Eagle Rock is the story of how a young woman in prison for murder and her reflections to a reporter on the cult she was a part of and her relationship with its leader. It is also the story of her coming of age amidst the social unrest of the late 1960s, and her search for a better life.
This story came about with a fascination with cult leaders such as Charles Manson, Jim Jones and David Koresh, and a desire to understand the young women who fell into their orbit. While I've never been in such a position myself, I understand the loneliness, isolation and desire to be loved. In telling this story, I hope that I can be truthful to what these women experienced. For me, it's a story about growing up, about being young and falling in love for the first time and about finding your way. It's not an easy story but one that I desperately feel needs to be in the world.
In January we placed as Quarterfinalists in the ScreenCraft Film Fund. Raymond Productions and Tequila Mockingbird , two independent production companies, jointly produced the film.
If you've been following our production, you know that it has been in development since June 2018, that we shot in Bozeman, Montana from May 2nd-May 4th, and have a second unit shoot to complete in Los Angeles on June 8th. The plan is to have a finished film by August.
Eleanor Wells - Writer/Director
Eleanor Wells was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and was a lover of film, writing, and storytelling from an early age. She has written and directed several short films, including Feature Presentation, about three lonely people in need of connection who find it at the movies as well as Tales from the Airwaves, a Mercury Theater-esque radio drama. She fell in love with the classics as a teenager, and is especially interested in portraying other eras. She firmly believes storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we have to empathize with and understand the lives of others.
Conor Soucy - Director of Photography
Conor Soucy will be joining Eagle Rock as the Director Of Photography. While he normally sports the director's hat, Soucy wanted an opportunity to focus purely on visual storytelling. Having worked on films since the age of 7 when he bought his first camcorder, Soucy is an obsessive when it comes to crafting images. "With an adjustable shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and hundreds of cameras/lenses to choose from (not to mention lighting) it takes a lot to craft the right shot, BUT there is a right way to do it!" Soucy's prior films include the Sci-Fi short Time Prisoner and the 1970s drama Tell Me Why. As a writer/director, Soucy is often timid to take roles on other projects. "I can't watch a movie with poor writing, never mind work on one! But when Ellie presented me with the Eagle Rock screenplay I was impressed by her knack for telling a compelling story, and I wanted to join the team."
Baylee England - Assistant Camera
Baylee England is pursuing writing and cinematography for film. She has worked on a variety of short films, three of which being student films from Montana State University, one being her own short film, and one an independent film. She has experience as a writer, camera operator, script supervisor, grip, editor, and assistant camera operator. In Fall 2017, she worked as an assistant camera operator and editor to local documentary filmmaker Jason Burlage for a series from Mountain time arts about the importance of irrigation canals in sustainable farming. Baylee was also part of the main crew for BZN, Bozeman’s inaugural international film festival in Summer 2018.
Jason Bodily - Sound Mixer
Jason is a filmmaker currently living in Bozeman, Montana. Born and raised in Boise, Idaho with his two sisters and two brothers, he developed a love for film while taking broadcasting classes in high school. He recently graduated from Montana State University in Bozeman Montana, with a Bachelor’s in film. While in school, he became proficient in all aspects of the filmmaking process, but developed an affinity for sound mixing and editing.
Paige Henderson as Alex
"Alexandra Jean Altman was born on June 15th, 1950, the only daughter of Violet and David Altman. Her mother was a beloved kindergarten teacher and her father an architect. Together, the three had a happy life until it was cut short by Violet’s untimely death from cancer at age 30. Altman, then 10, never fully recovered. Always studious, she poured herself into books, preferring the company of fictional characters like Esther Greenwood and Scout Finch to that of her classmates. One friend, Carolyn Rodgers, reflected. “Alex didn’t date. The boys at school weren’t interested in her, and she wasn’t in them. She would always fall in love with a celebrity of the moment. First it was Richard Beymer. Then George Harrison. Then Jim Morrison. She didn’t really fit in with the people in town. I always knew she was headed for something different in life, but this? This isn’t the Alex I knew.” However, ex cult members described Altman’s fanatical worship of their leader. “Her world began and ended with Jay. I’m not surprised she killed for him,” said one. Her father would not respond to our requests for comment."
Too Much or Not At All
Margaret Glaser as Sasha
"Born Sasha Victoria Adams on January 12th, 1951, Ms. Adams, recently indicted on three counts of murder, had a childhood any girl her age would envy. Her father was a renowned neurosurgeon and her mother the heiress to a massive steel fortune, and as such, she had a charmed life. Family trips to the Swiss Alps at Christmas. Summers at their lakeside cottage in Vermont. Front row Beatles tickets. The finest clothes and food. Shoulders rubbed with the rich and famous. Sasha Adams had it all. And yet, one early morning in September 1968, then 17, she walked out of her family’s mansion, packing only a small bag of her most treasured belongings, when she was picked up hitchhiking by the man she would, three years later, kill for. The second follower after Alex Altman, as their cult grew, Ms. Adams’ devotion to Jay was only rivaled by Ms. Altman’s herself. Of their daughter, Mr and Mrs Adams spoke of a bright, passionate young woman, one who loved the ocean and chocolate ice cream, Daphne DuMarier novels and Natalie Wood. “She never wanted for anything. She was always such a happy girl. We still don’t understand it. Our daughter is not capable of doing the things that she is accused of doing.”"
Memories of My Sister
Greg Mills as Jay
"Jay Whitman was many things to many different people. He was born on December 20th, 1933, to a young, absent mother. “He acted out a lot. It was always to get her attention,” remembers a classmate. At sixteen, he would spend two years in juvenile hall. After he was released, he met Sarah Armstrong of Jackson, Wyoming. The two fell in love, marrying in 1956 and having a son, Adam, the following year. "He made me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world,” said Ms. Armstrong. “But it was all a facade. Nothing about him is real.” They would divorce in 1963, shortly after he was sentenced to five years in prison for tax fraud. From prison, he continued to write passionate love letters to Armstrong. She would remarry in 1968, the same year of his release and the same year he met Alexandra Altman. Within three years his following would grow to a dozen and a half some young people, mostly girls. He talked of free love, of music, of an appreciation for nature and hard work and the evils of society. But he was shaping the girls in his mold, isolating them, teaching three of them to become killers. “He is a very charming person,” says Ms. Armstrong of her ex-husband. “I can’t blame those girls for falling for him. I am sure he only let them see what he wanted them to. This is beyond whatever I thought he was capable of, however.” When asked how she sat with the knowledge that her ex-husband had done, she said, “All I want is to raise my son right. To show him that his father’s actions don’t reflect on him whatsoever.” Now in prison, where he will live out the rest of his days, it is certain that we will never forget these strange and horrific crimes, Whitman himself, and the girls he held in his iron grip.
Strangers in the Night
Keeley Bright as Margaret Kelly
"Margaret Kelly was many things. A consummate swimmer and athlete, a gracious, generous woman, and a beloved daughter, friend and wife to be. She was born on November 19th, 1945 in Chicago. the only daughter of Dorothy and George Kelly. She became interested in swimming as a young child from summers spent on Lake Michigan. “She was always in the water, every second she had,” said her father. She competed in her first Olympics in Tokyo in 1964, where she would take home her first gold. After returning home, she met John Parker, a fellow Chicago native, in 1967, and the two began a whirlwind romance. After winning three additional golds in Mexico City in 1968, they became engaged to be married in 1970, the same year Kelly began training for the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. She spoke often of her desire to not only raise a family, but continue her career. She certainly would have done all this and more had it not been for her murder on July 6th, 1971 at the age of 25. The three young people who committed the gruesome act will serve life in prison. Kelly is remembered by everyone who knew and loved her as a loving, caring and generous person. “My daughter had so much love to give,” said Dorothy Kelly. “She treated everyone she ever met with kindness and compassion. I will never understand the reason behind this horrific tragedy.”
Two Weeks in Tokyo
Behind the Scenes
As previously mentioned, we shot the majority of the film in Montana at had an amazing time. Below are a few pictures. It was all stunning and simply being there was a dream come true.
“There are survivors of disasters whose accounts never begin with
the tornado warning or the captain announcing engine failure, but
always much earlier in the timeline: an insistence that they noticed a
strange quality to the sunlight that morning or excessive static in
their sheets. A meaningless fight with a boyfriend. As if the
presentiment of catastrophe wove itself into everything that came
- Emma Cline, The Girls
I've always been fascinated by the relationship our species has with with time. I'm not sue how almost been three months since we shot, and that soon the making of this film, and everything that went into it, is going to be a distant memory. But even then, it will still be here, and that's part of the reason I've always wanted to be a storyteller. With film we immortalize moments in time. If that isn't magic I don't know what is.
In making it, I put this little piece of myself out into the world. I did it for a shy seventeen year old girl who still believed in fairytales. She craved love badly and just wanted someone to understand her. When that girl was 21, she read about the Manson family, and about the girls, and she was shaken to her core. Then she read about Jonestown, then about Heaven’s Gate, and on it went. And she kept going back to those Manson girls. And in doing so, she made this, and was lucky enough to have an amazing team of people to help her do it. And even then, she didn’t fully realize how vulnerable it would make her feel. This is from my heart, completely and totally, and sincerely hope that it resonates.
Thank you for being a part of this journey. I'll see you at the movies. Until then, check out our clip below.
"It's not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning."
Montana. Spring 1968. The approach of summer could be felt in every budding flower and every chirping bird. On the same day that Bobby Kennedy had a month to live, Alex Altman had a month left of high school.
Some news: I was recently on Julie Harris Walker's The Other 50 Percent podcast discussing this film and my journey, and I'm excited to share it with you when it's released in August.
Keep a close eye on our social media pages. For now, I'll leave you with the words of Leonard Bernstein.
It feels surreal that I'm writing the first update post shoot. I'm still in a haze.
With this project, there were many challenges and fears along the way but when push came to shove everything fell into place. And even though I've made films before, I've far put the most time and effort into this by farr. It's both personal and ambitious. The camerawork, the period detail, the locations we found were all perfect, but what's really going make this special is the performances from the actors. They're going to break your heart.
It's amazing to watch this all come to fruition and live my dream with a story I feel so passionate about.
I feel very blessed.