Thomas Edison comes clean in one-character local film

Skye Kinkade
Local filmmakers George Ainsworth and Mark Oliver will be on hand for a panel discussion after the premiere of the locally produced film, “Apologia of Thomas Alva Edison,” which will be held Sunday, March 24 at the Sisson Museum.  Photo by Skye Kinkade

In the locally made short film “Apologia of Thomas Alva Edison,” one of the most famous inventors in history steps through time to speak with the audience.

In a 40 minute monologue, Edison, portrayed by Lake Shastina actor Bennett Gale, admits his shortcomings and apologizes for the impact his invention has made on modern society.

Written and co-directed by Mount Shasta’s George Ainsworth under the pseudonym, TW Rawlins, the film reveals consequences of Edison’s loss of the “War of Currents” in the late 1880s.

Apologia will premiere at the Sisson Museum in Mount Shasta on Sunday, March 24 at 2 p.m. After the film, there will be a panel discussion on possible longterm health effects of electromagnetic radiation, its countermeasures and protective or remedial activism.

Co-directors Mark Oliver and Ainsworth, Gale, and Teo-Kim Merlino of Mount Shasta, who composed the film’s original music score, will speak about their roles in creating Apologia.

Ainsworth said the film “puts forward something that cannot be proven or disproven” and hopes it encourages people to research electromagnetic radiation and what people can do to counteract it.

Apologia was “lifted” from a longer play Ainsworth wrote called “War of the Currents,” which is known as the first modern technological standards war between Edison and George Westinghouse over the promotion of inventor Nicola Tesla’s alternating current instead of Edison’s direct current.

Ainsworth said he was inspired to pen the script because he believes the rapid spread of alternating current was a turning point in the history of mankind.

In the film, Edison describes direct current as a gentle, easy energy that’s compatible with our bodies and the world. AC, however, is “strange and unnatural” and acts like a “vicious caged animal” that whips back and forth at the speed of light.

Because AC spread so quickly and because there were no scientific investigations on the new technology 100 years ago, the world is now the subject of a monumental experiment and is “at the brink of an environmental collapse,” Edison contends in Apologia. The character points to a few devices and procedures that can counteract radiation, including filters for the home, wearable resonators and a grounding mattress pad.

“Over the last 100 years a small AC trickle, then a stream, then a river, then an ocean of electromagnetic currents began bathing us invisibly wherever we go,” Gale as Edison says in the film. “Radiating from the wiring in our home, car, from all the electrical appliances crowding our living rooms and work spaces... the computers in front of our faces, the cell phones strapped to our waists and held up to our heads... radiowaves and microwaves passing through our minds, bodies and hearts.”

The film ends with suggested places to begin research on the longterm effects of EMF.

Local talent

Ainsworth, a 12 year Mount Shasta resident, began seeking the talents to lift his project off the page and onto the screen last year. He found all local people to help him make it happen.

Gale is a Broadway veteran who now lives in Lake Shastina. This is the first one-character film he has performed in, and he spent more than two months memorizing all the lines of Edison’s monologue.

“He really inhabits this role,” said Ainsworth, who was introduced to Gale through a friend.

“I didn’t try to impersonate Edison. He’s very matter of fact... sometimes staccato,” said Gale, who listened to recordings of Edison’s voice. “I tried to make this performance a blend of Edison’s matter of fact way and the emotional reality of what he is sharing... it was a conscious decision.”

Like Ainsworth, Gale hopes the film will encourage people to do their own research on the topic of electromagnetic radiation and its impact on the health of modern society.

Oliver previously produced the award winning films “From the Quarters to Lincoln Heights” and “Viajero.” He is working on an upcoming documentary with the working title, “Where is our Water?”

Ainsworth said Oliver’s creative input was “a blessing” for his project, and he praises the musical score, composed by licensed acupuncturist Teo-Kim Merlino, for its amazing impact on the film.

“The script is really top-notch,” said Oliver. “Edison is coming back from the past, almost like a ghost, to recount his life.”

Oliver said this is the first time he’s been approached by a local producer asking him to be part of a project which was produced, in its entirety, in Siskiyou County.

The filmmakers plan to make Apologia available online after its March 24 premiere. Ainsworth’s next project is the second part of the story, from Nicola Tesla’s point of view. Production of “Tesla’s Engine” may begin this summer.

Film premiere

What: Film premiere and discussion of “Apologia of Thomas Alva Edison.” The film is approximately 45 minutes long.

When: Sunday, March 24 at 2 p.m.

Where: Mt. Shasta Sisson Museum theater space in Mount Shasta.

Cost: A $5 donation is requested for admission.

Rating: The film is not recommended for children due to its complex and possibly worrisome content.