Dust off those spurs and don’t forget the popcorn as the Clayton Theatre presents “Day of the Gun,” a Western-style film created next door in Maryland. The Clayton will host the Delaware premiere at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, and at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 26, followed by a discussion with the filmmakers.
The live-action movie starts as the tough widowed ranch owner Maggie Carter (LaDon Hall) demands that local cattle baron Cyrus McCall (Jim Osborn) remove a barbed-wire fence he installed to deter rustlers.
She promises, “There will be Hell to pay” if it doesn’t come down, since it blocks her herd from open grazing lands. Complications arise between their sons, who were once best friends, until Maggie’s son ends up dead. Desperate, Maggie brings in a dark stranger (Academy Award nominee Eric Roberts) from her past to even the score.
Producer Robert Alexander (who also plays Granville Stuart) will host Saturday afternoon’s Q&A session. With family living near Dagsboro for about 19 years, Alexander joked that they’re almost locals.
“I’ll be down. I’ll be in costume. There’ll be a couple other actors” doing rope spinning and taking pictures in costume, which has been a lot of fun at past events, he said. “We’ll turn this into a real ball with everybody. Truthfully, the entire movie has been fun to do, from start to finish.”
“We’re just little hobbyists that did a film that I think looks far more costly than it was,” said writer/director Wayne Shipley, who will host the Monday-night Q&A.
“Most of this is done by people for free, so it really is a labor of love. … You can tell that from all the people who showed up to help build,” Alexander said.
For scenery, the crew built a whole town on Shipley’s horse farm in Jessup, Md. That includes a functional saloon, which has been recently redecorated for use in other productions. His 1920s ranch house didn’t have to stretch far to appear turn-of-the-century.
Additional landscapes were filmed in Montana — beautiful, rugged and much rockier than Maryland.
The independent film company One-Eyed Horse Productions was named for their first film, made in 2008, which was released as “Come Hell or High Water.”
Alexander got involved with the first film when writer/director Shipley contacted the Single Action Shooting Society — re-enactors who specialize in cowboy action shooting and costumes. Screenwriter Shipley taught English and film for decades before retiring and pursuing his own love of the cowboy genre.
The character of Maggie Carter is suggestive of Lady Macbeth, with “her driven, ambitious nature. In fact, she even has one of Lady Macbeth’s lines in the film.”
Shipley even found an assistant director in a former student, Jill Rhyne-Grey, with much help from her husband. Shipley’s own wife, Pat, created costumes.
“The whole film process is fun, and the people you get to meet are just wonderful,” he said of the nearly-300 cast and crew. “It’s very much a collaborative effort. You’re dealing with having to build sets, wrangle cattle…”
They shot for 23 days over a 27-month period, with 5.1 Dolby audio for better production value.
Moviegoers at the Clayton can ask about behind-the-scenes information, like how actor Eric Roberts got involved.
“That was kind of the icing on the cake. He, too, was just wonderful to work with.”
Shipley and company might have expected a Hollywood diva, but, they said, “He was just one of the team” and even celebrated his birthday there.
Shipley had fun writing other characters, such as the mortician, played by television actor Johnny Alonso.
“I said, ‘Let’s go ahead and have some fun with this character,’ so we did a little piece where he is preparing the corpses in front of his mortuary in a way that was done” back then with criminals, Shipley said. “He has no dialogue, but he speaks volumes.”
Though not released under MPAA ratings, the film is considered appropriate for those 13 or older, with some adult subject matter, although it’s not a “shoot-’em-up,” Shipley said. “We have some wonderful action sequences in the film, considering our budget, [but] the storyline is what drives it.”
Tickets are available for sale daily, for $8.50, at the Clayton Theatre box office on Main Street in Dagsboro. They will also be available at the door.