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After 5: Behind the Scenes with 'Winter's Bone'

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“The Shepherd of the Hills” started it all.

Beginning in 1919, with the silent version of “Shepherd of the Hills,” several movies have been made about or filmed in the Ozarks. The 1964 version of “Shepherd” was shot in Branson (before it was the Midwest’s Broadway.) A recent documentary, “Homemade Hillbilly Jam,” features local musical favorites Big Smith.

Now comes “Winter’s Bone,” based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell.

It’s the story of a teenage girl on a quest to find her missing father. Dad is involved in the methamphetamine culture (Missouri has more meth labs than any other state), and the girl has to deal with a number of unsavory characters in her pursuit.

Filmed in a mere 24 days on a modest budget – roughly $2 million – the film is a top-notch production.  

The story is powerful, the actors – a combination of professionals and locals – are superb, while the scenery and cinematography are stunning.

One way the production cut costs, executive producer Jonathan Scheuer says, was the fact that no sets were built. Everything was done on location, in houses and hollers in Christian and Taney counties and the cattle auction barn in Springfield.

Extensive location scouting was involved, and most folks interviewed were friendly – but not all.

“Michael McDonough was doing preliminary location scouting,” Scheuer recalls. “He was talking to some young people on their front porch. After a while, the family patriarch, who was in the backyard, fired a shot in the air – as a friendly request to wrap up the conversation.”

Production coordinator Sarah Kessinger – who is from this area and was the Missouri Film Alliance of Springfield’s 2009 vice president – says filming off the beaten Hollywood path presented some challenges, but all went well. Along with the many indigenous actors, there were several crew members recruited locally.

“We had 38 local crew members,” she says. “We have a vast array of talent and viable crew members locally, but at the same time, there are certain pieces of equipment and certain crew members we had to reach out to other places to find.”

One of the crew members, Nathan Shelton, works at the Campbell 16 Ciné, 4005 South Ave. He was hired to handle makeup and props.

Beth Domann is well known for her comedic acting and direction at Springfield Little Theatre. She has an important role in the film and is in the two most pivotal scenes. Her role is decidedly not comedic.

“Winter’s Bone” is Domann’s first movie role. Many converted stage actors find themselves antsy with a movie set’s hurry-up-and-wait production and countless retakes.
Domann says it was nothing like she expected.

“It was pretty bam-bam,” she says. “They knew what they wanted and when (actors) were there, we were working consistently.”

There are also a number of local musicians in the film.

The music aspect wasn’t in the novel, but director Debra Granik says, “As we spent time in the Ozarks, we kept hearing stunning music, a lyrical element in the fabric of Ozarks life. We were determined to put that into the film.”

“Winter’s Bone” will draw a local audience simply because it was filmed here. The real reason to see it is because it’s a great movie.[[In-content Ad]]

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