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From The Vermont Digger

UPDATE: Because of the weather, the film Ethan Alien — which had been scheduled to be shown on the Statehouse lawn today, Nov. 2, at 5:30 p.m. — will be streamed virtually. The link to stream is Or, people can watch it on the Western Terrestrials Facebook page. 

Right before the pandemic began, Nick Charyk and his band, the Western Terrestrials, were in Nashville, recording an album that includes “Ethan Alien” — a song with a simple premise: that Ethan Allen, founder of Vermont, was an extraterrestrial. 

“You can’t take the green out of these mountains/or the ET out of Ethan Allen/Can’t take Champy out of the Vermonster lake/It was immigrants from outer space/Helped to make this country great,” the band sings in honky-tonk style.

The song was written with Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show, a band that Charyk is a huge fan of. 

“Certainly in the music world, they’re top shelf,” he said. “As good as it gets.”

The pandemic put the Terrestrials’ album on pause, but after a few months, they were able to reconvene and release the album. And when they did, Charyk said “Ethan Alien” took off — and he is building on that momentum.

Charyk said the Western Terrestrials had tried livestreaming concerts, but the feeling was nowhere close to a live performance. 

“It’s a loss that everyone in the creative industries is feeling right now — both a direct financial loss and also the loss of a performing outlet, which is fundamental to your character if you’re a performer,” he said.

The idea to turn the song into a full-length feature film started as an abstract idea — all Charyk knew was that he wanted to do some kind of multimedia project. But he said with the realities of Covid, making a movie seemed like the only viable option. A traditional concert would have brought too many people together.

“We wanted to make as much of a spectacle as we could,” he said. “We wanted to capture the energy of a live rock ’n’ roll show, in a different medium.”

So late in the summer, Charyk got started on “The Ballad of Ethan Alien.” He used his connections in the Statehouse and in the Vermont music scene to put together an all-star cast, including Hollywood actor and Vermonter Luis Guzman, entertainer Rusty DeWees who’s known for his character “The Logger,” former U.S. Senate candidate Donny Osman, artist and songwriter Bow Thayer, and former state legislator Kiah Morris.

“I realized that everyone I want to work with is available right now, and everyone is looking for an outlet, or a project,” Charyk said.

The film is set in a dystopian near-future in Vermont, where a fascist leader has banned music, singing, dancing and creativity, and a lot of young people have forgotten about music entirely.

Over the course of the film, Vermont’s musical history is rediscovered, reigniting a full rebellion to overthrow the fascist leader. The film premieres on the Statehouse lawn just days before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

“The song is a love letter to the eccentric, weird, slightly off-kilter Vermont that I love,” he said, citing Vermont’s legacy of outsider art at places like Goddard College and Bread and Puppet Theater, and progressive politics being woven into that through people like Ben and Jerry and Bernie Sanders.

“It feels to me that it’s important to put this out into the world right now,” Charyk said. “And we thought doing it on the Statehouse lawn would be the biggest, proudest way to do it.”

So what is the difference between making music and making a movie?

“It’s much, much harder,” Charyk said. “When you’re recording sound, you’re working in one dimension, which is plenty complicated. When you expand it to the dimensions of lights and sounds and costumes and props, there’s so many logistics.”

He had to get used to spending three hours setting up lights for a shot that took 10 minutes, and ultimately would only make up only 20 seconds of the movie.

During filming, Charyk said his team worked 18-hour days for 15 days straight.

The whole project ran at light speed, from conception to on set in just a month. Then, the entire movie was filmed in just two weeks. Now just two months into the movie-making adventure, a rough cut is ready to be debuted on the Statehouse lawn.

“By anybody’s standards, that’s super quick,” Charyk said. “Only in this unique moment were people available and willing to put in the barnraising to get this done before the snow falls in Vermont.”

A Kickstarter for the project has so far raised $3,800 of the $10,000 goal, but Charyk said he’s optimistic he’ll get the rest of the money that’s needed.

The film will be shown at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2, on the Statehouse lawn. The premiere will be free, with mask-wearing mandatory and social distancing strictly enforced. Additional showings are expected to be made available statewide once the movie’s final version is released.

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"Dozens of actors, musicians, and production personnel who had been out of work for months during the COVID-19 pandemic are back in business—with a movie shoot now underway in Vermont.

It is for an upcoming indie film called "The Ballad of Ethan Alien."

As that twist on the name of Vermont's famous Revolutionary War figure implies, it blends sci-fi and state history, and is the brainchild of Nick Charyk—a musician with the alt-country band The Western Terrestrials.

"It's an opportunity to come together in a safe way and celebrate Vermont and the art we do here," Charyk said of the film project which he is executive producing.

The idea started with an Instagram post.

Ketch Secor, the lead singer of the band Old Crow Medicine Show, who's a fan of the Western Terrestrials, commented on one of Charyk's posts, "Let's co-write a song," and started them off with the title "Ethan Allen Wuz an Alien."

Charyk then thought the idea had the makings of a movie, so brought together dozens of people with Vermont ties who lost work in the film or music industries due to COVID-19.

"I haven't played a gig since early January," said Nick Heys, a New Hampshire-based musician who is working on audio for The Ballad of Ethan Alien.

The movie is shooting on the property of the drive-in theater in Fairlee, with safety measures in place because of the virus. Those include production staff in masks and actors performing in only small groups—with no big crowd scenes."

Heys said for creative types who have watched theaters and concert venues go dark in the pandemic, it's been great to get paid again to do what they love.

"It sort of feels like a taste of normalcy again, in this crazy year," Heys said of the film shoot.

"We keep describing it as sort of like 'adult make-believe,' so it's been fun to get to sort of scratch that little itch," said Misi Charyk, who is assisting her husband with the project and who appears in the movie.

Donations and grants from arts groups including Big Heavy World are backing this, and a fundraising push is planned, Nick Charyk said.

A rough cut will debut at outdoor venues in Vermont Halloween weekend, with The Ballad of Ethan Alien having its formal premiere next year.

Nick Charyk hinted that Vermonters can expect to see cameos from well-known local figures in the finished product."

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Fairlee, VT., -- Executive Producer Nick Charyk in collaboration with Big Heavy World announced today the production and release of their new film, The Ballad of Ethan Alien. Filming of The Ballad of Ethan Alien began on October 1st and will wrap up production on October 15th. The 75-minute film features the music of Charyk’s band the Western Terrestrials as well as other prominent Vermont artists. The film is directed by J Nicholas Mees, a native of the Northeast Kingdom, and produced by his collaborative partner Priya Ghosh. The two recently collaborated on the international award-winning film A Heist of One’s Own.

“Our aim with this film is to elevate the creative powers of multi-generational Vermont artists with diverse backgrounds,” said Charyk. “The pandemic has upended the arts and entertainment world, and most of these artists have found themselves out of work. We wanted to create purposeful work for them here in Vermont and to speak to critical concepts such as inclusivity, collective action, diversity, anti-racism and the importance of artistic expression.” The film features a cast and crew of both veteran entertainment professionals and newcomers to the industry. Audiences are certain to recognize at least a few faces such as Rusty Deewees who is best known as his character “The Logger”, and Bow Thayer among others.

The Ballad of Ethan Alien is a musical film based on the song Ethan Alien which appeared on the Western Terrestrials’ sophomore album Back in the Saddle of a Fever Dream released in July. This past March, Ketch Secor, fiddler and singer for Old Crow Medicine Show, reached out to the Western Terrestrials on their Instagram page to propose an interesting idea: "y'all gotta cool vibe. let's co-write a song. I'm gonna give you the title and u take from there: Ethan Allen Wuz An Alien." The Western Terrestrials jumped at the chance to collaborate with Ketch, and the song was born. Read the Seven Days story of the song’s origin and production here.

Combining alien sci-fi with Vermont State history, the film will highlight human connection and the importance of coming together in challenging times. It will feature Vermont-based actors and personalities and will be produced by local lighting, sound and film production professionals, many of whom have struggled to find work during the pandemic.

“We are thrilled to be a part of this meaningful project, which will give much-needed work and support to some of Vermont’s struggling creative community. It’s a perfect vision for this moment,” said James Lockridge, Executive Director of Big Heavy World, a volunteer-run organization supporting Vermont-made music and musicians. “The film will highlight and rely on Vermont talent while sharing important themes beyond our borders."

Vermont audiences will be able to screen the film at several outdoor events beginning Halloween Weekend. Details of the premier will be announced shortly.

The production is still actively soliciting financial donations. To donate to this project, please visit

Or Contributions may be sent to:

Big Heavy World

P.O. Box 428

Burlington, VT 05402-0428.

Write “Ethan Alien” in the check memo please!

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