Local Filmmaker Tells Story of Shoshoni Actress
It's a classic Hollywood story: young girl from a small town dreams of not just the lights on stage, but the lights behind the camera too. Despite any odds, she leaves her hometown for Chicago, New York, and eventually Los Angeles to pursue that dream. The result? A handful of small parts, one unsatisfying moment in some production called Gone With the Wind, and too many uncredited roles over the course of decades. Plenty of alcoholism, a little substance abuse, depression, and not only a life that flickered out to follow, but a shot at fame that faded just as it started to become attainable.
This is the story of Isabel Jewell, an actress born and raised in Shoshoni, WY in the first part of the 20th century. Local filmmaker Dennis Rollins has been planning the film for more than two years and, with the help of a script from Pat Greiner of Casper, finally started production less than a week ago.
Forgotten Ingenue boasts a cast and crew entirely of local Wyoming residents (although there is a special appearance by Criminal Minds and Elementary actor Eric Deskin), with most of the volunteers based out of Casper, where Rollins lives, although filming will take place throughout the state.
Last fall, I wrote a follow-up after attending the 307 Film Festival in Laramie, where Rollins had his most recent documentary premiering: The Monumentals, a story of the ancient olive trees in Crete, where he traveled for the production. The film won him Best Wyoming Documentary at the festival and was selected to the Green Vision Film Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Both of these productions are follow-ups to Rollins' Dell Burke and the Yellow Hotel - an hour-long feature about one of the West's most famous madam's and her brothel. Dell Burke aired on PBS Wyoming, successfully traveled to a number of regional film festivals, and has even become a live production.
As someone who studied filmmaking and spent several years involved in productions in a variety of ways, I personally am always interested in what Wyoming locals are doing to pursue the art - and producing your own short film is never a small feat, even less so when it spans decades, runs more than 30 minutes, and involves travel. Rollins undoubtedly has his work cut out for him. For myself, being not only aware of how intensive the filmmaking process can be, but also trusted with the lead role of Isabel (no pressure..), I am acutely aware of the time and effort the project will take. I'm just glad not to be in charge of any of it for once; this time, someone tells me what to do instead.
Forgotten Ingenue has only recently started filming, but Rollins hopes to wrap the shoot by Labor Day and start fundraising immediately afterwards, with a goal of completing the film for premiere by the end of the year.