The Last Roadhouse


TYPE
: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Production

LOGLINE

Middlegate is an old Pony Express roadhouse that provides essential food, gas, and lodging to ranchers, military, travelers, and truckers along the “Loneliest Road in America.” Off the grid & powered 24/7 by a diesel generator, its future is in doubt after years of rising fuel costs. 

SYNOPSIS

Built in 1857, Middlegate Station is an old Pony Express roadhouse along Nevada’s Highway 50—the “Loneliest Road in America.” Fredda Stevenson bought the property in 1985. Life off-grid in the Middle of Nowhere appealed to Fredda, so she turned the roadhouse into a bar and grill, and built an eight-room motel. When European tourists pass through they say that Middlegate embodies what they always imagined America to be.

Middlegate lacks significant infrastructure and isn’t connected to Nevada’s energy grid. In 1985, when diesel cost 35 cents a gallon, Fredda’s decision to run Middlegate on a diesel-powered generator was a frugal one. Today it costs nearly $120,000 every year to power Middlegate. Fredda is frank about the fact that if they aren’t able to find an alternative to diesel, Middlegate will cease to exist.

The state of Nevada ranks fourth in the nation for solar energy capacity. There are currently 84 companies in operation in Nevada that provide solar energy, but Fredda said the $750,000 start-up cost is way out of her price range. Fredda has applied for several grants to install a solar array at Middlegate, all of which have been denied. If you’re not on the grid and can’t put energy back into it, you don’t qualify. This puts people like Fredda in an impossible situation. “If you’re not on the grid,” she says, “you’re a second-class citizen.”

Finding renewable sources of energy, curbing pollution caused by fuel emissions, and reducing our dependency on oil are the seminal challenges of our time. Funding for such measures, especially in rural, off-grid areas that need them most, is limited at best. Many people who live off-grid provide essential services to the nation’s economy; many are ranchers, truckers, miners, and military that live in the Middle of Nowhere because their jobs necessitate that they do.

Middlegate not only provides otherwise unavailable services to people along Highway 50; it’s also the main social hub for people in the region. Fredda and Russ are not looking for a handout to solve their energy problem—they’re looking for access to the same tax incentives and grants available to on-grid communities. In addition to the people of Middlegate, the film will include perspectives from legislators, policy analysts, academics, on-grid beneficiaries of state or federal renewable energy subsidies or grants, and other off-gridders—both those who have been able to implement solar, and those who have not.

The plight of this dust-blown cowboy stopover is important, especially now, as more places like it fade from the American landscape. The old roadhouse is little more than a grassless outpost, 60 miles from the next stop sign, but it’s one of the last places in America that embodies radical self-reliance and rugged determination. For it to survive Middlegate must adapt to modern challenges, or it faces certain extinction—and foreshadows America’s future as a whole. Through Middlegate’s journey, The Last Roadhouse asks questions we all will have to answer about clean energy implementation as 21st century necessity. 

ARTISTIC STATEMENT

We first came across Middlegate in 2011 and, like European tourists passing through, were struck by the strength of the place’s soul. It was in 2013 that we learned of their energy problem. While clean energy implementation has long been an issue we think is important, we were until then unfamiliar with the energy issues confronting off-grid communities in America. We’re hoping that this documentary is a catalyst to a meaningful national dialogue about the availability and cost of clean energy implementation in the U.S., especially in rural off-grid communities like Middlegate. 

Artistically, we are interested in the juxtaposition of the old and the new—how new technology (such as solar) can help save historic places (like Middlegate). We’re also interested in the interplay between the rugged individualism that categorizes much of the rural West and their need for governmental assistance. As one academic told us, for the people of Middlegate to reach out and ask for help means that their situation is dire.

KEY CREW

Lisette Cheresson - Executive Producer, Director, Editor

Lisette Cheresson, co-founder of Flyover Pictures, is a producer, director, and editor. A freelance journalist and print editor by trade, Lisette’s work has appeared in a selection of New York Times books, Off Track Planet, The Huffington Post, several local New York newspapers and magazines, The Rag Literary magazine, and as a Glimmer Train contest finalist. She has also developed content for GoStrengths!, a social and emotional learning program, and ghostwritten a chapter for a State University of New York textbook. Lisette lives in New York and is an avid traveler, dirt-collector, composter, hiker, dancer, and lover-of-yoga.

Ryan Cheresson - Director, Director of Photography

Ryan Cheresson, co-founder of Flyover Pictures, is a director and cinematographer who has worked in film and television production since 2006. Ryan also runs a fine carpentry business that has completed design-and-build projects for several prominent locations in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. He has worked on set with clients from Beyoncé to Kid Rock, and has built sets for the likes of VH1, Annie Leibovitz, Vanity Fair, and Saks Fifth Avenue. In 2010, he produced, directed, shot, and edited the “Mary Lawn Hair” music video for New Jersey-based band Holler Wild Rose. When he’s not shooting or building, Ryan can usually be found playing his guitar.

Megan Robertson - Producer, 2nd Camera

Megan Robertson is a freelance television producer based in Brooklyn. Since 2006, she has produced nonfiction series and specials for clients such as ABC News, National Geographic TV, Al Jazeera America, A&E Networks, TLC and Investigation Discovery. Megan has experience shooting all over the United States in studios and in the field, from NASCAR race tracks to criminal trial courts, and from hospital wards to houses teeming with children. While the cameras are off, Megan enjoys playing softball and plotting her next big adventure.

Brian Colgan - Production Assistant

Brian Colgan, production assistant, is the Studio Director at ACME Brooklyn, a photo / video studio and prop house that specializes in set design and fabrication. There he acts as the primary liaison between clients and in-house designers, and coordinates booking, marketing, and special events. In 2010, Brian single-handedly initiated the prop-rental side of the business, and he currently manages a crew of ten to fifteen people. Clients include Nordstrom, National Geographic TV, O Magazine, Vanity Fair, Atlantic Records, Polo, Ralph Lauren, MTV, and Rolling Stone. When he’s not working, Brian enjoys hosting international travelers and creative writing.

 

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