Jamie Klotz’s Origins: The Adventures in Hot Springs, Part Two


After the creation of “A Day in Hot Springs,” Jesse and I had an idea for a number of sequels/prequels: make one video for each day of the week and release them as a webseries online to be known as “The Week in Hot Springs.” The first of which would be “Another Day in Hot Springs” which I clearly remember writing with Jesse while sitting hunched over a picnic table at Chautauqua Park in downtown Hot Springs. From that bizarre story, we spun off into other episode ideas like “1001 Arabian Gumps,” “Paradox,” “War of the Dandelions” and later going back to the night before “A Day in Hot Springs” (The Night in Hot Springs) and as far back as the beginning of time itself (“The First Day in Hot Springs.”)

Armed with scripts in hand and a ton of ambition, we set about casting and filming the stories, starting with Quest for the Lost Treasures. However, a number of factors, not least of which was my own horrible procrastination, led to only portions of the series being filmed. Cast members dropped in and out unexpectedly, schedules never jived, scenes were shot and reshot, throwing continuity to the wind.

We finally just “finished” in 2009 with the completion of a number of shorts we called “The Adventures in Hot Springs” which WERE released as webisodes and with numerous incomplete Week in Hot Springs videos “in the can,” digitally. I instead turned my attention to writing as I moved away from Hot Springs and away from my filming buddies.


The Man played by two ridiculously awesome guys: Tanis Koehn in QFLT and Daniel Crossman in JKD1
The Man played by two ridiculously awesome guys: Tanis Koehn in QFLT and Daniel Crossman in JKD1

Right off the bat, the first character Jesse meets in “Quest for the Lost Treasures” in an odd entity who is known only as “The Man.” From the earliest scripts, we always envisioned him as this laid back guy in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, sitting in a random back yard, with an underlying darkness to him beneath his cheerful demeanor.

The Man informs him that, due to his actions at the end of the last video, Jesse must now serve as The Man’s manslave for all eternity. When Gump protests, The Man offers a sole chance for salvation: find all 5 lost treasures of Hot Springs within 12 hours, and you will be set free.

The original Man was played by Tanis Koehn and shot in a hurried pace – the editing is frantic and the scene is rushed because of it. We never finished filming any other scenes with Tanis. But in Jamie Klotz’s Diary, The Man was written in as the character Jamie meets when she is trapped in another dimension by Professor Dorn, and she learns that he, too, is trapped there, making him much more sympathetic than the original Man.

The idea of sending characters around looking for something in a montage set to the song “Runaway” wasn’t even a new concept to Quest for the Lost Treasures. Read my blog post, “Refried Ideas; or The Montage Scene” about the original 2004 version of the “Gibbers: The Movie” script to see how I felt in 2009 after we finally completed the Week in Hot Springs version of that scene.

2007-2009: (remember, no continuity!)


Gump finds a treasure finder in a box of Raisin Bran, while Ryan uses Dr. Lawrence's treasure finder to track down Jamie's diary in JKD2.
Gump finds a treasure finder in a box of Raisin Bran, while Ryan uses Dr. Lawrence’s treasure finder to track down Jamie’s diary in JKD2.

So Jesse is returned to Hot Springs and rounds up Jim and Taylor to go treasure-hunting with him. The first question Jim has is: how are you going to know what the treasures even are? Jesse has no idea… but conveniently finds a “magic treasure finder” in a box of raisin bran. The treasure finder later reappears in Jamie Klotz’s Diary, given to Jamie by Dr. Lawrence, and reappears in Jamie Klotz’s Diary II, as seen in the screenshot to the left.

Gump says
Gump says “It tickles me” while Kaitlyn uses the duck’s secret powers in JKD2.

The very first treasure Jesse finds on his search is a treasure that later carried over to Jamie Klotz’s Diary also: a rubber duck. While it’s almost forgettable in JKD – she finds it in the river during the treasure hunt – it became a critical part of JKD2 when determining what the “extraordinary secrets” of each treasure are. One other reference is left: Kaitlyn’s new best friend Rachel almost directly quotes Gump when squeaking the duck.

Jamie’s sunglasses are both a treasure – and a reference!

One of the later treasures Gump finds (in a scene never filmed) is a pair of sunglasses, which he finagles off a nerdy kid who’s trying to get a date with his crush – a reference back to a video I was involved in making for school called “True Love Sunglasses.” While not the same glasses, it’s loosely referenced by Jamie finding a pair of sunglasses in her treasure hunt.

Excerpt from Quest for the Lost Treasures script showing the gang at the library
Excerpt from Quest for the Lost Treasures script showing the gang at the library

The second to the last treasure Gump & co. find in Quest for the Lost Treasures would have involved them meeting guys dressed up as Super Mario and Link from The Legend of Zelda, and of course Jamie Klotz’s Diary is replete with Zelda references. Another scene left unfilmed would have seen Jesse, Jim and Taylor scouring the public library for ideas, much as Jamie and Kaitlyn do after visiting Dr. Lawrence.

We're gonna need a MONTAGE!
We’re gonna need a MONTAGE!

After Jesse’s new girlfriend, Eli, is kidnapped by the Mutant Peanut Butter Ninja, forcing Jesse to choose between saving himself or Eli and becoming the Man’s manslave, Jesse turns to Jim and Taylor for help… in the form of a training montage! Including running around the track at the high school and running up one of Hot Springs’ awesome staircases.

Gump meets himself from the future... while Jamie does the same.
Gump meets himself from the future… while Jamie does the same.

Jesse confronts the Ninja high atop the dam at Cold Brook, then finds out that the final missing treasure was with Eli all along, thus stopping The Man as well. Just as everyone is celebrating Gump’s victory, Jesse’s vehicle, The Gumpmobile, rolls up and Jesse gets a blast from the future as his future self proclaims the real danger is an unknown villain known only as “Half Pint” and asks Jesse to come with him back to the future.


Jamie Klotz’s Diary took a lot of direct inspiration from Quest for the Lost Treasures, and that was intentional. The first JKD movie was made not just for fun but to show that I finally had the resources and ability as a filmmaker to do what I had been unable to as an 18-year old. JKD2 is a step toward more serious filmmaking, with a clear and distinct plot from beginning to end instead of the more carefree and random JKD1, similar to how Quest for the Lost Treasures, if finished, would have had a more defined story than A Day in Hot Springs (though not by much, in retrospect).

In our next column, we’ll cover 1001 Arabian Gumps to War of the Dandelions and what elements of those inspired Jamie Klotz’s Diary. (It’s much less than Day in Hot Springs and QFLT.)

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

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.


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.)


Jamie Klotz’s Diary II Behind the Scenes Video: Cascade Springs Slow-Mo

One of the things I’m most proud of about Jamie Klotz’s Diary II is that I feel like we’ve honestly “stepped up” on so many different levels. Production values have vastly improved, the cast has grown tremendously between the first and second movie, and I think the story and its setpieces are at least a cut above the (admittedly mostly pointless but still ridiculously fun) music montages and final fight scene of the first film. (Which I have to give a ton of credit to Bridgett Hill for choreographing, which added credibility to the fight.)

One of my favorite scenes that we shot that I have held off on showing any clips from is the one as seen in the “alternate angle” above, shot by Dustin Aaberg, who also appears in the movie as “John Ellison.” In its, one of our biggest (big being a relative term) stunts happens!