Tuesday, September 20, 2011
FRAGMENTS FROM OLYMPUS- The Vision of NIKOLA TESLA
Some have called him a mad scientist yet he is undeniably one of the greatest inventors of all time. Yet, as strange as it is, most people have never heard of Nikola Tesla. Now, 78 years after his death, a new film is being created to tell Tesla's amazing story and help save his famous laboratory Wardenclyffe. "Fragments From Olympus" is director Joseph Sikorski's and co writer Michael Calomino's labor of love, a project they've been working on for over 10 years. As the film is being developed, I had the great pleasure to speak with Joseph Sikorski about his fantastic film...
MICK: How did you get interested in Nikola Tesla in the first place?
JOSEPH: Over the years, I heard his name but never knew much about him. I used to go to the bookstore with my wife to browse the books and there was always some Tesla books in the discount section. What really fascinated me was this "death ray" that they said he invented. That's how i really got interested. I started reading about this "death ray" that the FBI believed he invented. I learned about the investigation into the "death ray" and was very interested in getting hold of the FBI documents. Each time at the bookstore, I would read a little more and finally had to buy it! I was shocked that I didn't know about him before and all the things he did that he didn't get credit for and how interesting his life was. It became a cause for me to bring him into the mainstream. He did not get credit for a lot of the things that people stole from him. A lot of people believed he was just eccentric or crazy. The sad part is that he was such an incredible genius on DaVinci's level or beyond that. He still has research that is very relevant today. We hope that a by product of this film will raise awareness of his research and continue it. Especially in the fields of alternative energy where he was a pioneer. Today, most people have never heard of Tesla or the just know of the rock band Tesla. The reason we have electric appliances in our homes is purely because of Tesla. Even radio, his most famous invention, the schools still teach that Marconi invented radio and it's such a travesty because the Supreme Court actually ruled in Tesla's favor and that Marconi violated 17 of Tesla's patents. Tesla really was the father of radio but the awards for radio are called the Marconi Awards. Schools teach that Marconi invented radio and that Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen invented X-rays. These people take credit for what Tesla did! Of course his crowning achievement was Wardenclyffe Tower which was right here on Long Island. He hoped to provide free wireless energy to the whole world. The Wardenclyffe property is in Shoreham. The building is still there though the famous tower is long gone. Tesla was funded by JP Morgan. He wanted Tesla to build a tower that would connect all the stock exchanges of the world but Tesla kept going over budget. Tesla knew it would connect all of the stock exchanges but it would also send free electricity to anyone with an antenna and a receiver. Morgan finally cut him off. He didn't agree with Tesla. His famous quote was "wireless energy- where do we put the meter?" Tesla's dream of free energy went down with the tower. The building is still there in Shoreham. It was designed by Stanford White, one of the world's most prominent architects. The building is in jeopardy. It is deteriorating. There's no public outcry for the property because most people have never heard of Tesla. We feel that if we can help raise awareness as to who Tesla was, then maybe they will see how valuable this piece of history is.
MICK: How long have you known Michael Calomino, your co-writer?
JOSEPH: We've been friends since high school! We both went to Lindenhurst High School here on Long Island. He's now in Pennsylvania. We talk frequently. The other person involved is Vic Elefante who is from the North Bellmore area. We have actor Leo Rossi (Analyze This, Halloween II) on board. When we first started pitching this, we were telling people that we could make a period piece with special effects for 3 million dollars. They said we couldn't do it. So we made this teaser for $700 to show them what we could do. We recently learned it was a semifinalist in International Movie Trailer Festival. It's great because we don't even have a finished film yet. We were competing with million dollar finished films! We are showing that we can do this film cheaper than a Hollywood production.
MICK: So you are basically just up to the script right now but you still haven't casted the film?
JOSEPH: Leo Rossi is on so we have him. We have some very interesting possibilities that are just waiting for us to get closer.
MICK: I saw your ad in The Long Island Press where you publicly asked Ralph Macchio to star in the film.
JOSEPH: Yes we did! We want to bring Tesla into the popular culture. There have been some excellent documentaries on him and some really good stuff on The History Channel. There's a great one on PBS called "Master Of Lightning". But most people still have never heard of Tesla. We want to make something that would spark an interest in science to the younger people and into popular culture to continue his research, save the Wardenclyffe property and vindicate his name. What we have is not a documentary and not a bio-pic which traditionally aren't very successful. What we have is a true life mystery thriller because of the element of "the Death Ray". The story begins with Tesla's death and the FBI invading his apartment and as they search for his papers and his information on 'the death ray', his life unfolds as they investigate this. This is all from real FBI documents they we were able to obtain. It's a mystery/adventure rather than just a bio-pic.
MICK: Have you met or spoken to any of Tesla's relatives?
JOSEPH: He doesn't have many relatives as he never married but he does have a nephew. I will get to meet him soon. The Tesla Science Center, the people who are trying to save Wardenclyffe, are doing a conference on wireless energy and invited us to be featured speakers there. William Terbo, Tesla's nephew, is going to be there too.
MICK: How do you envision Wardenclyffe in the coming years?
JOSEPH: Jane Alcorn is the person in charge there and what she envisions is fantastic. It would become the Tesla Science Center and Museum. It would be part history of Tesla, part working science center. The building would be restored and hopefully we can continue his research. Right now, it's a vacant piece of land deteriorating. This is the last remaining lab of Tesla's in the whole world so this is a worldwide attraction. In fact, in Serbia (Tesla was from Serbia) they are trying to build a replica of Tesla's tower over there. We have the actual property and building right here!
MICK: Are there any thoughts about reconstructing the tower here?
JOSEPH: I did speak to Jane about that possibility, at least as a monument. There are some zoning concerns. It would have to be a scaled down version unless some zoning laws were changed. When the film is done, that will bring some attention to it.
Wardenclyffe really could be a fantastic thing. A boom to a repressed economic area out there. There's a lot of good reasons to save the property. The fact that Stanford White designed the building is alone a great reason. The building is rotting there since the 1980's. After Tesla died, the building was used for a number of things. It was even a pickle factory at one time! Then the Peerless Photo Plant came in, They were owned by AGFA who was owned by the Bayer Corporation. They took it over and poured a lot of their photo chemicals down the well there. Because of that, there had to be a land cleanup. That probably saved the property from being sold a long time ago. A blessing in disguise! The cleanup has been done for six months now.
MICK: What is your time frame as far as completing the movie?
JOSEPH: I'd like to be shooting in the Spring of 2012. Things are starting to happen. Financially, we have some big investors waiting to see who we get on board and many small investors who want to be involved.
MICK: Are you working on any other projects besides "Fragments From Olympus"?
JOSEPH: No, this my sole focus right now and bringing attention to Wardencliffe.
MICK: Tesla worked for Thomas Edison at one time, didn't he?
JOSEPH: Yes he did. Tesla designed a motor that was able to run on AC power using magnetic fields. He designed the whole system of AC power, not just the motor but the whole polyphase system which included transformers to step the power up and down. He got the idea for this alternative current motor so someone got him an introduction to go work for Edison. He went to work for Edison and he told Edison that he invented the impossible..a motor that will run on AC power. Edison was all DC power and didn't want anything to do with it because he had so much invested in the DC system. Tesla saw problems with Edison's system and it's dynamos. Edison said if Tesla could get them working up to 100% efficiency, that would mean fifty thousand dollars for him. Tesla saw this as a chance to build his own lab and get a footing as a scientist. He worked night and day constantly. While he was doing this, he won several patents for automation. Finally, he fixed Edison's problem. When he went to collect his money, Edison said "Apparently you don't understand American sense of humor". Tesla quit and couldn't get any work for a while. He had just come from Croatia, had no money and the only work he could find was digging ditches.
That all started the "war of the currents". Alternate current is much more efficient and that's what we use today. With Edison's DC power, you needed a plant every mile or so. You also needed copper cable which was around a foot thick. You couldn't regulate the power either. Tesla's polyphase system could be regulated and could send power for hundreds of miles. Westinghouse backed Tesla but eventually had to back out because the battle against Edison had cost a small fortune. Here's a guy who gave everything and didn't get credit for anything! He died penniless in a hotel. Hopefully, this movie will teach people about Tesla, continue his research into alternative energy and turn Wardenclyffe into a world famous museum and research center.
For more information on "Fragments From Olympus" and Wardencliffe