Lynne and Brooke Adams are two highly creative and energetic women. The sisters, both successful actresses, have stretched the boundaries of their artistic talents in a number of ways over the years.
Brooke is a prodigious painter who has shown her work at the Art Space at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse. She is also in the process of launching her own design line, called Arms Control (featuring full-arm’s-length gloves), with a plan to use the profits toward gun control advocacy.
Lynne is a writer, whose 2002 comedy film “Made Up” starred herself and her sister, and was directed by Brooke’s husband Tony Shalhoub (of the television series “Monk”). Recently she launched an interactive website called Movie Meeting House (moviemeetinghouse.com), which is set up as a virtual online gaming platform intended to help promote and share indie films.
Now, with their latest, and possibly most ambitious project yet, the Adams sisters are bringing together many of their unique endeavors to use as material for a mockumentary web series called “All Downhill From Here.”
Billed as “a web series about growing older,” the cross between a sitcom and a documentary is far more than that. It’s a laugh-out-loud, smart and witty comedy with a very clever — if absurd — premise, an amazing cast of characters (some playing themselves), and a slant toward the irreverent, the outrageous, and the just plain silly. And it all works. Guests at a recent preview party where the sisters screened a 20-minute montage of clips were clearly very entertained. The laughter was genuine, the reception enthusiastic.
That’s exactly what the Adams sisters are counting on: word-of-mouth promotion and an organic approach to building a following.
“We hope that we’ll get people sharing it,” says Lynne. The plan is to post episodes (some are as short as five minutes; the longest is a half-hour) on Facebook, and eventually gain a dedicated audience. “Everything depends on establishing a following,” says Brooke. “That’s when Netflix or Amazon might want to pick it up, or advertisers might be interested in coming on board. There are ways to make money without selling it.”
Lynne explains that once a show has been sold, it may bring in some revenue, but it also may never get aired, or take years, leaving the creators with no other options.
“Once we find a following, we can figure out how to monetize it,” says Brooke.
The challenge right now is working without a budget. So far, the sisters have managed to recruit actors and crew from among their many talented friends — including Hollywood actors Treat Williams, Griffin Dunne, Jamie Donnelly (“Grease”), and Diane Behrens (“Moneyball”), as well as accomplished Vineyarders such as Rose Styron, Jennie Allen, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, and Judy Belushi. There are many other locals featured that Islanders will recognize, like Carol Craven and Tamara Weiss.
Brooke has also recruited two of her daughters as actors.Twenty-two-year-old Sophie was, in her mother’s words, wrangled into a role. She and her farrier boyfriend run a horse farm on her parents’ property. “She’s a horse whisperer and an amazing teacher,” says Brooke. “She’s also studied equine therapy.”
Judging by the 20-minute trailer, Sophie has also inherited her parent’s acting talent, although Brooke says that none of her daughters are interested in following in their footsteps.
Joe Farina, Lynne’s former gardener, helped develop the series, and is a co-producer. “Joe and I had been talking about doing something for several years,” says Lynne, “It was very obvious that this was the way to go,” she says, referring to the web series/social media concept. So far Mr. Farina has served as more or less of a one-man production team (as well as an actor). He was helped along by some students and other summer people. Going forward, Lynne and Brooke are hoping to put together a volunteer crew.
They need help with production, post-production, social media, and general nonacting jobs. “We want to reach out and talk to people who are year-round Vineyarders,” says Lynne. Though the work is all unpaid at the moment, there is the opportunity to gain experience and portfolio material, as well as the possibility of paying jobs in the future. And, of course, it’s a fun atmosphere, although the two women take the project very seriously.
The show is sort of an extension of Lynne’s film, “Made Up,” in which characters played by Brooke and Tony Shalhoub meet and marry. Although the film was fictional, it drew on real life. For the series, Lynne and Brooke reprise their roles, which, as they both agree, are “exaggerations of ourselves.”
Both women had previously done some writing and worked on a number of projects together. As sisters who are very close and share a common sense of humor, working together comes naturally. However, they each have their own style of approaching the material. “We have different processes,” says Lynne. “But we always agree in the editing process. We always both like the same things.”
As it turns out, the project has served to further the sisters’ relationship both professionally and personally. “We’ve sort of worked out some of our sibling issues doing this,” says Brooke. “We can say the things we couldn’t say to each other out of character.”
“Our relationship in the series has some truth to it,” says Lynne. “The characters’ impulses are the same. But it’s a little extreme.”
That’s an understatement. In the show, Lynne thinks she’s dying. Brooke pretends to be documenting her final days. There are a number of crazy characters, including a Skype doctor who believes that in-person exams are “detrimental to the patient,” an eccentric alternative medicine practitioner, and … well, you have to watch the show. It’s a little hard to explain. And very funny.
For more information on “All Downhill from Here,” and to watch a clip, join and like the Facebook group All Downhill From Here (facebook.com/AllDownhillfromHereMV) and/or sign up on the mailing list at Alldownhillfromhere.tv. A screening of the 20-minute montage will take place on Friday, Oct. 2, at A Gallery on Uncas Avenue in Oak Bluffs.