Tuesday, June 28, 2016



I hope that, even as you watch each new episode of AMC’s HELL ON WHEELS, dreading the series’ imminent finale, you are staying tuned afterwards for the fascinating THE AMERICAN WEST, the documentary series executive produced by Robert Redford.  Focusing on the brief but tumultuous period between the end of the Civil War and the start of a new century, the series happily has a different plan of attack from the many entertaining but oftentimes repetitive docudrama series of the last several years.

The two men with boots on the ground for AMERICAN WEST are producers Stephen David and Tim W. Kelly.  Their previous history-based miniseries work together has included THE MEN WHO BUILT AMERICA (2012) about the great industrialists, THE MAKING OF THE MOB: NEW YORK (2015), the historical drama SONS OF LIBERTY (2015), and many others.  They’ve earned many Emmy nominations and other laurels for their work, and Tim won an Emmy for his sound work on SONS.  I had the chance to preview the first two episodes of AMERICAN WEST, and to talk with Stephen and Tim. 

HENRY: You’ve done both documentaries, and recently historical dramas like SONS OF LIBERTY, and experimental thrillers like REDRUM. What’s the most satisfying?

STEPHEN: I personally enjoy these big historical miniseries.  I like the fact that we get to learn, that when people are watching they get to see something they thought they knew, in a different way.   Our goal is to try and get more into what the truth is instead of the myth, or what we may have learned in school.  Because of the internet, and the way information flows now, I think people know that the mythologies that we learned in school don’t necessarily feel right; feel real.  There’s a much more human side behind all of this.  People do things because of their own desires, their own egos, and inadvertently it has a huge effect.  I love to delve into the psychology behind them.

TIM: It’s interesting now, with social media, you can watch live as the show’s happening , and (follow) on Twitter.  You see people reacting to the show, and it’s happening in real-time – it’s almost instant reviews.  It’s really interesting when you see teenagers Tweeting about history.  There’s something satisfying, to open this up to a younger audience, as well as the older audiences that are already interested in history.  In a society that can be very (busy) on their smartphones, to see them getting into history is sort of a cool thing.

HENRY: There have been a number of Western documentary series since the mid 90s, most of them focusing on the same less-than-a-dozen individuals.  Did you worry that they were overexposed?  That there was nothing new to say about them?

STEPHEN:  I’ve seen stuff where each character has an individual episode.  But what we were trying to show was that each of these people were living simultaneously, and had a cause-and- effect relationship on each other and the country.  I think the key to our show is, what this person did led to this, led to this.  The Little Big Horn led to the election of 1876 – you see how one thing causes another thing to happen.

HENRY: Which is very clear.  Because your premise, if I’m not misstating it, is that what we think of as the history of the American West is really all an outgrowth of President Grant’s attempts to unify a post-Civil War U.S., and fight a two-front war.

TIM:  That’s one of the jumping-off points to how the whole migration happened.  It played such a big role.  I think that a lot of these (other shows) look at the single story, and we’ve been able to look at the bigger picture of the whole country, and see how all of these different outlaws and politicians, and these legends of the west, all the roles that they played came together to cause the settling of the west that we have today.   

HENRY: What was the genesis of THE AMERICAN WEST?

STEPHEN:  We wanted to do something about all these names we knew something about.  And we found that they all lived and were big characters within a twenty-year time period, and it all came out of the Civil War.  At the end of the Civil War, the West became sort of a healing ground, and a lot of the people who had nothing to go back to, went west.     But many people who went out there were like the P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) survivors of the Civil War, a generation of men that grew up in extreme violence.  (It was) a unique period in American history where you have people who had learned to solve their problems through violence; you had a short but ultra-violent time.  We just found that fascinating, that that existed.

HENRY: It puts a whole different focus on what we think of as outlaws.

STEPHEN: What’s interesting about that time period, about the world in general, is that the people with money decide what the laws are.  And you really see that there, but I guess it always has been that way, and still is.  What we see when we talk about outlaws is that the line is very grey.  Who is an outlaw and who is the law can change overnight; we certainly see it with Wyatt Earp.

HENRY: You focus on a half-dozen iconic people like Custer, Crazy Horse, Jesse James.  Was it a tough weeding our process?  Is there anyone you regret leaving out?

STEPHEN:   If we could have kept going, I definitely would have had Butch Cassidy in there.  It’s an amazing story, and he grew up in this west that we’re talking about.  But by the time he was really becoming an outlaw, the West had been closed.  In 1890, they declared the frontier was closed: every piece of land had been claimed.  Our first year of research and outlines, Butch was connected; but we ended up having to take him out. 

HENRY: What is Robert Redford’s involvement?

STEPHEN: He is an executive producer.  He came in when we sold it; you also see him throughout the show, as an expert.  He is probably the most knowledgeable person we ever met about the West.  He knows a lot. 

HENRY: Obviously he played Liver-Eating Johnson and The Sundance Kid, but I didn’t know he was a real student of Western history.

TIM:  He’s lived in Utah the last thirty years, and he is extremely passionate about the West.  Back in the seventies he rode the whole outlaw trail, and did a book about it, with photos, and writing the history of it.  (Note: THE OUTLAW TRAIL – A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME, by Robert Redford and Jonathan Blair, was published in 1978)  I think when he got into those roles, he got infatuated with the times, and the beauty of the west, and the characters.  He’s very passionate about the whole subject, about the Native Americans and their relationship to the land.  It’s something that he is extremely interested in, and cares a lot about.

STEPHEN: When he was making BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, he actually met people who had helped them out as they were riding across the country, trying to get away.  They hid them, and got them fresh horses.

HENRY: That’s remarkable.  You forget what a young country we are.  But when you think that movie was made in 1969, those wild days weren’t all that long ago. Your commentary seems evenly split between historians and cowboy actors.  How did you assemble your stellar cast?  Did having Robert Redford help a little?

STEPHEN: (chuckles) I think his name helped.  We got lucky that these people wanted to do commentary.  And it was interesting because a lot of times you get celebrities, and they may not really know, and you give them kind of general comments.  But these people really knew their history.  We found that as they prepared for whatever historical roles they were playing, they did a lot of research.

HENRY: That’s nice.  So you didn’t have to give, say, Kiefer Sutherland a script and tell him, this is what Jesse James was like?

TIM:  Kiefer was one of the more knowledgeable – we were amazed at how much he knew about all these characters and the stories.  I think from when he did his role in YOUNG GUNS (1988), he studied all these guys.

HENRY: Did anyone else stand out as knowledgeable?

TIM:  There’s Redford; Tom Sellick was great – he really knew his stuff.

STEPHEN:  I think what was really interesting about Tom Sellick was he really knew the big picture.  He knew how each of these smaller things affected the bigger picture.  You have to know a good deal about the subject to see all the relationships. 

HENRY: Your reenactments are a step above what we’re used to seeing.  The production values are great – it looks like a big-budget feature.  What is the casting process like? 

STEPHEN: We do film this like a movie.  We’ve done quite a few; we were the first to do the genre on a big scale, with THE MEN WHO BUILT AMERICA.  So we’re practiced, we use the same crews; we have a system of filming.  It feels like a drama, and you get into these characters.  We don’t want it to feel like a reenactment.  We just want the whole thing to feel emotional; have the archive and the voice-over and the drama all feel seamless.  I watch documentaries – and there are great documentaries – but a lot of times I’m washed over with a lot of information.  Our idea was, if the information added to the character’s stake, then you cared more about the information.  So when we’re looking at what information is in the show, and what is not, it really has to do with, does this move the character’s story forward?

HENRY: Just as you would do in a drama.

STEPHEN: Right. 

HENRY: Have you ever considered casting familiar actors?

STEPHEN: (laughs) If it was in the budget.

TIM: Even with MEN WHO BUILT AMERICA, about the industrial revolution, you know the names of these people, but there’s very few pictures.  So you don’t necessarily know what they look like.  So we try to make the (actors) look as much like them (as possible).  If we succeed, the people will just associate that actor; they have no other preconception.  They become that character.  That’s the hope. 

HENRY: Where was the series shot?  How long a shooting schedule was it?

TIM: We shot in West Virginia and in Utah; we had a split shoot.

STEPHEN: We had a shoot of sixty days.  To make it a little more complicated, we actually shoot with two crews simultaneously for thirty days.

HENRY: What obstacles did the production face?

TIM: One thing that was very important to us was handling the Native American story in a respectful way, and telling the real story.  I felt like it hadn’t been done.  So we wanted to make sure we got people who spoke Lakota, people who could channel the energy of these legendary characters like Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.  It was an obstacle, but we ended up with an amazing cast of guys. 

STEPHEN:  We wanted to tell the full story; that they weren’t just victims.

HENRY:  Any favorite memories from the production?

TIM: One of the most exciting days was when we were doing Little Big Horn and the lead-up to it.  Obviously it was a horrible war.  But you get all those horses out there, and we had cameras and monitors set up in the ATVs, and we’re just tearing through these fields in the ATVs alongside horses that are at a full gallop – it was pretty exhilarating, pretty fun to get out there with the toys and get those amazing shots.

HENRY: Speaking of the equipment, what did you shoot with? 

TIM: We shot on the Arri Amira.

HENRY: Is there a moment you’re particularly proud of?

TIM: To me, one of the most fun scenes, is what they call ‘the big killing’.  It’s when Billy the Kid and his gang are tracked down to a house, and the local mayor, who is after him, brings in the government.  They bring in Gatling guns, and they have a huge shootout with Billy the Kid in this house – bullets are ripping through the house.  His whole crew gets killed, and he somehow escapes unscathed.  It’s an intense shootout scene that’s pretty fun to watch.

HENRY: The violence is more unflinching than it would have been in the past: when a character is shot in the chest, you can see his heart pumping out the blood from the wound.  When Jesse James shoots a man in the face, the back of his head explodes against the wall behind him.  Why so graphic?

TIM: I think the reality is this was a very violent time.  The amount of people who died in that war was mind-boggling; that’s what led to this violent time, and that’s what these guys were – they were violent.  A lot of them were murderers.  It’s the reality.  Not every scene we do in the show is that violent, but those moments, it’s impactful when you see that.  It is brutal, but it’s showing the impact of the war, and all that violence on them.

HENRY: I’ve only seen the first two episodes, so I don’t know where the story goes.  Does the story enter the 20th century? 

STEPHEN: We take it to the end of the frontier, when the West is closed.

TIM: There is sort of a coda that takes place in the 1920s – I guess it would be a spoiler if I gave it away. 

HENRY: Are you planning on a sequel?

STEPHEN: I think we’ve gone to the end of the West.  When we start, we essentially have a North and South that go as far west as the Mississippi River, and beyond that you just have land.  By the end of this you have an America that’s from the Atlantic to the Pacific, that is all one America, and you see how that all happened in 25 years; and we think that is the story. 

TIM: In the last episode there’s a map that starts as we began the show, and it fills in where the people have all settled. You see the states start to fill in, and it’s pretty amazing to see the change that happened in that time period, to see that happen very quickly in front of you on the map.

HENRY:  Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

STEPHEN: As you get into episodes 3, 4 and 5, you feel this cause and effect that is very much like the election we’re going through right now.  The election of 1876 is very much like this election, and everything that is leading up to it.  There’s a divided country, there’s racism, there was a recent financial collapse caused by mass corruption.  There are rigged elections, there are political machines.  I think people are going to look at this and say, things haven’t change much in 140 years.
HENRY: They should be running this on CNN.  What’s next?

You can read my article on THE AMERICAN WEST in the August issue of TRUE WEST.


Craig Zahler

Back when we spoke on the set of BONE TOMAHAWK, writer/director S. Craig Zahler told me that much of the attention he’d gotten in Hollywood was due to his Western novel WRAITHS OF THE BROKEN LAND.  Now it’s been announced that WRAITHS will reach the big screen under the guidance of director Ridley Scott and scripter Drew Goddard, who collaborated on last year’s hugely popular THE MARTIAN. 

While I knew Craig had his hands full, prepping a pair of movies, PUPPET MASTER and BRAWL, I wondered how he felt about someone else doing the lensing of WRAITHS.  It turns out he’s even busier than I thought.  He told the Round-up, “I just finished my fourth script of 2016 – two of which are 179 page monsters – while prepping both those other movies and a third one to be announced.  The only way something as complicated, nasty, and challenging as WRAITHS OF THE BROKEN LAND gets made in Hollywood is by having well established people stand behind it, and Drew Goddard and Ridley Scott are two such people.  This director has the resources and visual acumen to get this giant western spectacle on the screen, and this writer has told me that he intends to retain the characters, violence, and moral complexity of the book in his script while making it fit that medium.  Goddard is a fan on the novel and has been instrumental in moving this whole thing forward from day one, and I am hopeful that he and Scott will inexorably push their oater agendum.”


The series star is in the center

According to The Variety, back in 1987, the great Sergio Leone got together with his writers Sergio Donati, (ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, DUCK YOU SUCKER), and Fulvio Morsella (FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST), and began crafting a story around The Man With No Name’s pistol from A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS.  The idea was that, like WINCHESTER ’73, the sidearm would pass through many hands, each with a story. 

Alas, it never happened.  But now, long after the maestro’s passing, his daughter Raffaella Leone and son Andrea Leone, who together run Leone Film Group, are in pre-production for a six-episode (to begin) series.  It will be directed by GOMORRAH director Stefano Sollima, son of writer director Sergio Sollima (FACE TO FACE, THE BIG GUNDOWN).


I had a few video reviews I was going to include, but I’m going to have to stop it there.  I’m still catching up on a week and a half lost to jury duty, and I have an audio commentary to do tomorrow, so I’ll sign off now to prepare.  By the way, the jury duty was very interesting, and if you have the time I’d recommend not trying to squirm out of it when they call you.

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright June 2016 by Henry C. Parke - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, June 12, 2016


TRADED – A Film Review

In 1880s Kansas, the Travis’, subsistence farmers, are hard-working but happy, until tragedy strikes: their young son Jake (Hunter Fischer) is killed by a rattlesnake.  Overcome with grief and guilt, his mother Amelia (Constance Brenneman), fearful of anything happening to their 17 year-old daughter Lily (Brittany Elizabeth Williams), makes the girl’s life unbearable.  Lily runs away, hoping to become a Harvey Girl at one of the famous restaurants at railroad stops across the country; but she never makes it to her interview.   Her father Clay Travis (Michael Pare) hurriedly traces her movements, and fears she’s been sold into prostitution.  He’s ready to do whatever it takes to bring her back.

Many will compare it to the TAKEN franchise, but I say think of it like THE SEARCHERS on speed!  As Clay races to rescue his daughter, time is not measured with the fluttering pages of a calendar but with a railroad-man’s precise pocket-watch.  En route, his farmer demeanor vanishes, and we learn that he has the sort of past that leaves him well-equipped to go against a string of villains, from those who will only provide information for a price, to those who will gladly kill to protect their income.  Pare, who became a star with films like EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS (1983) and STREETS OF FIRE (1984) has kept his good looks while developing the maturity and gravitas this role demands: you do not want to get in his way. 

Seen this girl?

And among the folks he meets along the way are Trace Adkins, Pare’s co-star in THE LINCOLN LAWYER (2011), who is chilling as a Dodge City saloon-keeper and procurer; and Tom Sizemore as Adkins’ unsavory competition.   Martin Kove has played many a Western villain before, memorably in WYATT EARP (1994), but I don’t think he’s ever portrayed as revolting a character as Cavendish; his daughter in the story, simply named Girl (Marie Oldenbourg) could not be less like him.
Kris Kristofferson, still a commanding presence at eighty, is striking as a barkeep who is at first reluctantly helpful, and has the most quotable speeches from Mark Esslinger’s screenplay.  

Kris is running out of patience

Esslinger’s script is smart without being smug, full of sudden, imaginative, and often brutal action.  And while the story is peopled by many cynical characters, it is not cynical itself; all of the action grows from a sincere love of family, and the knowledge that a strong person will do anything they can to protect it. 

Brittany Elizabeth Williams is missing...

Timothy Woodward Jr., directing his 10th feature since 2013, tells the story with unrushed assurance, drawing mostly strong performances during a remarkably short shooting schedule.   It’s his third collaboration in two years with cinematographer Pablo Diez, who lights and composes with elegance.  Production Designer Christian Ramirez and costume designer Nikki  Pelly are Western specialists and have again done their work with style and historical accuracy.  Of course, no film is without errors.  One character is a young woman who is supposed to be hideously ugly.  Mistake one: a very attractive actress plays the part.  Mistake two: what was supposed to look like scars actually looks like she has oatmeal all over her face.

Constance Brenneman is the mother.

TRADED, from Cinedigm and Status Media opens theatrically today, Friday, June 10th, in ten cities across the country, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia and Nashville.   That same day it will also be available On Demand and Digital HD. 

Last November I had the good fortune of being invited by consulting producer Peter Sherayko to visit the set, when they were shooting at Big Sky Ranch.  You can read that article, and my interviews with Michael Pare, Timothy Woodward Jr., and Peter Sherayko, HERE.


At the premiere, Mark Esslinger with daughter Lana

TRADED author Mark Esslinger is the first screenwriter I’ve met in a long time who did not go to film school.  “I grew up in the northern part of New Jersey, in Bergen County.  I trained racehorses throughout New Jersey and New York while I was in high school.  I wrote from the time I was maybe ten; I was always interested in film and television.  When I was eighteen or nineteen I just decided to drive out to California and see what I could do.” 

Luckily, one thing he could do was be funny.  “I got a bunch of part-time jobs.  I hung out at the Comedy Stores.  I wrote comedy for stand-up guys like Garry Shandling and Howie Mandel when they were just getting started. I met a girl at a party, and she asked me if I wanted to write a couple of spec shows with her.  We wrote a spec TAXI.  She gave it to her father, and her father’d just got a green light for a show an NBC show at Paramount called THE BRADY BRIDES, a continuation of THE BRADY BUNCH.  Her father was (BRADY BUNCH and GILLIGAN’S ISLAND creator) Sherwood Schwartz!  So she showed it to him, and he loved it, and he asked us to be on staff, so we jumped at the chance.  I think I was 23 at the time.  And that’s basically how I got in.” 

But then, in 1981, the Writers Guild went on strike for Pay-TV and home video residuals.  “The strike hit for three or four months.  And then when it ended, THE BRADY BRIDES got cancelled because there was a shift of regime at NBC.  Brandon Tartikoff was going out, and Grant Tinker was coming in, and he didn’t like the show.  Then (my partner) went off and got married.”    Mark wrote without his partner, but didn’t get anywhere.  He went back to raising horses, while continuing to write.  “And then in ’96 I produced a film called DELIVERY, which is based on my food delivery company, which I opened in 1989.  I have a food delivery company where we deliver food from the high-end restaurants in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills to homes.”

Mark Esslinger, daughter Lana, Michael Pare

We talked about his breakthrough script, TRADED, and what led to his writing it.

HENRY: I notice you’ve written a few films about Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth.  I take it you’re a fan of American history.

MARK:  Yes, I am.  We made a short called GRACE BEDELL, maybe five, six years ago, that won festivals in Burbank, Buffalo and Vancouver.  It’s about a little girl who wrote to Lincoln when he was running for President in 1860, and she suggested that he grow whiskers to help him win the election.  And he took her up on it.  It’s based on a true story.  

HENRY: Was TRADED a story you developed on spec, or were you hired to write it? 

MARK:  I wrote it on spec.  I submitted it to The Black List (note: an annual list by studio development pros of highly regarded but unsold script), and it got two really excellent reviews, and it got me a lot of intros; a lot of interest.  But since they considered the (Western) genre basically dead, they didn’t want to do anything with it.  I kept pitching it here and there, and I ended up putting it on this website called InkTip.  It was on there maybe two or three months, and then I get a call that someone is interested in it, and is it still available.

HENRY: And that was Status Media, the folks who made it?

MARK: They outright purchased it – there was no option involved.  We just went back and forth, and negotiated the contract for two or three weeks; actually, while we were negotiating they were lining up locations and casting.  By the time I signed the contract, they were shooting.  They started shooting it immediately, or even before immediately, if there is such a thing

HENRY: Where did the original idea come from?

MARK: I wanted to do a Western, and I started breaking down what kind of a Western I wanted to do.  Maybe something that was a little more contemporary, that hadn’t been seen in a Western.  I know there’s THE SEARCHERS, where they’re hunting the niece, and I wanted to use the daughter; I wanted to do something in that realm, and TAKEN was a big hit a few years earlier.  From all the research I’ve done, they’ve never done a western where a father has to track down and rescue his daughter.  I just broke in an outline, and it came out kind of easy.

HENRY: I’m glad you brought up THE SEARCHERS, because while the parallels are obvious, THE SEARCHERS story takes place over a long period of time, while TRADED’s story is compressed to just one or two days.  Why?

MARK: I don’t really know; I think that’s just the way I write.  It helps with the time clock and the thriller elements. If it was prolonged, it would end up like THE SEARCHERS.  Just for the urgency factor I just had to make it quick.  I think the lead (character) has a sense that he has to get her back as soon as he can, before she becomes too much of a whore in Dodge City.

HENRY: You spoke about doing a lot of research among Western plots.  Did you do a lot of historical research?

MARK: I do a lot for everything I do.  I get as many books as I can on the time period.  And on the internet now you can get so much stuff.  I actually read the newspapers of the time period; it helps to give a sense of how people think and what they do during that time period, and how they react to certain things.  The government in each city at that time period – how it works. 

HENRY: What are the challenges of writing period stories for a modern audience?

MARK: Westerns that got produced weren’t very risky back then.  I mean, they wouldn’t have made a DEADWOOD thirty or forty years ago, and I think DEADWOOD is the ultimate, ‘what it was really like’ kind of thing; that’s what I strive for.  I’m trying to make it as realistic as possible to the time period. Back in the 50s or 60, most of the Westerns were pretty sanitized. 

HENRY: True; of course all films were when you go back far enough.

MARK: True; and especially television.

HENRY: How close is the finished film to your original vision?

MARK: It holds true maybe 80 to 85 percent.  There are some instances, because it is a low budget film, that they had to cut corners on.  As written, their son gets killed because of a bee attack.  Now they couldn’t do that because the bee wrangler would cost like $3,000, and that wasn’t in the budget.  So they changed it to a snake-bite.  But it loses my recurring theme of honey.  When I write something, I want to tie everything in, so everything has a reason; the foreshadowing.  When you have to cut some corners you’re going to lose a lot of that stuff. 

HENRY: You’ve done something with your script which many of us screenwriters find very difficult to do, which is to write a story that can be filmed for a reasonable amount of money.  How do you do that? 

MARK: I was conscious of that, mainly because I figured if I’m going to write a western, it’s going to be hard enough to sell it.  So I’d better make it that it can be shot for the minimum amount of money possible.  I tried to keep it low.  I’ve got the one train chase which they thankfully kept in the film.  And most of my stuff is character-driven anyhow, so the stories generate out of what they’re doing, as opposed to throwing in this big action sequence with a balloon or something that will cost a lot of money.   

HENRY: Quite a cast: Michael Pare, Kris Kristofferson, Trace Adkins, Tom Sizemore, Martin Kove. 

MARK: I think it worked out great.  When they told me Michael Pare was going to be the lead, I was really excited, because I was a big fan of EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS and STREETS OF FIRE.  I think he did a great job in the part.  And if you can get Kris Kristofferson and Tom Sizemore in the movie, you’re way way way ahead of the game.  And then they’ve got Trace Adkins in it, who is a country superstar along with Kris Kristofferson, so it’s going to appeal to all of his fans too.  And he does a great job.  He doesn’t have that much acting experience, but you’d absolutely not know it from the performance he puts in.

HENRY: Did you grow up with westerns? 

MARK: Yeah, I did.  I was born in the late ‘50s, so I grew up with the typical BONANZA, and probably my favorites were WANTED: DEAD OF ALIVE and THE RIFLEMAN, the two half-hour shows.  As far as films, I think my favorite Western film is Clint Eastwood’s UNFORGIVEN.  Growing up I was always a big fan of THE HORSE SOLDIERS.  I thought that film was really ahead of its time.  I read that John Wayne and William Holden didn’t get along.  But I think it helped the whole film.  Also Jimmy Stewart in SHENANDOAH.  I could go on and on – I also like all Randolph Scott Westerns.  RIDE LONESOME and BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE.  I thought Randolph Scott was just a great Western lead.

HENRY: Do you think there’s a real resurgence in Westerns?

MARK: I prefer writing period stuff, so I certainly hope so.  Like I said before, I think you can inject contemporary themes that were not available to use back when the majority of Westerns were made.  And that’s what I tried to do with TRADED; I tried to bring something new to the genre that wasn’t seen back then.  Even the taking of a daughter and basically trading her in to slavery, that wasn’t in a Western film back in the fifties or the sixties. I would love to see the whole genre make a comeback.  I’d like to see more on Television.  DEADWOOD is probably my favorite hour show – I think it was fantastic.  I wrote a pilot called SOILED DOVES that I’ve been trying to pitch for the last few years.  It’s DEADWOOD-ish, but it’s got a female lead, and it’s set in Alaska, during the Yukon gold rush. 

HENRY: What’s your next project?

MARK: I just finished another Western, I’m about to start getting out now.  It’s called DASH; it’s about a Kansas farmer whose about to lose his wife and his farm, and he’s offered a bounty-hunting opportunity. 

HENRY: So, the release of TRADED is imminent.

MARK:  It’s getting a ten-city release on the 10th.  It’s going to be released on iTunes the same day.  There’s going to be a couple of deleted scenes, and a ‘making of’ film.  I don’t know what the deleted scenes are – I’m kind of scared to find out!  As long as it all makes sense, I’m fine. 


Quentin Tarantino, the ever-controversial and ever-entertaining filmmaker, got his ears boxed by feminists once again, this time for a casting call placed on Facebook, for roles in a new Western he is producing (though not directing).  Here’s the text:  “Casting Whores for Quentin Tarantino project. Caucasian, non-union females, ages 18–35. Western film shoots June 21st-25th in Los Angeles. No highlights, natural eyebrows, natural breasts, natural hair color to be true to the period. Dress sizes 2–8. Please send photo, including sizes, and write ‘Whore’ in the subject line.” 
I was a little surprised at the word ‘whore’, especially in the subject line, but not as surprised as when I was old enough to figure out what Miss Kitty’s girls were doing upstairs.  The Women and Hollywood website was particularly appalled, saying in part, “Putting a casting call out for, or including women in your script with the description of ‘whores,’ is not OK. Nor is asking actresses to submit their photos and information for consideration with the subject line ‘Whore.’ …  It would’ve been just as easy to have said that the project was looking for actresses to play prostitutes, saloon girls, or brothel workers… Words carry weight, and the word ‘whore’ comes with a lot of baggage.”  Okay.  Actually, I would have guessed that what they’d be upset about is that the casting notice asked for ‘Caucasian non-union’ whores.  Wrong again!  By the way, the film is written and directed by a woman.


Franco Nero signed this box from 
his 2nd DJANGO film for me!

It’s been long rumored but now confirmed that LONE STAR writer/director John Sayles will do the same chores on DJANGO LIVES!, and that Franco Nero is still set to star.   A project that’s been discussed since DJANGO UNCHAINED re-invigorated the DJANGO franchise, the project has shifted through many hands, but the premise is still the same.  Django, Franco Nero’s character from Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 film, is now much older, living in Los Angeles and, as Wyatt Earp and other real lawmen actually did, is working as a technical adviser on silent Westerns, when something happens that necessitates his strapping on his guns again.  A new description says he’s a wrangler and extra on the set of D.W. Griffith’s BIRTH OF A NATION.  The film is set to roll camera in September. 


My most recent guest column for the INSP blog, THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE GOOD-HEARTED BAD GUY, examines how the image of some hero and villain actors changed as their careers progressed.  You can read it HERE.  And please leave a comment if you like it!


Hunter Fischer (right), with a pal

Production Designer Christian Ramirez, with Mrs. Smith 
& wrangler Troy Andrew Smith

Here’re a few pictures I took on Wednesday night at the Beverly Hills premiere of TRADED.  I’ve got several more stories I wanted to include, but I didn’t want to make this Round-up more than one week late!  Happy summer!

Happy trails,


All Original Contents Copyright June 2016 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved