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Charles Shouse believes in making films in Kentucky.
The Jackson-based filmmaker is wrapping up production of an hour-long documentary on legendary Breathitt County outlaw “Bad Tom” Smith, who terrorized Eastern Kentucky and confessed to six murders before being hanged in Jackson in 1898.
Shouse is hoping to use the documentary as a springboard to raise funds for a feature-length dramatic film based on Smith’s life that would be shot and produced in Kentucky. Shouse and collaborator Tony R. Calhoun, who has written the script for the film and will portray Smith, recently visited Frankfort to promote their efforts.
Tom Wopat, one of the stars of the Dukes of Hazzard television series and who recently appeared in the Hollywood feature Django Unchained, has recorded the narration for Shouse’s documentary. Shouse and Calhoun said they’re in talks with other well-known Hollywood actors about appearing in the feature on “Bad Tom” Smith. But they’re committed to producing the film in Kentucky.
“We’ve scouted locations in Central and Western Kentucky that have the period buildings that we’ll need for the sets,” Shouse said before speaking at a recent Breathitt County Days gathering at the Frankfort VFW post. “There’s plenty of talent in Kentucky, and we’re planning to hire as many local cast and crew as possible.”
Shouse said his feature’s budget would be about $250,000, of which he’s already raised $50,000. He believes he can complete the film on this lean budget by using his company, Showhouse Productions, for all phases of the project. Showhouse, founded in 2001, already has two feature films under its belt, as well as music videos, commercials and a reality TV pilot.
“I want to make feature films in Kentucky and prove that it can be done here,” Shouse said. “With today’s technology, you can make a movie in Kentucky as easily as anywhere. You just have to have the money.”
Shouse collaborates with his twin brother, Mike, who specializes in sound editing and mixing and composing musical scores. Another key Showhouse team member is Pearlie Wooton, who functions as production manager.
The Smith documentary will begin screenings this fall. Shouse said he’s targeting KET and the History Channel to air the documentary, adding that he’ll enter it in several film festivals to create “buzz” for the feature project.
Shouse acknowledges that his goals are ambitious, but notes that he and his collaborators are willing to sacrifice to achieve them. “We don’t get paid until the film makes money,” he quipped.
From Kentucky Film Office