The big screen comes to Atherton | January 1, 2020 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Community - January 1, 2020

The big screen comes to Atherton

by Angela Swartz

It's not every day that you'll find a crew staked out at an Atherton home to film a movie, but that was the case last month.

"The Alternate," an indie film written and directed by Oakland resident Alrik Bursell, was filmed entirely on the Peninsula over 17 days in December, with filming for the most part wrapping up on Dec. 22. Shoot locations included two Atherton homes, a Menlo Park home, Taverna restaurant in Palo Alto and The Lariat Tavern in Belmont.

"The neighbors have been really wonderful and open to the idea (of the film)," Bursell said during the filming. "It provides a different look. Most things are shot in Atlanta and Vancouver (Canada). You don't see that many films shot in this part of the Bay Area."

The tie to the Peninsula comes from the film's lead producer, Jeff Allard, who also produced "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," among other films. The movie was filmed at Allard's Atherton home and another producer's home in Atherton.

The film, which Bursell hopes to debut at film festivals this summer or fall, is a science fiction thriller about a man who discovers a portal to another dimension. There, he finds an alternative version of his life in which he has the filmmaking career of his dreams and a perfect wife.

He switches places with this other version of himself, but comes to realize that this other life isn't so perfect.

Bursell, who graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor's degree in radio and television, has written seven short films, but this is his first feature film. He began working on a draft for it in March 2014, and underwent a long process of refining the script, raising funds and gathering a team after that.

"Seeing the scenes I had written and been thinking about for many years exist on digital film is crazy," he said. "The actors are perfect in the roles. I cried on set one day because it was exactly as I imagined. It's like living the dream that's been in my head for so many years."

"It has been really special to shoot here in Atherton," he said. "Trying to make a feature film is something I've been working toward for 10 years."

Bursell said "The Alternate" is likely to be released to the general public in 2021, but he hopes it can be sooner. It will star Ed Gonzalez Moreno as Jake and the alternative Jake, and Natalia Dominguez as Kris and the alternative Kris.

For more on the film, go to


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