June 22--A pair of Lubbock friends, certified public accountant Brad R. Smith and Native American visual artist R. Lee White, came up with an idea for a movie five years ago. They are watching their creation take its longer-than-expected first steps.
Both are history buffs who had wondered why no one had ever made a movie about the second Battle of Adobe Walls, which took place northeast of Amarillo.
The battle began on June 27, 1874.
Comanches led by Chief Quanah Parker -- well known in Texas history as one of the sons of captured white woman Cynthia Ann Parker -- had been convinced by the tribe's medicine man, Isa-tai, that they were immune to their enemy's bullets.
That was not the case.
Surviving warriors eventually would leave after attacking the Adobe Walls trading post in the northern Texas Panhandle, which buffalo hunters defended.
Smith indicated the film will be about not only the battle, but rather also will explore the lives of men who fought there.
That includes Parker leading the Comanches, and reported crack shot William "Billy" Dixon, who made a name for himself there with a borrowed Big Sharps buffalo rifle.
The battle preceded the Red River War, which resulted in these free-ranging South Plains Indians, and more, being forced onto reservations in Oklahoma.
Pre-production officially has begun, with Smith and White the film's producers.
Smith mentioned Friday their initial $7 million project may be doubled, or more likely even tripled, by the time casting is completed.
He mentioned a few names of impressive actors already "locked in," and chatted about others still being pursued, along with the roles they might play. Names cannot be released to the public until all contractual work is finished.
Smith initially stated in an email, "Production is expected to begin in September of 2013, and will last approximately six weeks. Filming will take place primarily in the Texas Panhandle, with film crews being mostly Texas-based residents."
He emphasized that he wants to see the crew and actors for smaller roles sought in Texas, but not until a later date.
"The Battle of Adobe Walls," at present a working title, was first considered for limited release. That was before White and Smith met West Coast contacts who are interested in a larger release.
Los Angeles filmmaker Serge Rodnusky expressed interest in directing, and already has written a first draft screenplay that has the Lubbock producers smiling.
"We had been trying to get this off the ground before having a director assigned," Smith said. "Serge is not what anyone would consider well known, but he has directed several projects and also done some historical pieces.
"He is very good to work with. Plus he jumped on board, sharing our vision for this project. The cast has been receptive to him, also."
State film commissions are quick to offer help, including assistance in finding locations. Rodnusky, Smith and White were shown possible sites closer to Austin.
"Truthfully, we looked at the Austin area just for convenience to film resources," said Smith. "But after Serge looked there and compared it to the actual historical site, we all agreed we wanted to film in areas where this history took place. Right now, we are looking at ranch land that would be similar to the actual site.
"But we also are checking into the possibility of filming on, or around, the actual site, maybe at least for some of the movie."
The Lubbock friends obviously plan to do more than corral financing.
Smith said, "Lee and I are active on both the financial side and the on-site side of getting this movie made. We have had input on Serge's script, and pretty much all aspects up to this point.
"Lee is very in tune with the history and will remain involved in a lot of that aspect. This is a very personal and passionate project for us."
Still, before discussions with potential distributors take place -- meetings that will rely in large part on final casting -- there remains an ongoing Hollywood prejudice against westerns. It has been written that every time a western is successful, distributors close their pockets, call it a fluke and question whether the public wants to see westerns.
"The thing is, we don't think there have been many 'true westerns' out recently," Smith replied. " 'Django' and 'The Lone Ranger' were made for more commercial aspects. Whereas we think 'The Battle of Adobe Walls' is a project that has more of a 'western' feel.
"The movie has a good story and a lot of action, but also is based on historical events. From all the people we have talked to, that also seems to be the feeling out on the West Coast. Potential cast members also have told us they've been looking for a good western."
Accuracy, however, is not always commercial. And there have been a number of films "based on a true story," which took obvious detours.
Smith replied, "Accuracy is a huge issue for us, and one we are stressing at every step. Of course ours will be a movie 'based on historical events' -- we cannot say that it will be completely accurate. But we do want to tell the story as honestly as we can.
"This movie also will tell a lot about the early days of Quanah Parker and Billy Dixon, leading up to the (second) battle and their later years. The project of course will be as accurate as possible in terms of wardrobe and sets.
"This is a piece of Texas history. We want this to be a Texas project, filmed in Texas, and using as much cast and crew from Texas as possible."
Smith said when he becomes frustrated and feels the project is not moving forward as quickly as he would like, a number of film professionals remind him that he and White have come a long way in just five years.
"I've been told that the majority of projects like this don't even get made, and we're a lot further ahead than I thought," Smith added.
Chat about movies, theater, music, dance and visual arts at my blog playBill by Kerns at lubbockonline.com -- or check out Twitter at AJ_WilliamKerns.
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