A roundabout journey joining two disparate passions culminated into his initial foray into filmmaking, joked Joshua resident by way of Colorado Mike Scarlett.
“I’m actually a composer who was trying to figure out how to get my music into films,” Scarlett said. “I decided the best way to go about that was to get involved with DFW area film people.”
In no time Scarlett found himself involved in Rack Focus, a Dallas-based film competition group and, on a why not leap of faith, decided to give acting a go.
Scarlett, over the past year and a half or so, acted in several shorts by North Richland Hills filmmaker and director Glenn Franklin.
“Glenn suggested that I should write a film to enter into the [Rack Focus] competition,” Scarlett said. “I’d never done anything like that but thought it sounded fun.”
Until he realized he had no story idea.
“Right before the entry deadline I realized I had to come up with a script,” Scarlett said. “Fortunately, an idea hit me the night before.”
Scarlett’s other interest, genealogy, supplied the backstory for what became “An Arkansas Lynching.”
“It’s about a preacher in 1863 in Arkansas who was an abolitionist and was warned by [Confederate Col. Joseph Shelby’s] men to quit preaching abolitionism. He didn’t. So they drug him from the pulpit and lynched him.”
Not the cheeriest of tales perhaps but one based on true events backed by historical documentation, Scarlett said, the preacher in question being Scarlett’s great-great-great-great-grandfather, John Chance.
“The film is a work of fiction, but it’s based on the actual events and people,” Scarlett said.
It’s also quite good for a first time effort, said Franklin, who is co-directing the film with Scarlett.
“I was impressed and really enjoyed it,” Franklin said. “We revised it a little. Some of the dialogue was a little stiff in places but we worked through that and made it more natural when we were running through lines with the actors. But really just minor adjustments. The writing and the script were pretty great overall.”
The task of penning a script for the first time proved more exhilarating than nerve wracking, Scarlett said. In fact, he completed the first draft in one night. Less exhilarating was trying to rein his story into 10 minutes or less, the maximum amount of time allowed in Rack Focus submissions.
Franklin offered the helpful tip that, generally speaking, each script page should represent about a minute of film time.
“That’s the trick is to get it concise but still get your story told,” Scarlett said. “What I did was, as I was writing, I would speak the words out loud to make sure I could get them in.”
Which appears to have done the trick.
“One scene he had, he said it should run about two minutes,” Franklin said. “We shot it and it came out to almost right at two minutes of film, so it was perfect.”
Scarlett joked that while 10 minutes doesn’t seem like much, it’s actually a major undertaking.
Franklin, who has overseen several films, agreed but said his friend is coming through with flying colors.
“I congratulate Mike,” Franklin said. “He’s taken on something new where he’s learning as he goes and feeling his way in the dark but he’s going like a champ. He wrote, directed, edited, did the scheduling and is making sure everyone gets fed.”
The movie, not counting post-production work, is about 60 percent complete, both said.
They have until Oct. 6 to deliver the finished project.
Rack Focus offers aspiring filmmakers and actors opportunity to express their creativity through short films, which are later screened at a premiere. The program is gaining popularity, Franklin said. Now in its fourth round, 42 filmmakers have entered the current competition compared to nine in the first round.
The premiere of the films will be held in early November at the Texas Theatre in Dallas infamous site of Lee Harvey Oswald’s arrest in 1963.
Scarlett and Franklin said they’d love to screen the film in Cleburne or Johnson County should the right locale and occasion arise.
Both convened Wednesday morning at the Chisholm Trail Rustic Venue surrounded by a bevy of actors, all in period costume, and readied for filming in the venue’s old time village despite steady rainfall.
The film is being shot roughly half and half at Chisholm Trail Rustic Venue and the next door Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum.
“They’re both great locations that fit right into the scenery we needed for our time period,” Franklin said. “And everyone at both places has just bent over backwards to accommodate us.”
Kathy White, who owns and operates Chisholm Trail Rustic Venue with her husband, Bob White, said another group used the location for a video photo shoot a few weeks ago but that “An Arkansas Lynching” is the first film shoot since she and her husband bought the property several months ago. Dallas couple Liz and Steve Franke shot parts of “Adventures of Bailey — A Night In Cowtown,” there in 2012 when Cleburne resident Billy Cate still owned the property.
Chisholm Trail Rustic Venue now serves as a host site for weddings, reunions, birthdays, retreats and other events. White said she has several holiday-themed events planned for adults and children in the coming months.
On Wednesday, however, actors, most from Johnson County and the Metroplex, huddled in Chisholm Trail’s Western Town saloon hoping for a break in the rain but determined to carry on either way.
“I’ve been in worse,” Alvarado actress Dawn Rogers said. “I filmed a Scott Tissue commercial once in the middle of summer where we were inside all day with the AC off so the noise wouldn’t get picked up by the cameras. That was miserable.”
Burleson actress Madelyn Rhodes added finishing touches to Rogers’ hair while both waited for filming to begin.
Keller actor Dennis Schneider parked himself on the saloon’s front porch bench content to watch the rain while he waited for Scarlett and Franklin to yell action. Schneider, who plays the role of towns person in the film, said he’s a bit new to the acting thing but having a ball so far.
“Yeah, you haven’t seen me on the big screen,” Schneider said. “Not just yet anyway.”
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