The poster for the film “Salvia Divinorum: A Western Approach,” displays the salvia divinorum plant leaf. Pepperdine alumna Erin Wyche directed the film. Photo courtesy of Solarium Media
Erin Wyche graduated from Pepperdine in 2007 with a degree in Media Production. In March 2008, Wyche began filming her debut documentary about a Salvia plant in Mexico, but she died in 2013 just before finishing the film. Wyche’s boyfriend of over six years, Patrick Krauss, said their daughter was just six-weeks-old at the time of Wyche’s death.
Wyche was from Wyndmoor, Pa. where she attended Springfield Township High School. Krauss said Wyche was very involved in art throughout high school, but it was Pepperdine that piqued her interest in filmmaking. Krauss said she chose Pepperdine for the change in scenery.
“She just really fell in love with Malibu and then fell in love with the whole vibe,” Krauss said. “It was really different for her as an East Coast girl.”
After graduating from Pepperdine, Krauss said Wyche began her career with the TV Guide Network, where she worked for about six years. Wyche started as a production assistant in TV production and eventually worked her way to associate producer and field producer roles.
Krauss said one of Wyche’s biggest inspirations for filmmaking was former Pepperdine professor Don Ohlmeyer. Ohlmeyer was an adjunct professor of television communications and previously worked as president of NBC‘s West Coast division— he died Sept. 10, 2017.
“He was really a no-nonsense, smart guy and was really inspiring to her,” Krauss said.
Outside of filmmaking, Wyche also attended award ceremonies, such as the Golden Globes, Emmys and SAG Awards, where she interviewed notable names in Hollywood, Krauss said. She did this while she was still working as a production assistant for TV Guide Network.
Wyche began her directorial debut with her documentary “Salvia Divinorum: A Western Approach.” Krauss said the film is a documentary that examines the psychedelic plant — Salvia Divinorum — from an objective standpoint.
The controversial substance is a naturally occurring plant in southern Mexico the Mazatecs traditionally used as a medicinal drug. Wyche’s film takes a scientific approach to the plant — discussing the harmful effects as well as the medicinal benefits.
“I’m really happy to get her movie done,” Krauss said. “We put so much into it. It’s really big.”
Krauss said it was difficult to complete the film since both Krauss and Wyche had jobs at the time. To compensate for the time conflicts, they mostly shot the film on weekends and during any vacation time.
Wyche and Krauss were also working with a small budget, which Krauss said made it difficult to get the interviews they needed. Since the plant is from Mexico, they had to find a way to interview locals without traveling outside of the country to save on costs.
“We got interviews in Mexico, where this psychedelic plant originated from,” Krauss said. “So, we didn’t have money to travel to go to Boston or in Mexico, but we had enough to hire somebody on Craigslist and set up the interview and then have a second unit camera guy shoot the interview for us.”
Wyche found out she had lupus in 2011 but continued working on her film. After she had her daughter in 2013, Wyche developed a fatal lupus-related blood condition and died six weeks after her daughter’s birth at the age of 28.
“I don’t know anybody who could say anything bad about her,” Krauss said. “She’s just a really good soul.”
Krauss said he produced and completed the unfinished film on Wyche’s behalf. The film was in production for another nine years after her death.
“I’ve been slowly trying to get on my own two feet as a single dad but then also finishing Erin’s movie,” Krauss said. “This movie took something like 14 years.”
Despite all of the obstacles that came with the production of the film, “Salvia Divinorum: A Western Approach” officially released June 22. Wyche’s film is available on Amazon, and half of all the film’s proceeds will go to Wyche’s daughter.
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Contact Kaela Hockman via email: firstname.lastname@example.org