The TriFilm Society, in an effort to build a stronger local film community, will be highlighting local filmmakers and their productions. By sharing these projects, we hope to provide inspiration and information to guide your career path—no matter your experience level. If you’re working on a project you wish to share, please contact us or use the comments section below to learn more about having your work featured on the blog.
Below is an interview with filmmaker Danika Adams who is working on a documentary film about Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves, the inspiration for The Lone Ranger. It was recently announced that HBO has put in development an untitled miniseries from Morgan Freeman, Lori McCreary, and James Pickens, Jr., about Reeves. (Read more at deadline.com.) Danika answers our questions about the film, why she’s making it, and what she’s learned about crowdfunding.
What’s your film about?
We’re doing a documentary about a man named Bass Reeves — born a slave in 1838, escaped, and became a Deputy Marshal who would make more than 3,000 arrests without ever being shot or wounded — proclaimed to be the actual base for our legendary Lone Ranger.
What compelled you to tell this story?
To hear that such a man existed, and that he was the inspiration for our esteemed Lone Ranger, yet we’ve never seen a history book mention him, we have to know what’s going on. The leading historian on Bass Reeves, Art T. Burton (author of Black Gun, Silver Star), had quite a journey ahead of him when he first attempted to dig up any records about this man, as during that time period we didn’t “keep records of black people.”
We want to know the truth, how it was discovered, and then spread the word. If everything we’ve heard about this man is true, we should be honoring Bass Reeves as part of our history.
What will audiences gain from seeing this documentary?
We will interview Art about his journey and go visit some of the places and people he mentions in his books. Moreover, his books have inspired other writers and producers and even a statue of Bass Reeves at a museum in Arkansas — so we are visiting those places as well, to hear from others who have been inspired by Bass Reeves, and see what else we can do to assist them in honoring this man.
We will learn and present more of Bass’s history, about his life, morals, and upbringing — and we will show how these facts were actually uncovered. We don’t want to just present people with a fluffy fairy tale, but with as much evidence and as many puzzle pieces as possible so that we can know the real man behind the legend.
Why did you choose to crowdfund the film?
Crowdfunding is able to present a project to many people, with the anticipation of their involvement. This documentary in particular is one which we believe is truly amplified by the involvement of others — because this project is about honoring a man in our history. Many of us grew up on Westerns, and those stories are a part of our lives, and based off real people who shaped history. Since we want to spread the word and be a voice about this man, we will do this at every step and opportunity along the way.
What lessons have you learned about crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is a bit new to us. So we’ve made notes.
For one thing, don’t go into a project before knowing who you might present it to — having a base idea who might be willing and able to aid the project, and spread the word about it, beforehand is a definite plus.
Another thing is the ability to capture an audience’s attention in three seconds, or with a simple and alluring image — there are many great projects out there, all seeking support.
Also, and greatly, we’ve learned patience. Patience and timing. Certain things must be done at certain times, and sometimes that requires waiting, especially with crowdfunding. It takes a while to hear back from others, or to see things come together — but it’s never good to rush things.
But perhaps the best thing we’ve learned is that if you know even one person, no aspiration is a lost cause. In the grand scheme, there are very few things anyone can do alone, but just by letting a few know our minds, we’ve met many who are capable, helpful, and involved.
What else you would like to share?
We make videos to honor people, aspirations, creativity, nature, the enjoyment of life in general. This project will be our first of many, because it’s what we enjoy. We are genuinely excited to see where this one goes, and how far our voice can reach about one man.
It’s an extra pleasure working out of North Carolina because there is at least one person from every single continent represented in just a single city like Greensboro, so there are many people and cultures and places and dreams to promote and learn about in this one little location.
The Bass Reeves documentary will require a lot more travel from D.C. to Arkansas, Texas, and Illinois. We can’t wait to find out what/who else we discover along the way!
Danika Adams has loved film since she was three years old and saw her first Shirley Temple movie. Life Is Fun! was started by Adams in 2013 to highlight people, places, and professions in and around Greensboro, North Carolina. She has interviewed a craftswoman who upcycles plastic bags, the producer who created the film Bragg n East, and explored downtown Greensboro featuring three of her favorite places. “Bass Reeves: The Real Lone Ranger” is the first official documentary for Adams and Life Is Fun!
Bass Reeves: The Real Lone Ranger is in production. The crowdfunding campaign is live and ends on Monday, June 15th. You may contribute here (http://kck.st/1QPy4bA) and follow Danika and her progress online: