Note: Let us follow that headline by admitting the grand "maybe-ness" of this endeavor while also acknowledging how amazing it would be to have a popular dramatic TV series shot and set in Nebraska that isn't "Tommy Lee Goes to College."*
* Which, no offense to national treasure Tommy Lee.
A group of filmmakers is launching a Kickstarter campaign to make America's own “Downton Abbey.”
And in Lincoln, Nebraska of all places.
The proposed fictional TV series would be called “The Rogers House,” taking its name from its setting and shooting location: Lincoln's historic Rogers House Bed and Breakfast Inn.
“Rogers House” would focus on a number of continuing characters: the innkeepers of the Rogers House, returning B&B guests, neighborhood residents. An old journal discovered by the modern day inn owner would serve as an ongoing plot element, letting the story flash back to the early 20th Century and giving the show that old “Downton-y” feel.
Some of the characters would be based on real people. The real people thing is actually how Alan Sands, executive producer of the project, got the idea for “Rogers House." He was visiting Lincoln, his hometown, and expecting to stay at the Rogers House for a few weeks. But then he became fascinated with the place and the people, and an idea started to form. What started as a few weeks in Lincoln turned into several months.
“When I started to see some of the characters who popped up at Rogers House,” Sands said, “Hollywood couldn't have done better. These are really special folks here.”
Sands started assembling his team, getting as co-creators screenwriter Paul Pender (best known for writing the Pierce Brosnan movie “Evelyn”) and Rogers House worker M.W. Nisbett.
Also involved is Omaha filmmaker Dana Altman (Robert Altman's grandson), who will direct both the teaser pitch to networks and -- fingers crossed -- the show's pilot.
Good TV shows these days, said Altman, are equal to if not better than good movies. Expectations are high to deliver quality filmmaking and production values.
“My approach is to make this as compelling as it would be if you saw it in a (movie) theater,” Altman said. "It's my job to build something smart enough to attract attention.”
Before any of this would become a reality, the “Rogers House” team has quite a few steps ahead of it:
1. Get the money
"Rogers House" is launching a Kickstarter campaign later this week, which will feature a promotional video. (We'll link to the page once it's available).
2. Film the teaser
If they meet their Kickstarter goal of around $25,000, they'll make a 5-minute teaser to show to the networks.
3. Get a pilot
If one of the networks likes the idea and the teaser (Sands said they hope to entice a cable network like AMC or HBO), they'll order a pilot.
4. And then ... (speculation on this writer's part) film the pilot, sell a first season to a major cable network, win the love and adoration of TV viewers everywhere, score record ratings, sweep the Emmys and Golden Globes, air seven seasons, get a spin-off series of that wacky crew of innkeepers/UNL students ...
* * *
"Rogers House" Kickstarter
This week, the “Rogers House” crew starts its fundraising efforts. They'll hold a private reception at the Rogers House from 5:30 to 7:30 Thursday evening. They're also launching a Kickstarter campaign later this week, which will feature a promotional video.
About the Rogers House Bed and Breakfast Inn
The Lincoln house at 2145 B St. was built in 1914 by banker N.C. Rogers as a retirement mansion. Starting in 1968, the house became a fraternity house for five years, then a home for the mentally handicapped for the next decade. In 1984, the home was renovated as an inn. In 1991, the Rogers House purchased the Ricketts-Folsom House (the West House) next door and reopened it as part of the inn a few years later. Both the West House and Rogers House have been declared local historic landmarks.