‘Dispatches From Elsewhere’: The Dancing Phone Booth Scene Actually Happened

Dispatches From Elsewhere is Jason Segel‘s latest creative endeavor. The AMC anthology series starring Segel, Eve Lindley, Sally Field, Richard E. Grant, and André Benjamin is about four individuals who feel that something is missing in their lives. 

What many people don’t know is that Dispatches From Elsewhere is based on a game created by street artist Jeff Hull. California residents visited the real-life Jejune Institute where they were instructed to complete a series of tasks. Some of the activities we see characters complete in the show were actually part of Hull’s real-life social experiment. One scene in the pilot episode of Dispatches From Elsewhere actually happened — and there’s footage of it.

Dispatches From Elsewhere dance scene
Jason Segel | Amy Sussman/Getty Images

The inspiration for ‘Dispatches From Elsewhere’ 

Segel’s series is based on a 2013 documentary titled The Institute. From 2008 to 2011, thousands of people flocked to the secret Jejune Institute to obtain clues that would help them find a missing girl, Eva. Players were expected to choose a side — either believe the propaganda being put out by the seemingly “evil” Jejune Institute or become an “Agent of Nonchalance” and help find Eva on behalf of the Elsewhere Public Works Agency.  

Hull created the game to encourage members of his community to stop and see the magic surrounding them on a daily basis. Through the intrigue of counter culture, Hull was able to unite like-minded individuals and inspire them to view the world differently.

The real-life game played in ‘Dispatches From Elsewhere’ 

In the documentary about the game, one player recalled receiving an email from the Elsewhere Public Works Agency. He was told to go to a specific bank of pay phones and wait there for further instruction. When the phone rang, it was Commander 14, the figurehead of the Elsewhere Public Works Agency who would frequently relay messages to players. He requested that the participant begin “physical jamming” to “offset transneuronal interference.” As seen in the clip from the documentary, players actually started dancing.  

Amidst all of this physical jamming, a man with a boombox appeared, along with a Sasquatch. As we’ve seen in Dispatches From Elsewhere, this step was necessary in receiving the next clue — in this case, it was a transcript.

Will there be more similarities?

Dispatches From Elsewhere is just getting started, but it’s likely that the show will feature more similarities to the real-life game that inspired it. So far, the layout of the game, the name of the institute running it, and the famed Octavio Coleman, leader of the Jejune Institute, are all identical to what Hull created in California more than ten years ago. The only major differences between the show and the true events are the name of the missing girl — in Dispatches From Elsewhere, her name is Clara instead of Eva — and the city the game takes place in — the series is set in Philadelphia instead of San Francisco.

Considering Segel himself played the game, it’s likely that we’ll get to see even more parallels between the tasks required by the fictional Jejune Institute and the real-life version.

Dispatches From Elsewhere airs Monday nights on AMC.