Missouri State University students shoot Civil War film

Friday, November 12, 2010 | 6:00 a.m. CST

SPRINGFIELD — Civil War musket fire broke the silence recently on a wooded hillside above the Finley River at Lindenlure as a group of Missouri State University students filmed scenes.

The movie, "South of Black Drink Crier," will be released May 9. It is also one of the senior projects expected to be shown at the electronic arts showcase held at the end of each school year.

"Ours is the first period piece that they've ever done in our department," said producer Catherine Burgher. "Our director Kenny Wheeler who also wrote (the script) was inspired by the fact that it happened locally."

In September 1861, Gen. Jim Lane and his Jayhawkers nearly burned Osceola to the ground and there were also some executions, said Burgher, a theater major.

"The story begins with that event and goes from there ... a young lady and one of her friends go to look for her father, a scout who was captured by people where he was scouting," Burgher said. "She posed as a Union soldier and ... you'll have to go watch the movie."

Wheeler explains the story is historical fiction, but based on an actual event.

"I wanted to do something different so I figured something with the Civil War would be perfect," he said. "Just looking at the history of Missouri was very interesting."

He found the story of Osceola and "thought it would be cool to film."

Wheeler referred to the book "The Burning," written by Osceola resident and historian Richard Sunderwirth. It's a collection of short stories about the tragedy that reduced the town of nearly 2,500 to 183 in one day.

"A lot of the stuff we're shooting now is based on fictional characters, but it's based around an actual event that happened," Wheeler said. "I'm trying to get both the entertainment side and the factual side too."

They recently shot the pivotal scene where the main character Evelyn, played by Rachel Goodwin, finds out what happened to her father, Obediah, played by Richard Harold, Burgher explained.

"It's sort of a coming of age or rite of passage for Evelyn. She finds out who her father really is through the course of all this and has to make some decisions about who she really is as a result." Goodwin, an acting major, said playing a girl disguised as a boy was fun.

"It's about the search for Evelyn's father and the troubles that occur on the way," she said.

Jeff Dunnaway, a collector of civil war memorabilia, supplied costumes and period firearms and helped to make sure they were handled safely.

"The shotgun is a pre-1860 double-barrel muzzle loader, and then the rifle is a 1853 British musket muzzle loader that was used by the southerners," said Dunnaway, who has been in reenactments. "The pistol is a 1851 Colt like Wild Bill Hickok used in Springfield ... They are all firing authentic reproductions."

Both southern sympathizers and Yankees are portrayed in the movie, he said.

Assistant director Leslie Scheidt, a digital film major, said shooting should wrap by the end of November.

"We spend a lot of time out here but it's a lot of fun," she said.

Goodwin said filming started weeks ago. Rehearsals and reading scripts began in early October.

"One of the challenges we face is we're making this film on a zero-dollar budget," said Burgher. "It's getting easier in Springfield because more people are getting to be patrons of the arts."

Wheeler said the property above the Finley River was perfect for the film.

"We've got two more days that we're shooting and that should be our principal photography. The rest of the year will be used to polish it."

Burgher said while senior projects aren't often filmed until spring, this one was set in the fall.

Other filming locations include Marionville, Strafford and Nathanael Greene Park.

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