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Lights, action, camera! Monico Lane was among the film sites to highlight the use of electricity, as opposed to oil, in cars. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Park Rapids site of electric car mockumentary

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Monico Lane became a movie set Saturday when film director (and Park Rapids alumna) Rachel Morgan arrived from New York with cast and crew to film a "mockumentary" on electric cars.

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Executive producer Zack Vex, who's worked with Morgan producing music videos, contacted her in May. Vex owns Zvex Effects in Uptown Minneapolis, a guitar pedal company with many "well known rock stars" engaging his product.

But it was an electric car - a Tesla - that had intrigued him, inspiring the filming of the humorous - downright preposterous - "Electric Trippers."

A drag race on Monico, a visit to Carter's corn maze, replete with sheep riding, and target shooting and cow milking at Morgan's farm were about to be captured for the mockumentary - fictitious events presented in documentary format.

"This movie is to raise awareness," Vex explained of the United States' crippling dependence on foreign oil.

Through subtle humor, the film educates people on an alternative to dependence on gasoline-powered engines.

A test drive "sold me," Vex said of the car's acceleration. The car can develop torque at zero RPM, he explained of the 285-horse power engine producing 295 foot-pounds of torque. "That's what beats people off the line."

The Tesla goes from zero to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds. But he can "fill" the car for $7, based on a 12-cent kilowatt-hour, and subsequently make a 245-mile trip. The driver of a traditional car with the same type of performance will spend $70 on gas for the same trip.

"This is technology that will save the nation's budget," he contends, "half of which is earmarked for defense - for oil."

"Electricity is homegrown," Vex said. "Electric battery vehicles will solve our national security problems" by gaining energy independence.

"We fight wars for oil. We have never fought a single battle for electricity," Vex said.

"Studies prove if we convert 70 percent of cars to electricity, charging them at night, we would not have to increase the grid," he said.

North America could become energy sustaining by using its coal and natural gas and engaging geo thermal, solar and wind technology, he maintains.

The film is a means to shed light on the "crazy politics" - large corporations controlling the nation's energy decisions.

"If politicians won't do it, it's up to the people," explained Anne Morgan, Rachel's mom and cateress for the Park Rapids filming.

Midget wrestling, take 3

The Tesla was delivered to Vex in March, but three-foot snow banks in Minneapolis precluded driving until thaw.

"This is the world's cheapest super car," Vex said of the car's $109,000 base price.

Just 2,500 roadsters have been made by the company founded in 2003 by a group of engineers in Silicon Valley. About 1,500 of the electric cars have been sold in the U.S., 15 are reportedly being driven in Minnesota. "But I haven't seen one yet."

Vex contacted Rachel Morgan in New York, broaching the idea of a film on driving cross-country with serendipitous adventures to ensue.

"People in California know about this car," Rachel Morgan explained. "But most people across the country have never heard of it."

This may be about to change.

The movie, fueled by eccentricity, showcases what can be done with a car powered by electricity.

The car needs amps, with stops required. So the movie characters - including Vex's girlfriend, Stella Kostolna who's originally from Slovakia - meet some colorful characters on the journey.

That would include Kostolna wrestling a midget in Cyrus.

Off the starting line

Three weeks ago, Rachel Morgan received the call. "Are you ready?" Vex asked of what will become a 23-minute pilot of "Electric Trippers."

Morgan recruited producer Brian Turner, who would make his first trip to Minnesota. "Rachel and I have worked together before," he said. "I was excited," he said of seeing the land of 10,000 lakes for the first time from ground level.

Arriving last Monday, he shed the sweaters he'd packed.

"Minneapolis is a beautiful, clean city," he said. "And the drive to New York Mills was beautiful," he said of another filming site.

As director, Rachel Morgan, spearheads the creative aspects of the film, he explained. "As producer, I'm in charge of logistics, making sure the i's are dotted, t's are crossed." He sets up everything for the film and oversees day-to-day operations and budgets.

That would include filming at Hemenway's Body Shop, with Kerry Hemenway's '71 Dodge Challenger - along with Dave Steven's 2001 Corvette and Brian Peterson's'70 Monte Carlo -making their film debut.

The street cordoned, cameras rolling, Kostolna dropped the checked flag. The three cars each raced the noiseless Tesla, speeds exceeding 100 mph on the two-block stretch.

Hemenway's roadster came in first over the Monico finish line.

By afternoon's end, they were enjoying Anne Morgan's lunch, and discussing the next shoot.

At this point, they have no contract with any of the cable channels, but hope to sell the mockumentary as a reality TV series. It's expected to be ready by early next year.

"National security is our biggest issue," Vex said of his motivation to raise awareness. "If we end dependence on foreign oil, it will change everything." "Plug it in" might soon replace "fill 'er up."

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Jean Ruzicka
(218) 732-3364
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