Erik Figi left his hometown of Baraboo to pursue his dream of screen writing in the cutthroat world of Hollywood.
The UW-Madison graduate, who has a more than 20-year career in the military, did some military technical advising and other background work in the film industry. But after 11 years and his writing dream squelched, Figi returned to Wisconsin in 2016 with his wife to be closer to family and work in public relations with the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing at Truax Field.
He had no idea that when he began looking for a house in Madison that his writing career would get a major boost and propel him into the fantastical world of one of the state’s most legendary artists.
Figi’s Realtor was Tya Every Kottler, the daughter of Tom Every, who is better known as Dr. Evermor.
And when Kottler realized that she was trying to find a house for an aspiring writer, the creative wheels she inherited from her father began to turn. Kottler has always thought her father’s metal art would make a good movie, television show or video game. So when Figi and his wife showed up at Preferred Title for the closing of their Far West Side home, Kottler slid across the table an envelope containing a drawing of the Forevertron, the 300-ton centerpiece of Evermor’s art park along Highway 12 south of Baraboo.
Nearly three years later, Figi is well settled into his house and immersed in a plan to bring Dr. Evermor’s sculptures to life in the form of a serialized television show.
“Talk about twists of fate,” Figi said. “You can’t get anymore fated than that.”
Every, who turned 80 in September and lives in a Sauk City nursing home, began collecting old newspapers to turn in to collection centers for cash when he was a child. His love of salvage grew, and for years he had his own salvage company. In the 1970s — before he took on the Evermor name — Every helped Alex Jordan collect and build the House on the Rock near Spring Green.
But in the early 1980s, Every had a falling-out with Jordan and a short time later began working on the Forevertron. It towers 50 feet high, is 120 feet wide, was built over three years and it includes an old compressor from a lumber company, a huge faux telescope and a former decontamination chamber from NASA. That project led to hundreds of sculptures and the creation of the park located across the highway from the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant.
A television show, currently dubbed “Evermor,” could bring not only life to Every’s creations but renewed interest in the art park — though there is talk of moving the park to land along the river near downtown Wisconsin Dells. The move from the current property, owned by Delaney’s Surplus Sales, could cost between $1 million and $2 million, which would include dismantling and then reassembling Dr. Evermor’s larger pieces of art.
“His dream is for it to stay together as a collection and to have a permanent location,” said Kottler, 50, who grew up in Edenfred, an historic, 7,000-square-foot 1916 Georgian-style mansion in Madison’s Highlands neighborhood.
“He’s always wanted it to be near water and so the possibility of it being moved up to the Dells by the water is something he really likes. Plus there’s train tracks and he loves the idea of trains being able to go right by there.”
But while moving the art park to the middle of one of the Midwest’s biggest tourist destinations would put more eyes on Every’s art, a television show has the potential to introduce millions of people to Dr. Evermor’s creations.
Figi and fellow writer and military man Perry Covington, whom Figi met in California, have worked with Kottler to create a 115-page outline of the series and finished in January 2017 a script for a one-hour pilot episode. A production company, Legion M, agreed earlier this year to take on the project. Its recent works have included the Nicolas Cage movie “Mandy,” which opened in September, and “Colossal,” starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis. The company also partnered with director and producer Dean Devlin (“Stargate” and “Independence Day”) to produce “Bad Samaritan,” which opened in May and stars David Tennant.
Another major step came last month when Figi, Covington and Kottler made Andrew Cosby their show runner, which is similar to an executive producer and a key component to attracting a network like Netflix or Syfy to air the show. Cosby was the co-creator of “Eureka” and “Haunted” and BOOM! Studios, a comic book company. Most recently, Cosby was a screenwriter for the upcoming reboot of “Hellboy.”
“He’s a big deal and a really nice guy, too,” Figi said. “We stalked him for a while and watched Youtube videos of him to see what kind of a guy he was like because as much as we want to sell it, we want him to find the right home for it. There’s really nothing like this on TV.”
The show, which Figi, Kottler and Covington have planned out for seven seasons with 10 episodes each, will be pitched to networks in early 2019 after the Sundance Film Festival and, if all things fall into place, filming could begin in late 2019 or in 2020.
Considered a family drama, the show is about orphaned teenage twins, Ellie and Sam, who are sent to live at the estate of their eccentric aunt, Dr. Katherine Evermor. That’s where the twins discover the Forevertron that allows them to journey through the multiverse where “they find danger, love, family and a limitless potential for human adventure,” according to a description of the show.
The Forevertron is one of the main focuses of the show but other sculptures in the park — like a bus-sized bug with eyes made from dozens of round survey markers, a 17-foot tall and 23-foot long spider named Arachna Artie and creatures that resemble pets, spaceships and a flock of dozens of 10- to 12-foot-high birds holding musical instruments — would also be incorporated into the show.
“This is a perfect project for Legion M,” said CEO and founder Paul Scanlan. “Legion M was built for projects like these. Evermor is a completely original concept that will take viewers on an adventure of a lifetime.”
Figi, Kottler and Covington promoted the show at Comic-Con in San Diego in 2017 where they made a 60-second elevator pitch to Terri Lubaroff, Legion M’s chief operations officer. Figi and Covington later promoted the production at Comic-Con in Los Angeles and then returned to Comic-Con in San Diego this year as panelists.
Last month, the trio had a booth at TeslaCon at the Marriott West in Middleton. Prior to the convention, they drove up Highway 12 to Evermor’s sculpture park, where they dressed in steampunk attire for a photo shoot.
Kottler, Figi and Convington won’t appear in any of the episodes but it’s likely that some filming will need to be done at the park which will link the fictional show with the iconic Wisconsin roadside art.
“I think the big thing, too, is that it really exists. The Forevertron is real,” Kottler said. “I’m hoping this will be the platform that will allow us to save the art park, so to speak, and provide some revenues for us to keep it going. It’s really about the fans. There’s so much love for the place.”
Barry Adams covers regional news for the Wisconsin State Journal. Send him ideas for On Wisconsin at 608-252-6148 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.