MATTHEWS – Dilworth Coffee could be the birthplace of television’s next big hit sitcom.
The coffee shop in downtown Matthews recently played host to a crew of actors, filmmakers and producers, who spent two Sundays filming a pilot for a new sitcom, “Chicago Brews.”
George Peroulas and Glenn Selby, both south Charlotte residents, recently joined forces to create the television situational comedy, set in a fictional coffee house in the Chicago area. Somewhat of a “modern-day ‘Cheers,’” Peroulas said, the show will follow a plethora of coffee shop regulars with dynamic personalities and the challenges they face in their personal lives. Selby will take on the roles of director, head writer and executive producer, and Peroulas will serve as the producer.
Selby has been developing the series – inspired by a Starbucks-like culture – for about two years. He reached out to Peroulas, who thought the show had true potential, and they continued to draft a script for a pilot episode.
In June, the creators took their work to a script workshop, where the script was passed among writers and actors, who read it outloud. The story is told through the eyes of Cassie, a book-smart-but-socially-awkward high school student, whose parents urged her to get a job at a coffee house to work on her social skills and transition into adulthood. The script calls for a lot of “funny moments and awkward one-liners” as Cassie learns to interact with people, Peroulas said.
“It got a lot of laughs, so we were like, ‘Well, this is good,’” Peroulas said.
The writers continued to make adjustments, pouring over the script and deciding which elements worked and which ones didn’t. As the story continued to evolve, the creators knew they wanted to present the script at a television festival in New York in October.
But the minds behind “Chicago Brew” didn’t want to simply show up with a script, as some creators do, Peroulas said. They wanted to have something better to show for themselves.
“Anyone can show up with a script, but … it’s good to have something visual,” Peroulas said.
The “Chicago Brew” creators ultimately decided to produce a “pilot presentation,” where a portion of the pilot episode is filmed to give viewers a glimpse into the show. Pilot presentations are longer than a trailer but shorter than a full 30-minute or hour-long episode.
“People call them ‘speculation videos’ … they’re scenes from the pilot, a montage,” Peroulas said. “We took some of the best parts from the 25-page script and shot them in Matthews.”
To film the pilot presentation, the creators needed a controlled environment where the film crew would be able to maneuver appropriately. Since Dilworth Coffee is closed on Sundays, the crew was able to rent the space to shoot footage.
Peroulas said the shooting went well, and all of the actors delved into their characters. He added, if the series is picked up by a major network or cable television, he’d like to continue filming in Matthews – with the show becoming the next in a line of series and films – such as “Homeland,” “Banshee,” “Sleepy Hollow” and “The Hunger Games” – recently shot in the Charlotte region. Additional exterior footage would be shot in Chicago, Peroulas said.
“We would love to continue filming this in North Carolina, Charlotte and Matthews,” he said. “We would love to have all of the cast and crew return if we can help it, but that is not up to us.”
Regardless of where it may be filmed, Peroulas’ main goal – and hope, as he travels to New York later this fall for the television festival – is that some network or broadcasting company notices the show’s potential and chooses to pick it up for a full season.
“People get the culture (of the show’s setting). You have to get along with people, no matter what career you get into,” he said. “We just want to get this story told. We think it has a lot of potential.”