May 01, 2010

The making of Pearl

Oklahoma-made aviation biopic “Pearl” to get state premiere Tuesday

By Brandy“Pearl” is the first feature film made by the Chickasaw Nation, which took on the project as an effort to preserve the tribe’s history and culture.

“It’s just a great way to keep stories alive and inspire future generations,” Rennke said. “And when I looked at all the different stories we had available—and there’s just tons of great Oklahoma and Native American and Chickasaw stories—‘Pearl’ just seemed to resonate.”

While developing the script in 2008, the screenwriters had at their disposal video interviews the tribe conducted with Carter-Scott before her death in 2005. Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby, who counted the aviatrix as a close friend, championed and consulted on the movie.

“People are very surprised that an Indian tribe could pull something like this off. Most of the tribes just don’t have the resources we’re fortunate enough to have,” Rennke said.

Still, the filmmakers worked on a tight budget, which they did not disclose. Director King Hollis said principal photography had to be completed in just 23 days, which meant putting in many 14-hour days.

“As far as the principals in the film, there was not one bad actor. It was the strongest cast I’ve ever been a part of,” said King, an indie filmmaker from Dallas.

After a nationwide search, Elijah DeJesus, 13, of Burbank, Calif., makes her film debut in the lead role. Dallas-based actors Angela Gair and Andrew Sensenig play Pearl’s parents.

Several Oklahoma performers were cast in key roles: Byng High School student Paden Brown, a Chickasaw, was cast as Pearl’s sister Arnetta; University of Oklahoma graduate Isabel Archuleta plays Pearl’s sister Opaletta; and Tom Huston Orr, director of OU’s School of Drama, portrays the iconic Wiley Post.
Comment:  It's a shame that only one of the leading roles went to an Indian. But I'm glad the Chickasaws made this film and Gov. Anoatubby advised it. This could be the start of a whole gaming-fueled tribal entertainment industry.

For more on the subject, see Pearl Wins "Best of Show" and Pearl Sells Out.

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