Yes, it appears a flying saucer has just crash-landed into one of Bakersfield's most recognizable structures, the Beale Memorial Clock Tower on Chester Avenue.
The UFO is embedded near the top of the brick tower, and smoke is billowing from the wreckage. The crash appears to be part of an extra-terrestrial invasion of Bakersfield itself.
It's all part of "The Video Room," a concept from the mind of local filmmaker Rickey Bird Jr., co-founder of Bakersfield-based Hectic Films.
"Our ultimate goal is to raise at least $6,000 to build a state-of-the-art Disneyland-style escape room and shoot a short film that the room will be based on," Bird said.
You heard right. "The Video Room" will be a combination of two very different experiences: a film and a "not your average" escape room developed at Real Escape Bakersfield, a local escape room business on District Boulevard. These popular team‐based games require players to cooperate in discovering clues, solving puzzles and accomplishing tasks in order to progress and accomplish a specific goal in a limited amount of time.
Different? Sure, says Hectic Films co-founder Jason Sanders, who specializes in visual effects and editing.
"But I don't think of this is a departure for us," Sanders said.
On the contrary, the independent filmmakers have always looked for creative ways to engage with their audiences, whether through 4-D film experiences, social media relationships with friends and fans, or in this case, connecting a film experience with a seemingly unrelated activity.
Known primarily for grindhouse, horror and adult comedies, this time around Hectic decided to create something family friendly.
"This is 'Stranger Things' meets 'The Goonies' meets 'ET' — all wrapped up in one," Bird said. "It all takes place in Bakersfield in 1995 during an alien invasion."
And a portion of the proceeds will go to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Once the escape room is completed, it will be open for at least one year, Bird said. The short film will be available for free online.
Jennifer Hastings, who with her sister, Amanda, help operate Real Escape Bakersfield, said they were intrigued when Bird approached them with his concept.
"I had never heard of this being done before," she said of the idea of pairing a short film with an escape room experience.
"This will definitely be one of our more high-tech rooms," she said.
Anticipation is growing, and she and Amanda are already involved in developing their roles in the projects.
"We're already hammering out puzzles," she said. "It's a process."
And the actor James Duval, who is best known for his roles as Frank in "Donnie Darko," and Miguel in "Independence Day," has signed on to the project.
Bird, who grew up in Bakersfield, has been making independent films since 2004. His book, "Cheap Movie Tricks," available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Target, is a guide for people like him who have a love for making movies, but don't necessarily want to go begging for funding in Los Angeles.
He works in the oilfields, but some of his films have played in Brazil, the United Kingdom and Canada — and in film festivals all over the United States.
When his movie, "Naked Zombie Girl," was pirated, it was downloaded a half-million times.
Even though "the character is never naked in the movie," he said, laughing.
He's a huge Walt Disney fan — "the man, not the franchise" — and he wants to bring that sort of detailed, immersive experience to the escape room, using special effects and flat-screen monitors for windows.
"I like taking somebody to a whole new reality," he said.