“Daniel Boone, American folk hero and trail blazer was our mascot while developing Pilgrim Song. Not only is his name synonymous with the great outdoors, he also settled the land that is now known as the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”
Writer/director Martha Stephens
It would have been nice to be in Louisville next week instead of last week, that way I could attend the Fly Over Film Festival. This year the signature event of the Louisville Film Society will be held June 7-10.
A film I’d most like to see is Pilgrim Song written and directed by Martha Stephens. She’s a Kentuckian from Ashland in the far north-eastern part of the state, which just happens to be the same general area where the Hatfield and McCoy family feud took place that I wrote about in yesterday’s post.
“I grew up on the banks of the Ohio River on the Kentucky side of things. My hometown is dying now, although it was once a place of industry and power. Springsteen could write a real heartbreaker about its overall decline. When I was small, my grandmother spun many a yarn. She mostly quoted old folk songs, told tall tales full of regional colloquialisms. I guess I’ve always loved stories. The idea of telling my own stories through the means of filmmaking is the only occupation that has ever appealed to me. I went to the North Carolina School of the Arts School of Filmmaking and majored in directing. It was there I wrote and directed short films. ‘Passenger Pigeons’ is my first feature film.
2010 Indiewire article
That film, Passenger Pigeons, won the “We Believe in You” award when it premiered at the 2010 SWSW Film Festival. Her latest feature film debuted at SXSW this year and features a lead actor from Louisville, Timothy Morton.
“A winding, ephemeral jaunt through the Appalachian backwoods, Pilgrim Song is so well-executed and carefully made that it almost appears effortless. The film follows James, a recently unemployed music teacher who decides to spend his first days of unemployment questing down Kentucky’s Sheltowee Trace Trail…Pilgrim Song continues to establish Stephens as the rare American director able to transform realism into poetry.”
When asked about the writing process for Pilgrims Song by Dan Schoenbrun she replied:
“Going into the writing process, my co-writer, Karrie Crouse and I decided we’d start with a boundary of our narrative space. This space would be divided into three separate units of space, serving as the three acts. We begin the film in metro-Louisville, move to the trail, and end with our main character entering the humble world of a father and son duo wrestling with abandonment and financial constraints. Within these three spacial acts, we allowed ourselves to do whatever felt natural. Many of the scenes on the trail came together through researching the Sheltowee Trace and reading thru-hikers’ online journals of their experiences on the trail. The story had always had this persona of a homespun patchwork quilt. The writing process was pretty organic and not over-thought.”
Five Questions with “Pilgrim Song”Director Matha Stephens/Filmmaker Magazines
P.S. Though Ashland, KY only has a little over 20,000 residents today, over the years it’s produced its share of people in the entertainment business including Naomi & Wynonna Judd (who as the singing duo The Judds have recorded 14 number one county hits and sold over 20 million albums), writer/director Allison Anders (Gas Food Lodging, Southland, and Nicholl Fellowship for her screenplay Lost Highway), actress Alberta Vaughn (who apperaed in more than 100 films, including Randy Rides Alone with John Wayne), and long time TV game show host Chuck Woolery— all who were born in Ashland.