By Carrie Moore, Custer County Chronicle
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
It’s not uncommon for people to wonder what their ancestors’ lives were like and what they did on a day-to-day basis. For Molly Cameron, that curiosity has been answered, thanks to her new movie, “Lakota Girls.”“Lakota Girls” is a full-length feature film written by Cameron and produced and directed by her and her husband, Russell. The film is about an 8-year-old girl from Pine Ridge, played by a 10-year-old Native American actress from Rapid City, and her connection with a white girl her own age.
“The Native American girl’s parents are in an accident, so her grandmother takes her to her friend’s house, a horse lady (played by Custer resident Ilona McDill), so she can visit her parents in the hospital,” Cameron said. “The girl is (apprehensive) since she believes white people are mean.”
While at the horse lady’s home, she introduces the young girl to her granddaughter, played by Cameron’s daughter, Clara. Once they get to know each other, she finds out that Clara is also Native American, introducing a 100-year flashback, featuring Cameron’s great-grandmother.While the flashback is just a few segments of the movie, it is a key part of the film, said Cameron.
“I really liked the story of my great-grandmother coming out here to South Dakota with her three sisters,” she said. “They got teaching degrees at the University of Indiana. There weren’t many teaching opportunities there, so they came to South Dakota.”
During the flashback scenes, Emylon (Cameron’s grandmother) comes to Rapid City from Indiana, where she teaches at a white school. She soon meets a handsome Native American man at the Sioux trading post and they become engaged and marry at Sylvan Lake.The scene filmed on Friday, June 27, at the Bank Coffee House in Custer was of Emylon talking to her older sister, Velma, about the man she met.“It’s crazy to see this story come to life,” Cameron said. “I had (this memory) in my mind, so it was very emotional to see it come to life.”Cameron has seen photographs of her great-grandmother in South Dakota, riding her horse to school with a shotgun on her arm for rattlesnakes. In her research, Cameron found her great-grandmother’s name in a census book. She also found her teaching contract from 1910.
“I found it fascinating, first of all, that their father sent them to college and second, they were brave enough to come out here and teach,” she said. “I’ve researched for about eight to 10 years, so it’s been interesting to understand what it might have been like for my great-grandmother to come out here.”
Another aspect of the film Cameron wanted to touch on was the portrayal of Native Americans.“I thought Native Americans are portrayed negatively in the movies and media. I wanted to show them as people, not poor Native Americans,” she said. “I thought it may be nicer to do that through little girls.”Cameron said she believes her daughter, Clara, 8, feels the spirits, which was where the idea for the story started.“She loves the things they believe, so that’s where I started,” she said. “This story addresses many issues. It gives a message that we are all the same with our differences and it doesn’t really matter.”
Cameron held an open casting call for Native American actors ages 3-60 in April. She cast 16 for the film. She also hired actresses from Indiana to portray her ancestors.“I wanted Native Americans to play Native Americans and Indiana girls playing Indiana girls,” she said.Playing Cameron’s great-grandmother is Alexa Raye, while Jessica Froelich portrays her sister. Both are from Indiana and have experience in films.“The guy who plays my great-grandmother’s fiancé, Sam Shoulder, is from Rapid City and he is amazing,” Cameron added. “I had tears in my eyes at the wedding scene. The chemistry between them is really amazing.”
The majority of the film was shot in South Dakota with some in Indiana. In South Dakota, filming took place at the Bank Coffee House in Custer, Sylvan Lake, Glen Erin School and other places in Custer State Park, Prairie Edge in Rapid City and other locations in Rapid City and the 1880 Train in Hill City. They also filmed at a Victorian house in Rapid City and had a 1923 touring car they borrowed from a gentleman in Spearfish.
The shoot will wrap in August, with months of editing afterwards.
“When it’s done we will submit it to film festivals and try to sell the film,” Cameron said. “Indie films like this do pretty well internationally. We were in Italy and Greece and told them about working on the film and they were all familiar with the Lakota.”
Jim Ankeny from Minneapolis helped with filming flashback scenes. Ankeny, a 1979 Custer High School graduate, owns Blue Earth Pictures and has over 30 years experience creating films.
“He has been so much help and a wealth of knowledge,” Cameron said. “He is basically teaching us how to film well. We’re amazed by the footage we have so far.”Wendee Pettis, owner of Baby Doe Films in Hot Springs, helped with makeup and hair, as well as helping set scenes.Cameron can’t wait to share her story.
“It’s been fun to see and hear people’s reactions to the movie,” Cameron said. “I’m just really happy to be doing this and can’t wait to show Lakota Girls to the world.”