Butte actor brings screwball comedy about roofers home for filming

Brick Patrick at Imagine Butte Resource Center print shop while he was in town scouting locations. (Renata Birkenbuel)

The world needs laughter more than ever right now — and Butte born and bred actor Brick Patrick is making that happen with Guttermuckers, an aptly named feature film promising movie-goers an insider’s view into the roofing trade.

Co-writer with John Budge, Patrick promises high-quality barbs and lowbrow jokes aplenty.

“I feel like with everything going on in politics right now, everyone is so divided that I feel personally that the best thing we can do is get people in a room together and laugh,” Patrick told the Missoula Current recently while visiting family and scouting locations in Butte. “We need to get some laughs in. I feel it’s really healing.”

A 17-year professional actor based in Los Angeles, Patrick and several of his favorite industry colleagues will film what he calls a “goofball” comedy using his hometown as a scenic backdrop from on high.

On high, as in a blue-collar roofing movie in the wacky vein of Dumb and Dumber (1994) and Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day (1993), two of Patrick’s favorite 90s buddy movies. Patrick worked three summers as a roofer in Butte, home to ongoing rehabilitation and renovation projects due to its historical Uptown architecture and folks’ relentless private and community quest to restore the famed mining town to its former glory.  

“I grew up on comedy … ever since I was young, I was obsessed,” he said. “I worked on roofs in Butte for three summers just slogging it out. It was intense, back-breaking work. Anyone who’s done it knows your hands are all scabbed up by the end and you’re eating pizza burritos from the convenience store. It’s a whole lifestyle here that we can explore.”

Enter Patrick’s Golden Gutter Productions cast and crew, which will shoot the original screenplay over 29 days starting in the fall of this year or spring, 2020. Billed as a comedy that includes a few hard-knock life lessons, Guttermuckers comes at an important time, he said.

“To be able to heal people with laughter and comedy are at the heart of it. After doing a lot of socially relevant films and afterward everybody’s feeling down, I thought, ‘I’m going to bring people together in the theater where they’re laughing.’”

Patrick has methodically honed his own comedic acting chops, as he recently passed the Los Angeles Groundlings advanced improvisation class. Saturday Night Live routinely plucks talent from one of several Groundlings chapters across the country. So Patrick, fingers crossed and contacts made, hopes to potentially secure a current high-profile SNL cast member to play a role in Guttermuckers.

The writers were not afraid to get political in the movie – or to reach for the brass comedy ring.

“There’s definitely punches on both sides in this film,” Patrick said. “Our comedians are our profits. Growing up with guys like George Carlin … they would go around and take risks at offending people. It’s not something we would say, but it’s true. There are some great stand-ups still going. We are going after comedians to be in our film.”

Having played Woody Harrelson’s twin brother in director Jon M. Chu’s Now You See Me 2 (2016), Patrick recently finished two short films, 300 Savage and another untitled project. Now age 38, the University of Montana drama graduate and University of California-Irvine graduate with a master’s degree in fine arts/acting, Patrick has expanded his career in other ways:

He narrates audiobooks, dubs Netflix shows, runs a coaching and teaching studio in L.A. and writes skits. He performed with the LA Groundings on June 7.

Montana independent film-goers may remember Patrick from his Missoula-filmed Love Like Gold (2015), The Triangle (2016) and the historic Butte short documentary, The Orphan Girl (2014), celebrating the town’s proud mining history.

Missoula resident Jeri Rafter is the lead producer on Guttermuckers. A veteran of her craft, she was production manager for the Bill Pullman-driven The Ballad of Lefty Brown (2017), filmed in Southwest Montana. Rafter is currently filming Ted K, described on IMDB as “An exploration of Ted Kaczynksi’s life in Lincoln, Montana, in the years leading up to his arrest as The Unabomber.”

Budge, a University of Montana and Brooklyn College graduate who recently moved back from New York, concocted the screenplay with Patrick, who’s also a producer.

“He was really good on the structure of the film,” said Patrick. “It’s very Butte. I just love this town, working on the roofs and seeing the personalities in town.”

The premise revolves around roofer hijinks while trying to make a living in a union town – but with a redemptive quality.

“You’ve got these two guys … it’s a real goofball comedy inspired by Kingpin (1996) and Dumb and Dumber (1994) – those type of buddy comedies where anything can happen,” said Patrick. “We’ve got two rag-tag roofers who run into misadventures while trying to reclaim their lost roofing company.”

In the vein of hard-core Mining City booms and busts, Butte characters know how to bounce back repeatedly from life’s hard knocks. The title serves as a metaphor, explained Patrick:

“Mucking of the gutters is the last thing you do when you clean off a roof … the tar, the nails. You’re on your hands and knees with a bucket to clean it out. Guttermuckers are doing all the back-breaking work.”

Patrick plays straight-laced, no-nonsense Kyle and Budge plays Garfield, a nurturing, motherly, loving friend in an Odd Couple type of relationship.

“They’re always trying a way to get a one-up, to get their company back, but it always blows up. That plays into the comedy dynamic of the film. It’s ‘Let’s quit being a wuss, let’s get this done’(versus) ‘Let’s think about this. Let’s do the right thing.’”

The cast is comprised of native Montanans like Karen Jean Olds, who works in professional theater in L.A. and Zac Thomas, heavy into set design in Austin, Texas. They are among the actors confirmed for Guttermuckers. Also confirmed: Adrienne Wilkinson, perhaps best known as Xena’s daughter in Xena: Princess Warrior (1995).

“Both of the lead villains are all women and our lead producer is a woman, so that was a very conscious decision,” said Patrick. “There’s also a Native American in our film who plays a reputable business owner.”

Director of Photography Michael Kohlbrenner, who recently completed shooting Varlet, a short film with Budge, has also signed on. Patrick and Budge are considering hiring one of three director candidates as part of the current pre-production process.

Patrick said Guttermuckers will “be a mix between the zaniness of Kingpin and the cinematic quality of The Big Lebowski (1998).”  Like Groundhog Day and even Caddyshack (1980), Guttermuckers promises to deliver a deeper lesson.

“Even if you remove the jokes, there’s a good story there,” Patrick said about his homage to those ultra-successful comedies. “If you don’t get your crap together, you’re going to keep reliving the same day. He (Kyle) discovers how to be a good person, then all of a sudden he learns how to move on. That’s how we wrote it – underneath it, there’s a morality story about my guy who’s a little self-centered. Once he realizes he’s got to be a part of his community, his family, his friends and once he puts them first, harmony arrives in the story. I’ve always loved those types of stories: Even if you take the jokes away, there’s a story underneath it.”

The Guttermuckers project is timely, as in May Gov. Steve Bullock signed into law House Bill 293, which passed the 2019 Montana Legislature in late March. The law provides for a 20-percent production expenditure transferable tax credit to film companies. The credit can potentially increase to 35 percent, based on film production investment, according to the Montana Department of Commerce.

Bullock encourages film companies to shoot projects in Montana, a significant move after several Hollywood entities have publicly boycotted Georgia in the wake of that state recently passing an extreme, restrictive abortion law that Bullock says greatly hinders women from making their own health care choices.

“Knowing that our state shares your core values, I encourage you to choose Montana as a supporting character in your next production,” Bullock wrote in a letter to film companies as a way to promote Montana’s welcoming businesses and “new generous” tax credits.

Production companies would have to spend at least $350,000 before receiving the credit. It would also require production companies to include a Montana promotion in their film.

“If you decide to pursue filming in Montana, you’ll have my full support to make doing business here simple, affordable, and an award-winning experience you can only find under the Big Sky,” he added.

Governor Bullock sent the letter WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Disney, CBS, Showtime, AMC Networks and Viacom.

“That’s going to really change things and bring millions into the state,” said Patrick, whose family owns a long-time accounting firm in Butte.

“What I like to say about creative endeavors is it’s clean energy. You’ve got people coming into town … filling hotel rooms, going out to eat, seeing our landmarks, visiting the area. Especially for Butte, when people discover it, they light up.”

Financial donors for Guttermuckers includes private backing and grants, including what Patrick hopes will include a Montana State Big Sky film grant.

“With everything going on in politics right now, everyone is so divided that I feel personally that the best thing we can do is get people in a room together and laugh,” added Patrick. “I feel it’s really healing.”