BRUNSWICK, Maine — Teagan Wright knew exactly what he wanted — and what he didn’t — when he set out to create a television series about Maine.
His show wouldn’t be typical reality-show fake drama, which he knows all about after appearing on the former MTV reality series “Switched!” while a senior at Brunswick High School, then working backstage on various series and movies in New York and Hollywood.
Instead, Wright, 30, wanted to show people the Maine he knew growing up, the uniquely independent people he met while working part time as a sternman on a lobster boat or hunting in Maine’s woods.
“I didn’t want it to be lighthouses and lobster boats — that boring quintessential vacation feel,” he said Monday. “I wanted it to have grit and, I don’t know, that sort of Maine quality.”
The premise, he wrote on the series’ Facebook page, is to focus on the life of Mainers in various industries and “to work and live with people until they just can’t stand me anymore.”
At noon Sunday, viewers in southern Maine can watch the premiere of Wright’s five-episode miniseries “From Away” on FOX23. New episodes of “From Away” will air at noon each Sunday for five consecutive weeks.
For the first episode, Wright visited Wolfe’s Neck Farm in Freeport, then traveled more than 200 miles up the Maine coast, to Tide Mill Organic Farm in Edmunds, where he lived and worked with the Bell family for three or four days.
“I went way out there — Down East,” he said of the all-organic farm the Bell family started 252 years ago. The Bell family raises pork, beef, eggs, dairy, chicken, vegetables, fruit and berries.
He worked alongside Aaron Bell and spent time “hanging out and talking about what it means to be a farmer and doing things the right, ethical way,” Wright said.
For example, the Bells’ 4,500 chickens are free range. For the episode, Wright helped slaughter chickens — “because with the mentality of the show I wanted to be the exact opposite of any reality TV show or drama. ‘OK, people eat chicken, [so] we have to kill these chickens.’ But there’s no force-feeding, and no chickens stacked up on each other. It was a quick, ethical kill. And it’s important. It might be a couple of extra bucks to buy local, but that chicken is out there eating grubs and living a normal chicken life.”
For a future episode, Wright joined bear biologist Randy Cross of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in February, about an hour north of Beddington, to collar and weigh hibernating bears.
Cross, Wright said, “is one of the coolest dudes in the [expletive] universe. He’s soft-spoken, but there’s so much knowledge in everything he says. He’s like a Maine Yoda.”
He’s also a hunter, which Wright said provides a different perspective for those who object to hunting.
“Randy’s not only a conservationist by academics and trade, but he himself is a hunter. To hear the experts talk about why hunting is really needed — so they don’t die of starvation or cannibalism — I’m just hoping there’s some crossover between the two worlds.”
For the same episode, Wright traveled to Masardis, in Aroostook County, with a friend from Harpswell who received a moose hunting permit while he hunted for and landed a nearly 900-pound moose. (“In Maine, we round up,” Wright said.)
Other episodes in the first five-show run include craft beer brewers and fishing. For the fisheries episode, Wright worked with a friend who is a Harpswell lobster fisherman and spent time with Tommy Bolster of Robinhood Cove Oyster Farm in Georgetown.
Bolster’s father, Tom Bolster, worked three full-time jobs before deciding he wanted to earn his living on the water, Wright said.
“He decided the smartest thing to do was oysters, because they’re very sustainable,” Wright said. “Now his son helps him out, and by the end of last year they were starting to sell them. In the ’90s, my father was a sea urchin diver and scalloper. Now there aren’t any urchins, and the ground fisheries are really tanking. Everyone’s lobstering because that’s where the money is. But for someone like Tom, he’s all in. He knows his [expletive], and he has a really good business with the potential to do really well.”
Wright funded production of the first five episodes through a Kickstarter initiative that raised more than $36,000. He hopes to sell enough advertising to air “From Away” in Greater Bangor and elsewhere around Maine.
He also would like to produce more episodes and is shopping the series to networks and Netflix, but so far has heard, “finish the series, and then we’ll pick it up.”
Wright is also thinking of taking the series to other states, to show viewers about the people there.
“What ends up happening is it gives a much better look at different lifestyles, and that gives people a common bond,” he said.