Jamie Klotz’s Origins: The Adventures In Hot Springs, Part One

A DAY IN HOT SPRINGS
The original concept for Jamie Klotz was created in around 2004, with a simple title: “In Search of Jamie Klutz’s Diary.” It was scribbed in a notebook along with two other possible movie titles: “Where the Heck is Bermuda Anderson?” and “Gibbers.” Of the three, Gibbers was written as an ambitious film about an alien crash landing and befriending two young boys and having all sorts of zany adventures. However, it was a little TOO ambitious, and when it fell through, I was wondering what project I was going to work on next and I found it helping two of my best friends, Jesse Needham and Taylor Lund, with a school project in May of 2006.

hot springs south dakota a day in short film movie
Taylor, Jesse and Jim for scale

Tired of hearing students complain there was nothing to do in Hot Springs, their teacher assigned her class to partner up and make a video showing what they do on an average day in Hot Springs. Being the type of people they were, Jesse and Taylor decided to be completely subversive and make a video showing things that would never and could never possibly happen on an average day, and in doing so, prove a point: making the video itself was what we did for fun in Hot Springs. They came to me with a pitch and scene ideas, and I scripted out the rest and after rounding up our friend Jim Cunningham to make up a haphazard trio, as well as numerous other friends, we spent three days filming and two days editing “A Day in Hot Springs,” in which our protagonists try to go about normal, everyday things like picking up friends, eating lunch, walking through downtown, and hiking except things going completely crazy, with random ninja attacks, angry hobos, musical numbers, and more. It sounds funny, but it’s pretty silly to watch, but I was ridiculously proud of it. At the time it was the biggest project I’d done. And they got a near-perfect grade, with it being docked for being a little too long – somewhere closer to 40 minutes when everyone else’s was a tenth of that.

That summer, Jesse and I sat down and wrote a sequel “Another Day in Hot Springs,” and then planned to do a total of 7, count ’em, SEVEN, episodes, each increasingly more complex than the next. We started filming before scripts were even complete and continued through our senior year and into the following summer, but got hung up on incomplete scripts, cast members dropping in and out, and my general inexperience as a filmmaker. Left with a hodge-podge of bits & pieces of the remaining 6 episodes, little did I know that they would evolve and become part of the lifeblood of both Jamie Klotz’s Diary movies.

THE CONNECTIONS

I am the Mutant Peanut Butter Ninja of Doom from the Planet Salmon!
I am the Mutant Peanut Butter Ninja of Doom from the Planet Salmon!

So, if you watched the upper video from A Day in Hot Springs, and had also watched the trailer for Jamie Klotz’s Diary 2, this probably stuck out to you right off the bat:

That, my friends, is the Mutant Peanut Butter Ninja of Doom from the Planet Salmon, the line that Jesse cursed me over and over for while filming, and even actor Sam Martin, who plays him in JKD2, has a bit of trouble with. Scott Akers was the original ninja in A Day in Hot Springs, and early drafts of scripts for later episodes had him returning to get his proper revenge on Jesse Gump for beating him.

When I starting thinking about doing a sequel to JKD, I immediately knew that no matter what else the story was about, it had to start with Jamie coming home from college and almost immediately being attacked by the Ninja. Not just any ninja, mind you, but the Mutant Peanut Butter Ninja of Doom. It’s a great homage that maybe 5-6 people will get, but it tickles me every time I see it. Perfectly cheesy.

Top - Matt as the Mt. Dew Monster, who says the meaning of life is soda; Bottom - Matt as Dr. Lawrence, who says the meaning of life is watering your flowers.
Top – Matt as the Mt. Dew Monster, who says the meaning of life is soda; Bottom – Matt as Dr. Lawrence, who says the meaning of life is watering your flowers.

Although not the same character, one link between Jamie Klotz and her predecessor is the appearance of Matt Luebeck. In A Day in Hot Springs, he appears as the “Mountain Dew Monster,” a supposed local cryptid who, near the end of the video, appears and gives Jesse what was supposed to be a dry ice bomb in a Dr. Pepper bottle.

Matt was given a much meatier role in Jamie Klotz’s Diary as Dr. Lawrence. It was always intended in the script toestablish that Jamie and Kaitlyn had gone on a multitude of other adventures prior to this one, including beating Dr. Lawrence, the slightly off-kilter mad scientist who once tried to take over the world, but has since retired to a quiet life of minor inventions and house arrest.

Having Matt come down to play this part was amazing because it was a sort-of passing on of a torch, or treasure finder, as the case may be. Plus, since going off to college, Matt had grown to be a pretty capable actor. His creepy-Doc Brown-esque performance had everyone on set cracking up.

Chautauqua Park comparison shots
Chautauqua Park comparison shots

We reused many locations while filming Jamie Klotz’s Diary, partly as an tribute to those original videos, partly because the locations are awesome anyway. What was, in 2006, Indiana Jake’s hangout, is, in 2013, the location of the last treasure and the first real confrontation between Jamie and Dorn.

The drainage tunnel Jamie finds a treasure in is in A Day in Hot Springs as a warp to the Mushroom Kingdom (don’t ask, there’s no real explanation.)

Top - Jesse and Jim enter "Ender Paradise"; Bottom - Jamie goes looking for Elvis glasses
Top – Jesse and Jim enter “Ender Paradise”; Bottom – Jamie goes looking for Elvis glasses

It was like déjà vu coming back to some of these locations, and to the sole person on set most days who knew the connection, it felt like we were remaking or re-envisioning The Week in Hot Springs. And in some ways we were. Jamie Klotz Diary is what The Week in Hot Springs was supposed to be: a cute, funny, oddball story about kids learning to appreciate their home town, their friends and relationships, and understanding the brevity young people have with all of them before growing older and becoming adults.

If we were to ever make a Jamie Klotz’s Diary 3, it would be the thematic conclusion to that arch – if JKD1 is the random, fun part of being both a kid and a teen, and JKD2 is learning appreciate what you had when you were that age, especially valuing real, true friendships, then JKD3 would have to be finding your place in the world.

Most people won’t get that out of the Jamie Klotz movies, but it’s something I’ve kept in mind for a long time. My own sort of coming-of-age story, I guess.

Next Origins column, we’ll cover what happened to Jesse Gump in “Quest for the Lost Treasures” and just how many elements from that and its later iterations made their way into the Jamie Klotz’s Diary movies. (Spoiler: it’s a lot.)

-Justin

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