Tuesday, September 20, 2011
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
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Ocean Clark is truly one of today's most prolific artists. His vibrant and richly colored paintings capture classic celebrities in a style that is pop and unique. "As an artist I feel it is my duty to bring new insight and inspiration to people by using my talents to demonstrate the beauty and awe of the imagination".
Clark is coming to the Imagine Art Gallery in Port Jefferson, NY on Saturday, September 10th when his show opens up there. I had a great conversation with Ocean from his New Jersey studio...
MICK: I read that you come from an artistic family!
OCEAN: Yes I do! Both of my parents had scholarships to art school but neither of them went because they had kids. They were very artistic. They're both retired now and still doing artistic things. I've got 13 brothers and sisters, all of whom are artists.
MICK: Where were you born?
OCEAN: I was born in Tillamook, Oregon. I live in New Jersey now.
MICK: I also read that you got your start in New Orleans!
OCEAN: I spent five years in Florida going to art school but I really didn't develop my craft until I spent eight years in New Orleans as a street artist. You put yourself out there when you're a street artist because you have a thousand people passing by and looking to see what you're working on. I did my paintings right there on the street. You get insulted if they sucked and you get better real fast!
MICK: It's been written that you paint with both hands. Is that literally or is that with a brush?
OCEAN: I use brushes but I do use both hands. My left hand doesn't really know what it's doing. It's mainly for show but my left hand smears paint around. The right hand does the portrait type stuff and detailed stuff. I was actually left handed when I was born but in third grade, I had a teacher tell me that I should switch to right hand because everything was made for right handed people. I still do some things left handed but most everything is done right handed.
MICK: Do you use photographs when you paint?
OCEAN: Yes, I always have some kind of photo reference I'm looking at.
MICK: I notice that classic rock stars and classic movie stars are favorite subjects of yours to paint. Have you always liked old time movies and classic rock?
OCEAN: When I was growing up, my parents were pretty strict about wasting time with TV. We never even had a TV when I was growing up. They were very health conscience and focused on raising kids. They were smart with their health too. Even when we had a TV later on when I was a teenager, we weren't allowed to watch regular cable. We watched classic black and white movies. Mainly because they didn't want us sitting in front of a TV for five hours a day. Most families these days use it as a babysitter. We were all smart and creative. We got out in the world and played rather than sit in front of a TV. Because of that, the things I am into today are much older than I am. I do a lot of the classic movie stars because that's what I grew up on. Classic rock too because my parents were always playing it. I wasn't one to rebel against my parents because they were creative types and they let us do what we wanted pretty much. If I were to rebel against them I would have become an accountant!
MICK: Writers often have writers block where it takes time to get in the mood to write. Do you ever get painters block?
OCEAN: Yes I do. I have some tricks for getting past that. One of the tricks I don't do much anymore. I used to set up a canvas beside my bed before I go to sleep. When I woke up in the morning, I'd force myself to finish it before I get out of bed. It's usually a small blank canvas, like 16" x 20", and I would sit there and work on it until it was finished every morning. I wouldn't allow myself to even go to the bathroom, eat breakfast or have coffee. They were usually very crappy paintings because I was in a hurry. Once a month I would show my morning work. I'd show them like they were my best work and never let anyone know that they were your quick sketches that you hate! It encourages you to get better. For the artist block, it encourages you to paint even when you don't feel like it. You wake up and you start painting. It's in the back of your mind and you're constantly thinking about it. I've got canvases in every room, even the bathroom. No matter what I'm doing, I can be working on a painting. I have paints and brushes in every single room in my house. Also, I don't let myself become stunted by that desire for everything to be your best. I don't judge myself. I just try to push a paint brush around for 8-10 hours a day. If I do that, I can pay my bills. Once in a while, the painting will be my best without even trying!
MICK: Do you work on more than one painting at the same time?
OCEAN: Yes, sometimes I will have 100! I have at least a dozen that I'm working on at the same time. Right now, I have around 40 paintings that I'm working on that are not finished yet.
MICK: How long would it take to basically finish a painting?
OCEAN: Some only take a couple hours while some have taken only 15 minutes! On average, I would say around eight hours. One long day! The better ones might take a week but those are rare. I've got 30,000 hours of practice into it! For me to do a painting, I really don't have to think that hard about it. I can splatter paint and cover a canvas in a lot less time than someone who has only a couple thousand hours into it. I've done it so much that it's beyond the conscience thought. It a subconscious thing when I'm moving brushes around!
MICK: Do you use acrylics or oils?
OCEAN: Always acrylics. Acrylics are more permanent. Oils are a fluid and they never completely dry. Dust sticks to them, acid sticks to them, smoke and toxic sticks to them. They start to fade after five to ten years. They are probably 10% more faded than they were when you first painted it. In 100 years, they're practically gone. You look at old paintings and they are all oil paintings. Acrylics weren't invented until 1954. Oil paints are inferior. Comparing oils to acrylics is like comparing a horse and buggy to a Ferrari! You can't do anything with oils that you can do with acrylics. It's arguable but that's how I feel.
MICK: Do you ever use watercolors?
OCEAN: I play with watercolors once in a while. I still do a lot of outdoor shows so if I'm doing watercolors, I mix them with acrylic so that they're more permanent. Watercolors can be lifted up again and if it rains outdoors, the show is in trouble!Even with oils, your paintings can get damaged. For my acrylics, I put a couple layers of glaze over the top that makes it real waterproof. The glaze also has ultraviolet protective layer in it to protect it from the sun. My paintings will still be beautiful in 100 years. When you look at them in a gallery, you will understand and see that they're brighter than other paintings beside them. That's because I use the best quality materials and I'm not worried about the cost of things. I use $400 a gallon paint. It's better and my finished product looks better! I could use $10 a gallon house paint but it won't look as pretty. In ten years, it won't look the same at all.
MICK: Which artists do you admire?
OCEAN: I admire artists like Picasso for the simplicity of his style. It's like going back to childhood and just having fun with it. I loved his work. I admire other artists for their marketability than business sense. Peter Max for example. I don't necessarily love his work. Some of his older 70's stuff was beautiful. I lot of his new stuff is like scribbles on canvas. The way he markets himself is genius! He does 100,000 prints and calls them all original. He sells over 100 million dollars worth of work a year. That's pretty impressive!
MICK: Are you looking forward to your show at the Imagine Gallery in Port Jefferson this coming weekend?
OCEAN: Absolutely! I always have a good time out there. The people in that neighborhood are like family to me. They treat me real good!
MICK: What's ahead for Ocean Clark?
OCEAN: I will continue painting a lot. I'm planning on moving to the beach somewhere but haven't completely decided just where yet. After this show, I have one more show in New Jersey. Then I will be packing up. I have a ranch rented just north of Los Angeles that I'm moving to for the winter. I don't want to have to spend another winter in New Jersey. This ranch is amazing. It has a beach, horses, a stream running through it, deep washtubs in the bathrooms! I'm really looking forward to it! Last winter, my power went out in my studio. It's an old 130 year old factory. I have a really great space but the landlord didn't pay for the problem when a transformer blew in the building. We had no power for two weeks. It was below freezing the whole time. I couldn't stop painting so I painted with gloves on. My fingers were frozen. I actually broke one of my fingers. The paint doesn't dry right and moves to slow because it's too cold. It was ridiculous. This winter, I will be somewhere more tropical!
Come this Saturday to meet OCEAN CLARK and see his amazing work!
Imagine Gallery Presents Ocean Clark
and Laura Bochet
Saturday September 10, 2011
Artist Reception: 6 to 9 PM
35 Chandler Square
Port Jefferson NY 11777