Return to Elektra Springs
By Christopher Munch
Retired inventor Will Friedrich and his son are forced to evacuate their home during a tsunami. As they make their way east, they encounter a pioneering community that leads Will to consider returning to his work in free energy.
My interest in the subject of new energy – advanced energy technologies that have historically had a hard time gaining traction because they run counter to scientific orthodoxy or have been suppressed by industrial or governmental elements – has grown over the past couple of years even as the world has grown more in need of them. A century after Ida Tarbell published her landmark exposé of the Standard Oil trust that led to its breakup, the list of inventors whose groundbreaking work had been ruthlessly kept from the public by way of intimidation, economic subversion, and even lethal force only continues to grow.
Recently, however, I note with great interest the progress made by such inventors as Andrea Rossi, whose LENR (cold fusion)-based “E-Cat” is beginning to be commercially marketed. There are a score of similar “over-unity” devices (devices generating more energy than is required to run them) in various stages of development, any of which, when allowed to come to fruition, could be nothing short of revolutionary in their ability to displace carbon-based fuels.
Return to Elektra Springs recounts a small portion of one such inventor’s journey. Will Friedrich is forced, by way of a natural disaster, to reckon with his earlier decision to remain silent in the face of dire threats. Anton, an amateur unconstrained by academic affiliations, shows him that it is indeed possible to build an over-unity device and “get away with it.” Will’s choice of whether to live in fear or follow the path of his heart and make the contribution to society that he was meant to make is one that I am optimistic the visionaries of today and tomorrow will have an easier time making.
—Christopher Munch, Writer/Director
Not only did the commission to make this film fulfill a longstanding desire on my part to work with ITVS, it also allowed me to explore the topic of unconventional energy by way of a short form that is new to me. I feel as if Elektra Springs is only a beginning of my work with this subject matter.
I chose to situate the story in and around the southern Oregon coast because this region is truly one of the most isolated in the United States, a place where, in the event of a tidal wave such as the one described in the story (or the one which actually occurred in nearby Crescent City in the aftermath of the 1964 Alaska quake), residents could be quite literally cut off from the rest of the country.
I was familiar with this region, and the area inland, from my prior feature film, Letters from the Big Man, which was shot here. Elektra Springs afforded me the opportunity to work once again with producer Terri-Lynn Kalhagen, who has worked extensively in southern Oregon.
Our director of photography, Kunitaro Ohi, I had met by way of a filmmaker friend and colleague, Paul Harrill, who previously made a dramatic short for ITVS called Quick Feet, Soft Hands. Kuni’s ability to work with natural light on location and move speedily was a great boon to our tiny unit, which consisted of just six in the crew.
When I first met our star James Eckhouse (Will) at the recommendation of casting director Tineka Becker, I immediately knew he was the perfect man to play the role of an outcast scientist (he himself had studied at MIT). James’s enthusiasm for this piece, and his fast personal pace (which matched that of Skyler Brigmann, who played his son, extremely well), allowed us to accomplish much during the course of our six-day shoot. It was a road movie in the sense that we moved from the coast inland, staying one or two nights in each place.
The interesting communities of Cave Junction and Applegate, Oregon, are home to self-reliant people who live very much like the colonists in the film. Nadine Levie (“Helga”) is an acupuncturist and educator of whom I had known prior to the film. It was only after I was unsuccessful in casting someone out of Los Angeles that I learned that Nadine raised bees on her Mellonia Farm, and thought to ask her to play the role.
The shoot also afforded me the chance to reconnect with a legendary horseman, Rick Ponte, whose Doubletree Ranch, situated on the wild and scenic portion of the Rogue River, was a key location. A number of films, including the Grizzly Adams series and Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, were made here in the past.
—Christopher Munch, Writer/Director
Christopher Munch’s most recent feature, Letters from the Big Man, was a New York Times Critics’ Pick. His past work includes the features Harry and Max, The Sleepy Time Gal, Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day, and The Hours and Times. All five features have played at Sundance and other international festivals. Munch has been a Guggenheim Fellow, recipient of the Someone to Watch Award, and has been featured in two Whitney Biennial exhibitions.
Terri-Lynn Kalhagen was unit production manager on Christopher Munch’s feature Letters from the Big Man. She is a principal, along with her husband Tony, in the firm of Makai-Ohana Productions. They are also founders of the World Love Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to the building of water wells in Africa, and creators of Oregon Lifestyles TV. They specialize in creating online, corporate, and marketing videos.
Director of Photography
Kunitaro Ohi has lensed four feature films, ten short films, and dozens of commercials and corporate videos for clients such as Walmart, Allstate, and the Virginia Department of Tourism. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s program in filmmaking.
James Eckhouse – Will
James Eckhouse has had a distinguished career as an actor and director in film, television, and theater for more than 25 years. TV audiences are most familiar with him as Jim Walsh on 90210. He has starred in many pilots and has had guest-starring roles on close to 50 series, including Harry’s Law and Southland. Eckhouse has also starred in more than 50 plays, most recently in The Escort at The Geffen Playhouse. Among his film credits are S.W.A.T., Guess Who, One True Thing, and Junior. His extensive directing credits include In Heat and American Buffalo.
Skyler Brigmann – Brian
Skyler Brigmann began his acting career at the age of seven in 2007, portraying Thor in a theater performance of The Nerd. His credits include films such as Where the Wild Things Are and Letters from the Big Man, TV shows including Modern Family, Children’s Hospital, and Criminal Minds, as well as a variety of commercials. He is currently working on Nickelodeon’s Legend of Korra as the voice of Kai.