In 2016 after working on Super Bowl 50 as an editor, I left my home in Los Angeles and moved to Minneapolis to start research on a television series I had been thinking about ever since visiting the James J. Hill house, a historic mansion on Summit Avenue in St. Paul.
I spent the next year researching the life of Hill, a railroad industrialist, robber baron whose greatest achievement was building a transcontinental railroad through the Rockies to the west coast and trying to piece together the lives of the residents of the social elite that lived on Summit Avenue at the turn of the 19th Century. After attending the Sundance Institute's Short Film Master Class in 2018, I realized the next step in the development of my series would be to write, direct and produce a short film. As was stated in the workshop, by shooting a short film to further my project, I would be able to establish the look, tone, character and place of the series. In November of 2018, I shot the short film MASTER SERVANT in the James J. Hill house and secured Boardwalk Empire's Remy Auberjonois to play ERIK.
I have recently completed the picture edit and am working on finishing the sound design, score, color correction and final mix. I was awarded a Small Sparks Grant by the Golden Valley Community Foundation to put toward completing the project.
On the very night of the celebration of the Great Northwest’s completion of the transcontinental railroad, a catastrophic explosion at the railroad yard kills many of its workers and devastates the lives of their loved ones. Determined to celebrate this great achievement, railroad executive Samuel Blackburn, struggles to remain indifferent to his workers’ losses and to celebrate alongside the Social Elite.
Master Servant Production Team
Julie Koehnen – Writer/Director/Producer
After getting her degree from LA’s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Koehnen pursued her passion for filmmaking by writing, producing, acting and directing short films, and had her full length feature RAISING THE DEAD (a.k.a. DON’T TELL) successfully produced by Peer Oppenheimer Productions starring Alison Eastwood. Continuing to expand on her multifaceted creative endeavors, Koehnen recently left her editing career in Los Angeles to pursue filmmaking and screenwriting full time. She is currently developing and writing a television series inspired by the Empire builder, James J. Hill.
Steven Elbert – Producer
Former Vice President of Event Production for American Express / Ameriprise turned filmmaker premiered his directorial debut, ICE HOUSE, at the 2017 Twin Cities Film Fest. In his next venture, Elbert lends his considerable producing talents to the short film, MASTER SERVANT, a historical drama inspired by true events of the Gilded age in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Ruth Maramis – Producer
Ruth Maramis is a screenwriter/producer based in the Twin Cities. She recently wrote and produced an indie romance short Hearts Want, which won the Best Audience Award at Twin Cities Film Fest in 2017, as well as Best Writer at Austin Under the Stars Film Festival. It’s currently in its film festival run, screening all over the country including the UK and Australia. She is also a prolific film blogger/critic who owns and manages FlixChatter Blog. Ruth is a member of FilmNorth, The Playwrights Center, and Minnesota Women in Film and TV.
Ace Allgood – Consulting Producer
Ace is the first man to be cloned directly from the DNA of a GI Joe. He hails from Oklahoma and is a passionate Sooners fan. After surviving flash floods and helicopter crashes Ace decided that the simpler life of post production was his calling. Ace has produced hundreds of spots, live shoots, and short films. He spends about 18 minutes a day convincing people that Ace Allgood really is his name.