PORTLAND – The celebrated “Bert and I” Maine humor created by Bob Bryan and the late Marshall Dodge may be bound for the big screen.

A Rockport man says he has an agreement with Bryan, who’s now 80, to create a business called Bert and I Company of Maine.

David Lyman, former owner of the Maine Film & Video Workshops in Rockport, said he’s working with TV and movie industry professionals to develop the concept, script and funding for a movie based on the material.

“We’re not just going to visualize the stories that are on the record and in the books,” Lyman said. “We’re going to come up with new stuff. We have to update it to address contemporary issues.”

Lyman’s plans include a radio-stage show, albums, books, a feature-length film and a TV series based on the duo who coined the phrase, “You can’t get there from here.”

Bryan and Dodge created “Bert and I” when they were Yale University students in the late 1950s, and recorded their first album in 1958.

Lyman said he was having dinner with Michael Pressman, a TV producer in New York and Los Angeles, when they concocted the idea of updating the “Bert and I” brand for a contemporary audience.

Pressman, who is co-producer and director for CBS’s “Blue Bloods” and has directed episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Law and Order” and “Boston Legal,” had just introduced his children to the “Bert and I” records and mused about a movie and TV series under the iconic brand — provided they could get the copyright.

“I says, ‘I think I know how to do that,’ ” Lyman recalls.

Lyman said he got to know Dodge before he was killed in 1982 by a hit-and-run driver in Hawaii. Dodge took a course at Lyman’s Maine Film & Video Workshops.

Lyman later produced a few live performances of “Bert and I,” and the two collaborated on the Maine Festival of Arts at Bowdoin College in the late 1970s.

Lyman approached Bryan in 2010 about buying the rights to “Bert and I.” After thinking it over, Bryan signed the deal Tuesday.

The deal allows Yarmouth-based Islandport Press to continue distributing classic audio recordings of the duo.

Lyman said he is working with Maine comedian Tim Sample to put together a stage and radio variety show, similar to National Public Radio’s “Prairie Home Companion.”

The show, which is being planned for next winter, would use local talent, pre-recorded video and interviews with fishermen, lumberjacks and the like. It would be used to scout new talent, Lyman said.

“That will lead to more books and more recordings,” he said. “While that is happening, we will be working on developing a screenplay and getting it financed.”

Lyman hopes to have a feature-length film in production by late summer and early fall of 2014. He expects the film to cost $3 million to $4 million.

“We think we can do it,” he said. “We think we can do it all in Maine.”

Once the movie has been out for a year, Lyman wants to approach TV networks about creating a sitcom that would be similar to “Northern Exposure,” Irish TV’s “Ballykissangel” and the BBC series “Doc Martin.”

“They’re all a lot of characters,” he said.

Lyman said he plans to stay true to the spirit of the original “Bert and I” humor, especially when it comes to the Maine dialect and world view.

“The ‘Bert and I’ brand will capture people’s interest — they’ll want to see what it’s about,” he said. “Our job now is to produce very strong storytelling and do it in an authentic, humorous and soulful way.”

 

Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

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Twitter: @randybillings