Written as a variation on a Time Magazine Film Review
THE LOST WIZARD
An Epic Tesla Biopic
Marc J. Seifer & Tim Eaton
Co-Written with the Author of:
“Wizard” – The Life & Times of Nikola Tesla
by Marc J. Seifer PhD
Current Revision: 03.06.09
Library of Congress # PAU 1138173
WGA West Registration # 1314153
94 Gann Way
Novato CA 94949
THE LOST WIZARD Nikola Tesla: the World’s First Uber-Geek
“When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do his will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.”
As THE LOST WIZARD opens, Nikola Tesla takes an electric shower to fully cleanse his skin of any possible source of contagion. Then outside in New York City, an FBI surveillance team shadows the now cult-like Inventor on Director Hoover’s orders. It is revealed that Tesla’s “Teleforce” Defensive Energy Shield proposal has been popularized as a “Death Ray” in Hugo Gernsback’s “Amazing Stories”.
It is Halloween 1938; the current radio boom is in full swing as Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” drives the city frantic with panic. For those able to maintain their toehold in the new field of radio “broadcasting” – it will make them very rich – as will those who later adopt Tesla’s prescient vision of cellular telephony.
A Trio of Reporters awaits Tesla’s arrival for a regular annual update on his research in a tony restaurant as the G-Men pursue their quarry inside. The gaunt Inventor studiously cleans his utensils, as is his habit. “This better be good!” gripes a young cub reporter. “I bumped Hedy Lamarr for this old coot”.
The implementation of cheap and affordable electricity as well as the burgeoning radio craze has not yet “uplifted humanity” as Tesla had intended. Rather, despite his fundamental breakthroughs such as cheap “AC” power helping mankind to achieve peace and harmony, the deadly seeds of war have been planted with global conflict once again looming on far horizons.
Indeed, instead of seeing his proposed Wardenclyffe World Broadcasting Center on Long Island fully operational with Financier JP Morgan’s support, Tesla finds himself isolated and mocked. Black-balled from further Wall Street investment by his former benefactor, JP Morgan, and ridiculed by the late Thomas Edison, who labeled him a “loony Martian Communicator”, Tesla now finds himself to be the source of skeptical questioning, bordering on outright disdain.
And now here he sits – as both interviewee and quarry. Having graced a July 1931 cover of Time magazine, Tesla is now on the verge of having his legacy cartoon-ified into the nascent American popular myth: the “Mad Scientist”.
THE LOST WIZARD (xxxxx, Sundays, 9 p.m. E.T.) is the best new drama of the decade. It charts the sweeping arc and appellation of the ill derived and ill-deserved “Mad Scientist” caricature. The scenario is fully focused on Tesla, the prototypical visionary inventor, whose relentless work ethic created break-throughs which were at the very wellspring of the Twentieth Century.
It’s also an astute entry into miniseries programming in the field of big-budget, big-idea dramas which HBO dominated with shows like the Pacific, Rome, & Boardwalk Empire. Sprawling and erudite, with a wide-ranging and clear-eyed view of history, it depicts the birth pangs of our modern globalized hi-tech society.
THE LOST WIZARD is based on the definitive and perennially top-selling Tesla Biography by Marc J. Seifer PhD, hence it literally brims with “Geek Cred”. Seifer and his partner, long-time Visual Effects Editor, Tim Eaton, eventually allied their decades-long effort with a bevy of believing producers, wrote the Screenplay. It is Executive-Produced by xxxx xxxx, who directed the stunningly mounted steampunk-esque pilot.
Laudably, there’s more to The Lost Wizard than electrical zaps and cliché Sci-Fi tropes. It is inexorably propelled forward by the excellent script, which is populated with convincing, well-rounded real-life characters, many of which were historical giants in their own right. These were Tesla’s friends, colleagues and, several were his enemies:
He duels with the Menlo Park Wizard Tom Edison, dwarf mathematical genius, Charles Steinmetz, his arch competitor in the field of wireless, Guglielmo Marconi and J. Pierpont Morgan, the richest and most powerful financier the world has ever seen.
Tesla’s Allies include architect extraordinaire Stanford White, Industrialist George Westinghouse, writers Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling, the Century Magazine’s Editor Robert Underwood Johnson and his alluring wife Katharine.
Katharine Johnson’s constrained platonic love affair with Tesla sizzles on screen. Another sadly tragic love interest is the playwright Marguerite Merrington.
Brilliantly constructed, interweaving several plots with key points in history, THE LOST WIZARD bristles with dialogue that pushes the story through and defines the characters of Tesla, Edison and JP Morgan in granular detail. It is full of wit, pathos and nostalgia, which serve to evoke the moods of each era. The fine writing is sensitive, eloquent and sparkles with authenticity.
TESLA – a real-life heroic Geek tragic figure – was something less, and more, than a demi-god among lesser mortals, who, unlike Tesla, mostly stumble forward with blinkered visions. Nikola Tesla is an aesthetic savant with eidetic powers who, at the height of the “Gilded Age of the Gay Nineties”, first takes a suite at the Waldorf Astoria, but then must slowly migrate to less opulent and more constrained environs a his fortunes ebb.
Almost every dollar Tesla earned went to fund an array of then-esoteric research: X-Rays, turbine designs, wireless technologies, robotics, and the defensive “Teleforce” Device he designed with the intent of ending the scourge of warfare – the inspiration for proposed particle-beam “Star Wars” weaponry.
“Money does not represent such a value as men have placed upon it. All my money has been invested into experiments with which I have made new discoveries enabling mankind to have a little easier life.”
But he’s a victim of his own tortured personal past, haunted by an internal drive to personify and surpass the potential of his deceased older brother.
Eventually reduced to an impecunious life of thwarted aspirations, the wizened elderly wizard becomes just another quirky city character. He dispenses bird seed to his beloved flock of pigeons in Bryant Park as the AC Electrical System he developed powers the city with clean renewable hydro-electric power, sparkling like a jewel in the night.
Morphing from this haggard oddball Gotham fixture, Tesla has inexorably become the personification for Geekdom’s underdog inspiration. For growing world-wide legions Tesla is the personified focal point. Hundreds of web sites express their appreciation for Tesla’s Tale, which is inexorably re-emerging, phoenix-like, from the dustbin of history.
Today he is revered by Silicon Valley’s current hi-tech uber-geeks. The heads of Paypal, Ebay and Google took the inventor’s name for Elon Musk’s breakthrough electric car company, TESLA MOTORS.
In the days before TV and commercial radio, let alone automobiles and widespread electric lighting, Tesla’s “Live” 1898 Show at Madison Square garden was a visual spectacle that turned Esoteric Science into High Society, then Globe-spanning entertainment. The Lost Wizard’s massive coruscating Tesla Coils would fully envelop the daring Electro-Svengali during his “TESLA-ELECTRIC – One Night Only” spectacle, causing women to faint with fright.
Tesla’s exploits at the Chicago World’s Fair, in the mountains of the Rockies at Colorado Springs and at Niagara Falls, both practically, are replicated with Top Flight seamless Visual Effects Work.
These scenes imbue THE LOST WIZARD with a patina of total authenticity, transporting us back to an almost magical time at the dawn of our Modern Age.
Tesla’s Tale is both a testament to the American Vision and Quest – a rags-to-riches-to-rags dramatic narrative arc with tragic resonance, and a variation of the Horatio Alger story: rich or poor, everyone has a shot at success here. You can make it, but, can you keep it?
The Wizard of Menlo Park – Thomas Edison, and his Wall Street supporter – JP Morgan, ponder Tesla’s challenge in Edison’s iconic invention factory. They are skeptical about AC Power’s potential. However the Lion of Pittsburgh, George Westinghouse, recognizes Tesla’s genius and presents a credible electrical alternative to win the right to light a World’s Fair, and then to power our planet.
This world-altering conflict plays out on Tesla’s end with his faithful first assistant Kolman Czito, a former ditch-digging comrade who now sees it as his duty and higher purpose to keep Tesla sustained and grounded.
But Tesla had loftier goals in mind. Where the world was moving to install long distance electrical lines from great cataracts, Tesla decides to do himself one better. He will do it without wires. He successfully maneuvers to wrest Morgan from Edison’s grasp by convincing the Wall Street Financier to fund his “World Wireless Enterprise”.
Unbeknownst to Tesla however, a young Italian inventor, Guglielmo Marconi, using inferior but also much less expensive equipment has entered the wireless race as well. Once Marconi sends his feeble “beep-beep-beeps” across the Atlantic in 1901, Tesla’s wireless enterprise, his invocation of a potential “radio city”, which he named Wardenclyffe, is jeopardized. With its amazing laboratory and 187 foot tall behemoth Transmitter only partly completed, he must return to Morgan to seek further funding.
With the president of the United States, William McKinley, lingering for a week dying at the hands of an assassin, and the stock market crashing because of the reckless behavior of his erstwhile benefactor, JP Morgan, Tesla is in a critical bind.
In his final confrontation with Morgan the dialogue adapts the very words Tesla wrote in his personal correspondence… “…may reason founder on the rock of your brutal resolve…” The Wizard’s grand scheme hangs on the slender thread of this capitalist’s bottom line calculations.
After a dramatic blow-out with the Wall Street Monster, Tesla’s last hope of realizing his World Broadcasting dream lies with two individuals – Morgan’s daughter Ann, who, like Katherine and Marguerite, also harbors affection for him, and his unlikely friend, the debonair architect and bon vivant Stanford White. He is the designer of both Wardenclyffe and is also Morgan’s partner in the amazing original Madison Square Garden, the most beautiful building in New York City.
THE LOST WIZARD resonates with events of today — genius vs. mediocrity, the innovator vs. corporate constraints, world advancement vs. greed. Just as today we see the fall of fragile burgeoning empires, symbolized by the dot.com crash and Wall Street, so too did the denizens of the Gilded Age face similar fates. But also, just as we see our world opening up with cell phones, text messaging, wind turbines, electric cars and a virtually free global world wide web, our turn-of-the-century predecessors also entered an exciting world of telephonic communication, electric lighting, automobiles, and, yes, wireless communication.
Just as ROOTS, THE WINDS OF WAR and the SOPRANOS became must-see mini-series cultural Events, THE LOST WIZARD is so imbued with historical heft that it resonates with a special “vibe”. Its zeitgeistian panache combines with its narrative thrust to illuminate the interplay of historical giants in this quintessential Saga of our emergent Modern Hi-Tech Age. The depiction of these events sets the stage for Tesla to morph from a Zero Then, to a Global Hero NOW. See much more at: http://theteslamovie.com/
“Let the future tell the truth and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine.”