Eagle Rock

Bozeman, Montana | Film Short

Drama, Crime

Eleanor Wells

1 Campaigns | California, United States

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This campaign raised $5,000 for production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

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In 1972, twenty-one year old Alex reflects on what led her to participate in the murders of three people. In doing so, we see how she met and was seduced by Jay as a teenager, becoming the first follower of his dangerous cult.

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
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  • The Team
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Mission Statement

This is the story of a young woman living amidst the unrest of the late 1960s, and her search for a better life. Told by a female writer-director, the aim is to portray Alex a complex and flawed, but identifiable lead, and in doing so, increase representation of women's stories in the media.

The Story

 

 

Jim Jones once had a sign hung in the Jonestown pavilion which read, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This hung right behind the main stage, so whenever Jones spoke, which was every day, it was always in the line of sight of his followers. Whatever message he had initially wanted to convey (and beyond its dramatic irony following the mass suicide in Jonestown on November 18th, 1978), it seems to have taken on another meaning today.

 

Much discourse around cults seems to dismiss followers as crazy, fanatical, broken. “Drinking the Kool-Aid”, a direct reference to Jonestown, literally means to accept something without question. There does not seem to be much general knowledge or understanding of what allows cults to operate in the way that they do. My initial interest grew into a fascination when I became entranced by the lives of the followers of various destructive cults. Their stories are as diverse as humanity itself. But what it constant is their search of belonging and acceptance.

 

 

In Eagle Rock, Alex Altman is a young woman on the cusp of adulthood amidst the social turmoil of the late 1960s. Her mother has long since passed, she does not get along with her stepmother, her relationship with her father is strained and she is isolated from her classmates. For some semblance of escape, she pours into books, music and celebrity crushes. This constant daydreaming of a life better than the one she knows is what leads her right into Jay’s arms.

 

 

Alex is unsure what she wants out of life, but knows it is something more than the small town she lives in can offer her. When she meets Jay, he tells her she is smart, beautiful, and worthy. He waxes poetic about ancient philosophers and the literature she loves. After quickly running away with him, she believes she has finally found what she is looking for. She does not understand, or realize until it is too late, that she is a pawn in a larger game. But as the cult grows, Jay begins to amass more followers, and they ultimately settle as workers at a campground, she realizes what she was told is what is repeated to every woman who joins them, which only makes Alex more desperate to win back his love.

 

 

Unfortunately, Jay turns out to be an abuser not unlike the ones the girls who found him were attempting to escape from. But Alex cannot accept this fact, which, while not happy, makes for a real and human response. Such stories of what leads people into cults, and more specifically, the appeal of the leaders themselves, is something that resonates with me. Ultimately, Alex’s blinding desire for Jay is what leads her to participating in the murders of Margaret Kelly, a young, beautiful and successful Olympic athlete, and two others.

 

 

By setting this story in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Alex and the others inhabit an America at a societal and cultural turning point. Their music is wholly different from what their parents consumed, tapping into the isolation and disillusionment they felt by coming of age through multiple assassinations, a pointless war, a president they did not want, and a pushback by the older generation to return to the “family values” they had spent the past decade fighting to reject.


Through the short film, I ultimately want to explore how, in spite of her crime, the cult did give her a place where she felt loved and accepted, which I personally believe is something everyone will be able to relate to. The average audience may not be murderers themselves, or even members of a cult, but, by portraying her story with empathy and understanding, we can recognize how men such as Jim Jones, Charles Manson, David Koresh, and many others led their followers to commit unspeakable, but very real acts.

 

Earlier in the decade, the world had been on the brink of nuclear Armageddon. Through television, they were subjected fully to the brutality of the war in the Vietnam. More simply, the values of the older generation, of the more simplistic Fifties, did not resonate with them, and they longed for something that they believed to be true. For the girls, and especially for Alex, Jay’s ideals of free love, of an appreciation for nature and philosophy and the simpler things in life, are the answer they are seeking.

 

 

I know what you're thinking. 

 

It may seem like there is currently an influx of stories about cults, especially ones directly about or inspired by the Manson family. But one thing I have found missing in nearly all of them, even in ones I love such as The Girls or Martha Marcy May Marlene, is an attempt to understand the women who not only would pay the ultimate price for their leader, but would commit the ultimate act of taking another person's life.

 

These stories aren't crazy, deranged nightmares. They are, and will always be, a part of our history. To brush them off as the work of insanity and psychopathy is unfair to everyone, most of all ourselves.  Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten were just girls, when, in 1969, they became murderers. Girls we could have gone to school with or been ourselves. While what they did on August 8th and August 9th was evil, I do not believe they were evil people. 

The society today is more tumultous, more divided and more distant than ever. The comparisons to the political climate in the US are easy, but I believe it goes much deeper than that. We've forgotten how to talk to people, and because of that, we're lonely. A cult gives someone a sense of belonging, and a leader knows just how to make them feel loved. 

 

I believe the girls became killers because of, and not despite, their humanity. And if we recognize this, then maybe, just maybe, this story will be a piece of a conversation to help prevent others from following down the same path. 

 

It is for these reasons and more I believe this is the most important project I have ever pursued, and I very much look forward to starting this journey, but I can't do it wthout you.

 

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

 

Sincerely,
Eleanor Wells

Writer/Director 

Wishlist

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Cash Pledge

Costs $0

Food

Costs $750

The cast and crew to will need to eat well. Coffee, hot food, and lots of protein appreciated.

Lodging

Costs $550

Most of us have places to stay, but we'll need to put everyone else in hotels around Bozeman!

Permits

Costs $300

Taking advantage of Bozeman's nearby natural wonders, as well as facilities in town, requires fees!

Gas

Costs $400

Gas expenses for key crew in Los Angeles to travel to and from Bozeman.

Production Design and Costumes

Costs $1,000

To bring 1968 to life, gathering props and costumes will be an extensive part of the budget.

Equipment Expenses

Costs $1,000

Sony A7S or FS5 ideal along with lenses, but open in terms of this.

Other Travel

Costs $500

Travel expenses for key cast, other crew, as well as gas expenses during production.

Other

Costs $500

Any other unforeseen expenses as they are certain to arise.

About This Team

 

Eleanor Wells - Writer/Director

 

 

Eleanor Wells was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and was a lover of film, writing, and storytelling from an early age. She has written and directed several short films, including ​Feature Presentation,​ about three lonely people in need of connection who find it at the movies as well as ​Tales from the Airwaves,​ a Mercury Theater-esque radio drama. She fell in love with the classics as a teenager, and is especially interested in portraying other eras. She firmly believes storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we have to empathize with and understand the lives of others.

 

Danika Frank - Script Supervisor

 

 

Danika is a graduate of Emerson College living in Los Angeles. She previously worked on Radio Star, a 1970s drama in Seattle. Her favorite band is The Doors, and like Jim Morrison, is a Sagittarius.

 

Conor Soucy - Director of Photography

 

 


Conor Soucy will be joining Eagle Rock as the Director Of Photography. While he normally sports the director's hat, Soucy wanted an opportunity to focus purely on visual storytelling. Having worked on films since the age of 7 when he bought his first camcorder, Soucy is an obsessive when it comes to crafting images. "With an adjustable shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and hundreds of cameras/lenses to choose from (not to mention lighting) it takes a lot to craft the right shot, BUT there is a right way to do it!" Soucy's prior films include the Sci-Fi short Time Prisoner and the 1970s drama Tell Me Why.  As a writer/director, Soucy is often timid to take roles on other projects. "I can't watch a movie with poor writing, never mind work on one! But when Ellie presented me with the Eagle Rock screenplay I was impressed by her knack for telling a compelling story, and I wanted to join the team."

 

Baylee England - Assistant Camera

 


Baylee England is pursuing writing and cinematography for film. She has worked on a variety of short films, three of which being student films from Montana State University, one being her own short film, and one an independent film. She has experience as a writer, camera operator, script supervisor, grip, editor, and assistant camera operator. In Fall 2017, she worked as an assistant camera operator and editor to local documentary filmmaker Jason Burlage for a series from Mountain time arts about the importance of irrigation canals in sustainable farming. Baylee was also part of the main crew for BZN, Bozeman’s inaugural international film festival in Summer 2018.

 

Katie Theel - Production Designer

 

 

Katie Theel was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she first met Ellie on a film shoot in high school. She left Wisconsin in 2014 to pursue her passion at USC's School of Cinematic Arts, where she focused on production design for film. While at USC, Katie had the opportunity to design a number of short films and music videos, which gave her a springboard to start a freelance career after graduating. She especially loves designing period pieces because of the opportunity they provide to delve into researching another time and place and the fun challenge of creating a world that's not only creative but accurate.

 

Jason Bodily - Sound Mixer 

 

 

Jason is a filmmaker currently living in Bozeman, Montana. Born and raised in Boise, Idaho with his two sisters and two brothers, he developed a love for film while taking broadcasting classes in high school. He recently graduated from Montana State University in Bozeman Montana, with a Bachelor’s in film. While in school, he became proficient in all aspects of the filmmaking process, but developed an affinity for sound mixing and editing.

 

 

Paige Henderson - Alex

 

 

Paige Henderson is an actor and writer. She is a founding member of Liminal Space Players theatre company and recently completed production on Vellaipookal, a Tamil feature film to be released in India and select US cinemas next year. An avid traveler, Paige is happy to have recently found home in Los Angeles, where you can see her performing with her improv team Fly, Pelicans. Check out more at www.heyitspaige.com

 

Greg Mills - Jay

 

 

Greg is a writer, performer and producer for Cool Kid Comedy. The group has made appearances at the Boston Comedy Arts Festival, New York City Sketch Festival and the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, and has also produced original content for Funny or Die, CH2 and Samsung. Greg received his Bachelors of Science in Film/TV production from Hofstra University and later studied Meisner under Suzanne Esper at the William Esper Studio in NYC. A recent transplant to LA, Greg is currently enrolled in ongoing classes at Anthony Meindl's Actor Workshop. 

 

Maggie Mae Fish - Reporter

 

 

Maggie Mae Fish is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles. She most recently wrote and co-starred on the DreamworksTV show Matty Paz is a Noob, and has worked with Cracked, Machinima, JASH, and Frederator. She studied Theater and Film at Northwestern University and likes to think she would never actually join a cult.

 

Margaret Glaser - Sasha

 

 

Margaret is a recent graduate of Emerson College who enjoys working on sets both in front of and behind the camera as an actor, producer, and assistant director. She is from Houston, Texas but is now based in LA. Her time spent listening to an absurd amount of true crime podcasts has prepared her for this role.

 

Amber Mason - Marcia

 

 

Amber Rose Mason grew up in Virginia City, Montana.  She started acting at the age of 10 at a local professional summer theatre.  She worked for over fourteen years in summer theatre. Amber graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in acting and costume design.  She spent three years in LA pursuing her love for film. On returning from LA, Amber became a part of AEA and has been on two national tours with the Montana Repertory Theatre.  She continues to work in film, with several shorts and a feature currently on the festival circuit. Amber works on a ranch and trains horses in southwest Montana.

Keeley Bright - Margaret Kelly

 

 

Keeley Bright was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from California State University of Long Beach and was a collegiate athlete. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at The Second City in Improv comedy, as it was the only natural progression from Kinesiology. She then went on to study at The Upright Citizens Brigade for Improv comedy, while concurrently studying at the Vincent Chase Workshop, Margie Haber studio, and at the Morgan Sheppard workshop. She's quick witted and full of energy, really living up to her last name Bright.

 

Kellen Love - Talk Show Host

 

 

Kellen has been acting, writing, and producing for the majority of his life. What begin with plays in middle school led to conservatory acting training in high school at New World School of the Arts in Miami, Florida. After earning Bachelors of Arts degrees in both Theater and Communications at Florida State University, Kellen relocated to Los Angeles. A proud member of SAG/AFTRA , he has booked roles as a co-star on TV comedies such as "Greek","Rules of Engagement", & "HBO Def Comedy Jam", had leading roles in multiple web series & short films , and booked several commercials roles including for major brands like Verizon, Apple, and Jordan. Kellen is a versatile performer with experience in on-air hosting, standup comedy, improv, and news reporting. 

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