“Sand Creek Massacre” Film Wins Golden Drover Award”

Derrick Miller/ The Duncan Banner

January 13, 2008
Festival is a success
Nearly 500 people attend Trail Dance Film Festival in the first day

By John Walker

DUNCAN — With nearly 500 people attending in the first day and a half alone, the Trail Dance Film Festival is shaping up to be a success this year.

“We estimate that when we counted the sales between the heritage center and the Simmons Center, volunteers, sponsors and filmmakers, we’ve had nearly 500 people attend so far,” Duncan Convention and Visitors Center Director Jessika McDonnell said.

Many of the filmmakers are from out of state, some from New York, some from Los Angeles. All of them are here to network with others and promote their films.

One filmmaker, whose regular job is a reporter for ABC News in Los Angeles, came here for only the second time in his life and really enjoyed the atmosphere, he said.

“I came out to cover the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995,” Doug Lantz said. “I haven’t been back since, but the people are so welcoming and kind here.”

Lantz said as he was driving from Oklahoma City to Duncan this week, he had a good heart-warming conversation with the person at the toll booth for about 10 minutes.

“That was surprising,” he said. “People are really pleasant here.”

Many of the volunteers have also enjoyed themselves at the festival this weekend. As volunteers, they also get free passes to all of the shows over the three-day period.

“I’ve enjoyed it a lot so far,” volunteer Cecil Brewer said. “My wife and I watched a couple of shows Friday night and really liked the movie about the Sand Creek Massacre.”

According to the preview summary of the movie, “Sand Creek Massacre” portrays the horrific event from the Cheyenne and Arapahos’ perspective when more than 400 women, children and elderly were slaughtered by military troops in 1864.

“I had never heard about this event before,” Brewer said.

While he enjoyed watching the movie, Brewer said that there seemed to be no motive for the event, just cold-blooded murder.

“Sand Creek Massacre” is only one of approximately two dozen documentaries being shown over the course of this weekend-long event at the Simmons Center and Chisholm Trail Heritage Center.

In fact, one of the better-known producers of historical documentaries held a well-attended seminar on Saturday in the big auditorium.

“I started working for CBS News almost 30 years ago,” Bill Kurtis said. “In 1990, I sold my first documentary to A&E.;”

Since then, he has produced more than 300 different documentaries on a variety of topics. One of his favorite subjects is historical documentaries, but he soon realized that he walked a thin line between telling history in an interesting way and changing the historical facts.

“We wanted to make good entertainment, but still be accurate to what occurred,” Kurtis said.

Though makers of documentaries need to simplify certain elements of the story each time, they also try to be true and fair to the events portrayed, which Kurtis said he felt he was able to reach most of the time.

His crew also came up with a new way to film the re-enactments so as to give the viewer the feeling that it is a re-enactment and not Hollywood.

“We slowed the shutter speed down on the cameras to about 15 frames per second,” he said. This caused a blurred appearance that is unique to Kurtis’ documentaries.

“I fell in love with that method,” he said.

He also fell in love with recreating history and seeing it re-enacted before his eyes. Kurtis in many ways feels like a guide for his viewers. He tries to capture all sides of the story and present to an audience something that is both entertaining and educational at the same time, he said.

One of the reasons he feels so passionate about historical documentaries is his perceived lack of good historical education these days.

“We are in danger of losing history,” Kurtis said. “We don’t teach it very well in our schools anymore.”

When asked whether his team would ever run out of ideas for historical documentaries, Kurtis replied that one of the things he looks for is a story with a different element than previously known.

There are plenty of stories that meet his criteria when one peruses history, so he doesn’t think he is in danger of running out of ideas.

“History is being made all the time,” Kurtis said.

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About Don Vasicek

Award-winning writer/filmmaker Donald L. Vasicek studied producing, directing and line producing at the Hollywood Film Institute under the acclaimed Dov Simen’s and at Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute. He studied screenwriting at The Complete Screenplay, Inc., with Sally Merlin (”White Squall”), daughter of the famed Hollywood Merlin family of screenwriters and writers, as his mentor. Don has taught, mentored, and is a script consultant for over 400 writers, directors, producers, actors and production companies. Don has also acted in 20th Century Fox’s “Die Hard With a Vengeance”, NBC’s Mystery of “Flight 1501″, ABC’s “Father Dowling” starring Thomas Bosley, and Red-Handed Production’s “Summer Reunion”. These activities have resulted in Don’s involvement in over 100 movies during the past 23 years, from major studios to independent films including, MGM’s $56 million “Warriors of Virtue”, Paramount Classics “Racing Lucifer”, American Pictures “The Lost Heart” and “Born To Kill” starring the Charles Bronson of Korea, Bobby Kim, and his internationally-known director/brother, Richard, Incline Productions, Inc.’s “Born To Win”, Olympus Films+, LLC’s “Haunted World” with Emmy-nominated PBS Producer Alison Hill, and Olympus Films+, LLC’s “Faces,” “Oh, The Places You Can Go” and the award-winning “The Sand Creek Massacre” documentary film short. Don also has written and published over 500 books, short stories and articles. His books include “How To Write, Sell, And Get Your Screenplays Produced” and “The Write Focus.” Don has been a guest screenwriting and filmmaking columnist for Hollywood Lit. Sales, Moondance International Film Festivals e-zine, Screenwriters Forum, Screenplace, Screenplayers.Net, Screenwriters.Net, Screenwriters Utopia, Spraka & Kinsla (Swedish), “Inkwell Watch”, and “Ink On the Brain.”Writing recognition includes Houston’s WorldFest International Film Festival, Chesterfield’s Writers Film Project, Writers Digest, The Sundance Institute, The Writer’s Network, and the Rocky Mountain Writer’s Guild, Inc. Don is presently is raising money for “Ghost of Sand Creek,” a mini-series/documentary and raising $200 million for five feature film projects. Contact Don at dvasicek@earthlink.net to see the Private Placement Memorandum/Business Plan. Don is on the board of directors of the American Indian Genocide Museum in Houston. Don is the founder and owner of Olympus Films+, LLC, a global writing, filmmaking and consulting company, in 1994.

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