Wrong Side Up in the Press

The following article was reported by Laura Van Dusen for the Flumethe official paper of Park County, Colorado since 1879.

Dust bowl classroom

Photo by Laura Van Dusen/The Flume)

A coming-of-age film set at the height of southeastern Colorado’s Dust Bowl days brought the cast and crew of “Wrong Side Up,” a short film by Englewood, Colo.-based Crooked Lake Productions, to Como on Nov. 2 to film scenes set in a rural schoolhouse.

The set was the historic Como High School; it was Como’s high school beginning in 1930. In 1940, the one student in the last senior class graduated.

In the scene shot on Nov. 2, a group of seven child actors play 1930s-era students learning Practical Arithmetics in the one-room schoolhouse. During the lesson, a character named Josiah, played by 10-year-old Coby Fox of Bow Mar, Colo. can’t figure out the answer to a division problem.

The student sitting next to Josiah in class is Mac, the protagonist of the film, played by 11-year-old Jason Olree of Denver. While the teacher is looking away, Mac erases the wrong answer on Josiah’s slate and writes the correct answer. Because of his help, Josiah realizes Mac is a friend.

Other scenes to be shot in Como at a later date will depict a circa-1930s outdoor movie theater and an outdoor scene of blowing dust.

Writer/Director Henry McComas based the 15-minute film loosely on family legends about his grandfather’s experience as a 12-year-old living in rural Apple Creek, Ohio, in the 1930s.

Henry McComas said the legend that was passed down through his family was that his grandfather had to intimidate his own father – the great-grandfather of Henry McComas – to get him to leave the home property.

“No one knew what the confrontation was; I heard rumors that perhaps [great-grandfather] may have been drunk. He was not exiled. He was told by his son to come back when he was sober,” said McComas

The film is set in 1935 in the Dust Bowl-era of Colorado’s Baca County in the southeastern corner of the state bordering Oklahoma; it was one of the hardest-hit areas of the drought that gripped the middle of the U.S. in the decade called the “dirty thirties.”

It lasted from 1930 to 1939, when family farms in southeastern Colorado, western Kansas, northeastern New Mexico, and the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma dried up and the topsoil blew away due to low rains and strong winds.

In exterior scenes to be filmed later this month at Campo, Colo., in Baca County, the father of Mac and his sister Liza leaves the farm and travels to California in hopes of finding a paying job.

But even when the father returns with a stack of money in his pocket, there is conflict, resolved when Mac threatens his father with an axe and tells him to leave the house.

One of the few lighter sides in the film is in the character of Liza, who “brings lightheartedness to this dark, dry time,” McComas said. She is played by 7-year-old Annabelle Hafey of Thornton, Colo.

Henry McComas chose a Dust Bowl setting because he is fascinated by the history of that time and has studied it extensively. He said the conflict in the film is mirrored by the struggles of life in the Dust Bowl era.

McComas plans to enter “Wrong Side Up” in the Denver-based Starz Film Festival and the Park City, Utah-based Sundance Film Festival.

Como set

When McComas was looking for a schoolhouse to film the interior scenes, he talked to Shannon Haltiwanger, preservation communications manager at History Colorado. From working with other historic projects in Como, Haltiwanger told The Flume that she thought the former Como high school would be a good match.

Haltiwanger said she contacted Linda Balough, Park County tourism director, who put her in touch with Ann Lukacs, a successful filmmaker who has been hired by Park County to work as a film industry consultant and to establish a Park County Film Office.

Lukacs said her job with the county is promoting it to film industry professionals as a potential location to shoot movies, films, television shows and commercials, and she advises local businesses and property owners on hosting film companies.

When talking about McComas, Lukacs said the county is “excited to help [him] with his film” and described him as a very dedicated filmmaker.

The county, through the tourism office and the South Park National Heritage Area that Balough also directs, has a list of potential sites for filming, both in South Park and Platte Canyon that can be promoted to filmmakers. Balough told The Flume that anyone who wants his or her private property added to the list of possible film sites can contact her for more information. She can be contacted by email at lbalough@parkco.us or by phone at 719-836-4298.

The Como Civic Association, owner of the two historic schools in Como, allowed the use of the buildings – the former high school for filming and the former elementary school for cast and crew check-in, wardrobe fittings and a place to eat lunch.

See the original article: http://www.theflume.com/news/first_five/article_90763082-48cd-11e3-a130-0019bb30f31a.html

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