Writer, Director, Producer and Executive Producer of the award winning independent film The Lonesome Trail spoke about her love of the western, wanting to make films for the whole family, and how difficult it was adapting her own book into a screenplay.
Is there any interesting story about how you came up with the initial story?
I love westerns! One day I was watching Tombstone which had just come out with Sam Elliot who is a favorited actor of mine. While I was enjoying family time with my husband and sons and Tombstone made me start think about writing a Christian western story. I was mesmerized by Val Kilmer’s portrayal of Doc Holiday and it struck a chord with me. Especially his delivery of the line “I’m your huckleberry.” Val Kilmer truly took me on a journey of a bad boy with a good heart. Especially when he went up against Johnny Ringo played by Michael Biehn when he stepped in for Wyatt Earp when he knew Johnny Ringo was faster and could kill his friend.
Is it a personal movie? Based on real experiences?
No, it is a made-up story that I was inspired to write because of my love for God and my passion for the western genre. My history with westerns goes back to childhood when I sat on my father’s lap watching them at a very young age. It is a great memory that I have of spending time with my Dad as he truly loved westerns.
What interested you in telling this particular story?
I always wanted to tell a Christian western that would be a family story that audiences could enjoy. Mostly what interested me was the preacher and how he used his Bible in place of a gun to fight against this cattle baron. This was the story that God inspired me to tell, and I love the challenge of making it come into fruition.
What kind of research did you do before scripting?
What helped me develop the character of the preacher was seeing Heaven with A Gun. While the preacher in that story used a gun to make his point. I believed I could tell a story of a preacher that used the Bible as a weapon in place of a gun. I have watched many westerns for more than twenty years as I have a passion for this genre. I watch them for pleasure daily, so I believe I have grown to really understand the western stories.
Is It hard to adapt a book into a screenplay? What did you have to lose?
The first step in writing my script from the book was to read the story and then decide what part of the story I wanted to draw from. Often when you read books there are so many components to the story, so you must decide about the part of the story you want to focus on. I always write a treatment to help me flush out the story first before I go to the screenplay. Other screenwriters use outlines, but for me a treatment helps me to visually see the story. Some things that I lost from the story were conversations between Mike and Elizabeth. Also, some of the interaction that took place with the church members at the church bizarre. Several cattle scenes with Mike and his men required Visual Effects (VFX) and Computer-Generated Imagining (CGI), and they were not included in the final production. Bill and Preacher Brent were also missing some scenes from their interactions inside and outside the barn. When you are telling a story, you must look at what moves the story forward. So, if it is not necessary in a film then you will lose it during the editing process.
How many actors did you see for the lead roles?
I saw four actors for the lead role. I had a wish list of some stars I wanted to use. For the role of Elizabeth, I thought of Jennifer Aniston, I saw Sam Elliot for Mike McCray, Tom Hanks for Preacher Brent Carson, Ernie Hudson for the role of Bill Barnaby. I was blessed to find wonderful actors for the roles in the film. Actor Peter Wray did an outstanding job as Preacher Bren Carson. While actor Donald Imm truly immersed himself in the role of Michael McCray. Kelly Russell Schwartz truly enjoyed portraying the part of Elizabeth Turner. While Lamont Easter was committed to taking us on the journey of the character of Bill Barnaby.
And was there anyone you really fought for that you just couldn’t get?
While I did not have a big Hollywood budget to get the wish list of actors. I looked within the local acting community and was able to find some awesome actors who did an outstanding job in this production.
The film has a little bit of something for everybody. Mostly, it’s a good family-values western. Is that how you’d describe it?
Yes. I enjoy doing family films so that was the intention to give a great family-values western for families to enjoy watching together.
The Lonesome Trail is out now.
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