by Gail Jenner
A special movie presentation is planned for Friday evening, October 9, during the 2015 Women Writing the West Conference.
HEATHENS AND THIEVES is a western crime drama set in an American era when the riches associated with the 1849 Gold Rush, the fallout of the Civil War, and the impact of Chinese immigration were fresh in people's minds. Set against the wilds of Northern California in 1871, and filmed in the rugged terrain of Siskiyou County, California, HEATHENS AND THIEVES is a timeless western in the broadest sense.
The story opens up as two drifters hear rumors that a Chinese railroad worker has escaped with gold and now owns a remote ranch in the wilds of Northern California. The desperate men set a plan in motion to steal the gold for themselves: Saul, the youngest of the drifters, hopes to win the affections of Zhen and his beautiful wife, Kun Hua while posing as a farmhand; meanwhile, his partner Bill lurks in the shadows and waits for the opportunity to strike. However, unexpectedly, waves of worse men arrive seeking the stolen fortune—including lawmen and hired guns—setting in motion a deadly multi-sided face-off of bluffs, gambles, and betrayals.
About the major characters:
Houston’s native son Don Swayze—of True Blood and CSI, and brother of the late Patrick Swayze—stars in HEATHENS AND THIEVES, along with Gwendoline Yeo (Desperate Housewives, American Crime and the Emmy award-winning Broken Trail) and newcomer Andy Simpson, along with a number of fine secondary actors.
HEATHENS AND THIEVES earned six Best Feature awards at six independent film festivals, including the Elvira Western Film Festival in Spain, and a Special Jury Award at its international premiere at the Houston World Fest festival. Lead actress Gwendolyn Yeo also won two Best Actress Awards.
According to co-director, Megan Peterson—who will be at the WWW Conference to share and answer questions—“Even the isolated landscape imbues the story with a sense of intrigue, where alliances are broken and nothing is as it seems. At its core, we feel that HEATHENS AND THIEVES is a fresh, modern story. It treads the unfamiliar territory of the Western Chinese-American experience, wrestling with issues of racism and disillusionment in a post-war era. It is at times violent and hard-hitting, pushing the envelope of political correctness through moments of exceptionally dark—and often uncomfortable—humor. The only thing that remains pristine is the landscape; we tried to make full use of the vast Northern California forests, mountains, and ranch lands that are rarely seen in the dusty saguaro cactus fantasies of Hollywood.”
Also, according to Ms. Peterson, “The making of an independent film is a grueling, soul-searching journey, and the natural ‘rough rider’ spirit that permeated production through post-production was sometimes the only advantage we had. On the other hand, the minute we brought out guns, horses, and haunting landscapes, even the non–western fans among us felt the passions and excitements of our childhood imaginations rise up and take hold.”
Join us Friday evening for the opportunity to see this film and visit with Ms. Peterson. A western-themed dinner is planned at 6 p.m. with Ms. Peterson offering historical background on the film and answering questions from 7:30-8 p.m. The movie begins at 8 p.m. and is open to the public with a $5 admission.
Dinner and admittance to the movie is included for all registered conference attendees.
Guests are welcome to join us for the dinner and movie. The cost for dinner is $50 and should be paid in advance through a conference registration form.
Like the Women Writing the West 2015 Conference page on Facebook to get the latest conference news.
For questions about the conference, contact Jane Kirkpatrick or Shanna Hatfield or visit the website at http://womenwritingthewest.org/
MEGAN PETERSON, a graduate of Stanford (magna cum laude) and the University of Southern California’s Cinema-Television MFA program, began her foray into directing under the tutelage of Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Back to the Future) before branching out into multiple re-creation–based series around the world for networks like National Geographic, Travel Channel, Discovery, Animal Planet, HGTV and Food Network, and many others. She has traveled the world while producing, directing and writing over 150 hours of on-air programming for a wide range of cable networks, and distributed multiple independent features, industrials and music videos. Ms. Peterson made her directorial debut with the critically acclaimed HEATHENS AND THIEVES and is currently developing her second feature. She has been juror for the Los Angeles Film Festival, Sundance Writing Labs, the International Documentary Awards, and was a founding member of the Jefferson State FliXX Festival and the United Nations Association Film Festival. She makes her home in Northern California with her husband and son.