The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

April 11, 2014

Going Western: Indie film 'Wichita' to show tonight at MSSU

JOPLIN, Mo. — Nicholas Burton isn't exactly raising a cash cow on his livestock ranch. But the Wichita, Kan.-based filmmaker has an advantage over other film producers: Westerns are in high demand, and he's in the perfect spot to make them.

"That's the problem with the genre in general," Burton said. "It's getting harder and harder to produce them. The simple reason is that most film production companies are usually attached to the biggest cities, so it doubles or triples their costs to relocate to out in the middle of nowhere."

That's not the case with Burton, who has access to a ranch complete with animals and livestock.

He's also surrounded by historical re-enactors and authentic replicas of the West as it was circa 1872.

Those settings helped him make the movie "Wichita," a Western thriller set in southern Kansas. The film will be shown at Missouri Southern State University tonight as part of a 36-city tour.

Grisly situation

"Wichita" starts with a grisly situation. The first thing viewers see is a fugitive who has escaped from prison dragging a body across the plains.

As the plot unfolds, the story reveals that the fugitive targets a young man who has settled in the quiet cowtown and that a bounty hunter has aims on both of them.

Starring Justin France, Karina Wolfe and Blake Webb, the movie adds fast-paced elements of noir to a usually slower Western style.

Burton said he grew up watching Westerns with his father and grew deeply attached to them.

"They are what I was raised on," Burton said. "I'm an old farm boy. I went hunting all the time with my dad, and every time the TV was on, there was Clint Eastwood or John Wayne."

To speed up the pace, Burton combined elements of noir to create a stampede of heavy action throughout the rest of the film. The film is violent -- Burton said he's heard comparisons of his film to "No Country for Old Men" and "History of Violence."

Burton said westerns usually have common denominators of interesting, dynamic characters. Usually looking for a new start, characters in Western settings are always willing to reshape their identities, and that makes them fairly volatile and always in the midst of an adventure.

His story is no different. By the time the movie ends, the audience has usually gasped audibly from the events depicted.

"People making a comedy like to hear audiences laugh," Burton said. "If you're making a thriller, then it's nice to hear people shocked. I won't sugarcoat it. This is a violent film, but some think that it's a very honest perspective of what living in that time was."

Joplin is the fourth stop on the film tour, which stretches across Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma.

Burton hopes to get feedback about how successful the movie is and eventually get the movie mass distributed. Burton also plans to submit the movie to some festivals, but already he has heard interest from a few distribution companies.

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