Dec. 7 at the Eldridge Hotel in Lawrence, Kevin Willmott's latest film Bunker Hill cast and crew threw a party. Guests of honor were Tensie Oldfather, a longtime patron of the arts in Lawrence (she and her husband helped fund the renovationo of Liberty Hall opera house, where Langston Hughes watched vaudeville and early flicks and Oscar Wilde once lectured) since the 1980s. Other visitors were James McDaniel of NYPD Blue; Kevin Geer of Law & Order; Saeed Jaffrey; Blake Robbins; Laura Kirk of Lisa Picard is Famous; local favorites including Rupert Pate and Kelley Hunt--all were there, and I'm leaving out too many! The link to the movie is: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0841012/.
The trailer was fast-paced and had a very condensed suggestion of the narrative, which Willmott describes: “‘Bunker Hill’ is about what happens in a small Kansas town when technology stops functioning, and you’re forced to deal with your own fear and insecurity. In a lot of ways we’ve been living in a Western like this for the past five years.” The post 9/11/01 climate of terrorism is brought home, even in the short trailer. Small town social groups splinter into factions. Orwell's Animal Farm is a referent here, but with cowboys in a too-real, unromantic, gritty West.
The highlights of the party, for me, were (1) the turnout of the film/theatre folks from the area, many of whom I didn't know; (2) the turnout of other arts-committed folks, like Chris Howell of the Ks Arts Commission, Stan Herd, Greg Hurd (who co-wrote the script), Louis Copt; (3) the generosity and inclusiveness of Willmott; (4) Kelley Hunt's singing of a song from the movie (and she's also an acress in the film) and (5) James McDaniel's final gracious speech congratulating and encouraging the arts in NE Kansas and exhorting the crowd to appreciate Lawrence as a national arts community.
Another point made by Willmott and McDaniel: this is not the end of filmmaking. Already, plans are in the works for a film about Wilt Chamberlain in Lawrence. Within the community, he is credited with de-segregating not only sports but also public places.
More on Kevin Willmott, film professor at KU, is at http://www2.ku.edu/~kuthf/willmott.html
and his filmography (Confederate States of America, 9th St., etc.) is at