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Thursday, February 11, 2016

New L.A.-Based Web Series Shows Its St. Louis Roots

Posted By on Thu, Feb 11, 2016 at 6:15 AM

Paul's character showcases his Ted Drewes t-shirt in the first episode, "Horsey." - PHOTO COURTESY OF PAUL SCHOEMEHL
  • Photo courtesy of Paul Schoemehl
  • Paul's character showcases his Ted Drewes t-shirt in the first episode, "Horsey."

Paul Schoemehl and Barrett Stokes have never forgotten their St. Louis roots. As the writing partners produced their new web series, “The Achiever,” they wanted to show that despite geographical distance, the city was never far from their minds.

The pair grew up in St. Louis—both attended Lindbergh High School, but forged their friendship working together at the record store Musicland, located in the now-defunct Crestwood Plaza. They kept in touch through college, and in the early 2000s, decided to embark west to Los Angeles to pursue their creative passions.

“The Achiever” follows Schoemehl’s character, "Paul," who is doing just enough to get by—a concept that was inspired by a quip from Schoemehl’s daughter. Asked if she was a teacher’s pet, she said, “I don’t overachieve. I don’t underachieve. I just achieve.” And so, then, does the character "Paul" in the series, with humorous results.

Although Stokes has since moved back to St. Louis, where he works at Webster University as a course developer for their online programs, and Schoemehl still lives out West, appearing in commercials and working in the food industry, the pair still makes it work. They send scripts back and forth, drawing the storylines from the shenanigans they used to get into when they lived together in L.A.

“We went to parties and never really fit in so we ended up doing goofy stuff,” Stokes recalls. He remembers once going to a party not knowing the owner of the house. Schoemehl started making cold cut sandwiches for everyone, ending in an awkward encounter with the host. “That’s kind of the comedy of ‘The Achiever,’" he says. "These random situations that we would always somehow stumble into.”

Schoemehl originally wanted to shoot "The Achiever" in St. Louis, but decided that he could incorporate his hometown into the show in another way.

In the first episode, “Horsey,” Paul tries to convince his friends that he is capable of babysitting their daughter for the night — all while wearing a Ted Drewes t-shirt. In every episode, Schoemehl has hidden a little symbol of St. Louis, a little wink to show he's still thinking of us back in the Midwest.

“I love my hometown, I’m super proud to be from there,” Schoemehl says. “It’s kind of an inside nod to people that are from there. Just kind of saying hello.”

The first season of “The Achiever” consists of five episodes, each lasting about five minutes. The first episode releases on their YouTube page and website today.

Schoemehl and Stokes are already working on season two. They view these short episodes as a reel to showcase the character's versatility in various situations. Somewhere down the road, they hope it will turn into a full-fledged series, something reminiscent of Louis C.K. or Aziz Ansari's Master of None.

But in the meantime, they'll continue to highlight what's great about St. Louis, one little clue at a time. “That’s what I’m trying to do," says Schoemehl. "I’m trying to give something positive to St. Louis, even if it’s a tiny little t-shirt that’s off on the Internet somewhere.”

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