An Amarillo photographer's personal journey through the Dust Bowl- with past and present eyes.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dust Bowl saga set to film in Amarillo area, starring Willie Nelson

“Cottonwood,” an independent film set in West Texas during the Dust Bowl, is to be partially filmed in the Texas Panhandle starting this fall, the production team from Mark Campbell Productions said Tuesday morning at a news conference.
The movie will star country music superstar Willie Nelson, whose production company, Luck Films, is co-producing.
Most of the interior scenes will be shot in Austin, but Stacy Dean Campbell, the author of the 2004 novel “Cottonwood” and director of the film, said he wanted the outside shots to feel authentic.
“I want the film to feel open and big and wide, what it was intended to be,” he said.
The team — Stacy Dean Campbell; producer Julie Campbell; executive producer John “J.C.” Elsinger, an Amarillo native, of Mark Campbell Productions; and screenwriter Decker of NYCe Pictures — will be in Amarillo scouting locations through Thursday.
Stacy Dean Campbell, a musician and television host originally from Carlsbad, N.M., said his grandfather used to tell him stories of life during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.
“That’s what really sparked me to start the project of writing the book,” he said.
The story takes place in 1937 in Wellington and centers around county Sheriff Rube Whitlock, who struggles to raise his two sons after his daughter dies and leaves his wife mentally unable to cope with the loss.
As the pressure of raising his children becomes too much, he hires Esther, a black woman whose husband, P.V., is hated by locals for attempting to establish himself as a successful cotton producer.
“It really stirs up a lot of racial tensions in the community,” Stacy Dean Campbell said. “People don’t want to see him prosper.”
As the tension rises and relationships develop, Rube is forced to choose between upholding the law and following his moral convictions.
Julie Campbell said it’s the complex characters blended with history, social issues and a surprise ending that make the film worth watching.
“A lot of it is the relationships and how they’re built, the bonds,” she said.
“One thing that the film has, that we still have in society today, is racial injustice, and that’s one of the subject matters of the story. So I think a lot of people will relate to that.”
She said many of the people who read the screenplay said the story reminds them of the books-turned-movies “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Grapes of Wrath.”
“Then I realized, geez, we really do have something here,” she said. “So we’ve been working for the last 18 months producing and in development, getting this project off the ground.”
Eslinger said when he first read the screenplay, he was struck by how accurately it portrayed the voice and feel of West Texas during the Great Depression.
“When Julie sent me the script, I couldn’t put it down because I grew up on the tail end of the Dust Bowl when there was still mountains of sand and it was real flat and dry,” Eslinger said.
“That’s all I heard about until I left home, so when I read this script I was like, ‘Wow.’”
“Cottonwood” is also slated to star Anthony Michael Hall, Academy Award-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr., Ethan Suplee, Alison Eastwood, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and others, according to Julie Campbell and material provided by the production team.
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