 donation from Barrett's family to create their show.
'We had to work a lot harder,' Adler said. 'Instead of renting a house for a scene, like you'd normally do in Hollywood, we walked around going door to door asking if they would help us out and let us shoot in their house.'
Adler said that's where filming in the Portland area really came in handy.
'So many people donated their time. We got three houses who let us use their homes for the shoot for free. You could never do that in L.A.'
Sold by Monday?
At the end of production, a family living in one of the homes used for the production bought Adler a bottle of champagne.
'She made me promise not to open it until we sell the pilot to a studio,' Adler said. 'It's chilling right now.'
Adler hopes to be able to open that bottle at the premiere, set for Monday, Dec. 20.
'It's our biggest hope and desire that we will be able to announce that we sold it at the premiere,' he said. 'And it's certainly a possibility.'
Barrett and Adler aren't the first people from Tigard and Beaverton to head for Hollywood. Kaitlin Olson, star of 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' grew up in Tigard, and 'Battlestar Galactica' boasted Katee Sackhoff from Sunset High School in Beaverton.
The star of 'Nick Bradley,' Portland actor Gavin Bristol, has had small roles in the Twilight saga films. Adler said NBC executives saw Bristol's performance in 'Nick Bradley,' and he's expected to start auditioning for roles on a new network series in January.
If 'Nick Bradley' does get picked up by a network, Barrett said she would be one of the youngest TV show creators to date.
But even if 'Nick Bradley' never develops into the next smash-hit show, Barrett and Adler said it's opened doors for them on future projects.
'The pilot has been a great calling card to get other work while we're selling it,' Barrett said.
She's already hard at work on another pilot.
Adler said the two are also in talks with Happy Madison Productions - comedian Adam Sandler's company - for a third, new pilot.
'The one thing we've learned is that everything moves so slowly,' Adler said. 'Getting one meeting with a studio takes eight different people having to fit it into their schedules, and then they get rescheduled two or three times.'
What: Premiere of 'Nick Bradley Might Be an Alcoholic.'
Where: Bagdad Theater, 3702 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd., Portland.
When: Monday, Dec. 20, doors open at 5:30, show starts at 6:30 p.m.
How much: Free, though $5 donations are appreciated.
Then what? The show will be followed by a Q and A with the directors and cast members.