- In the Movies -

On the set of 'Outlawed Faith' as written by a first-time background actor.
~By S.L. Matthews

  • Young Jonah's faith carries him and his young sister, Celine, to the last borderland town, Harpdale, in order to escape captivity. They seek out his mother's old friend, the famous reformed gunslinger Kulta; but what they find is more than what anyone bargains for. Set in a Sci-Fi Western town with the air of a Steampunk theme, this tale will begin a journey of high adventure.

                       - Written by Ron Newcomb

"Back to one, people!"

     Back to one. A short, simple sentence I was unfamiliar with, until my husband and I fell into an invitation to participate in a steampunk-western movie shoot. After a full day of shooting, the phrase has been pounded into my brain until I began moving to the rhythm of the words: back-to-one.

     I like the meaning behind this phrase. As our director, Ron, placed the extras, we gleaned the meaning behind the phrase. No matter where we were by the end of the scene, this was the spot we were to return to, this was our beginning. And so we did. Shot after shot, take after take, action was called, and after the cut, we all went back to one and did it again.


     A logical place to start over from, the beginning, is it not? Let's face it, how many times during the course of our lives do we go "back to one"? I do it every day, a hundred times a day while writing my novels, and I know I am not alone. Words form sentences, sentences into scenes, scenes into chapters. Like movie-making, fictional writing is a slow, tedious process. We must first have creative vision to foresee the story, followed by the drive to carry it through. We must prepare for constant obstacles, face them, and react accordingly. If a scene falls flat, or the tone not quite right, we as the writer, or we as the director, must recognize any flaws and start again. Go back to one. Do it again. And again, until the scene is caught like the magic of a midsummer's firefly in a bottle...glowing. Perfection is key, for no self-respecting author, director or actor will go forth with work that we know isn't "quite" right. It isn't fair to our audience, let alone ourselves. Going back to one teaches us patience, builds our character, strengthens our grit and determination to follow our dreams.

      Standing in the summer sun for hours in a dusty "prop" town, wearing layers of clothing, I contemplated what led me to this point. Thirty-three years of living history reenacting teaches you to deal with the elements. I have camped during summers so brutally hot that all the photographs taken showcased a golden halo of heat and steam hovering over everyone's heads. To the opposite extreme, we suffered in camp donned with every scrap of wool we could find, bundled masses of blankets chipping ice out of canvas water buckets, and huddled so close to the campfire we melted the soles of our shoes. We endured whatever was thrown at us, just as our ancestors before us. Call us insane, but the thought of going home early never even crossed our mind. We got up every morning, went back to one, and chipped that blasted ice out of the water buckets. And the kicker is, we always had far too much fun!

     Now that I think about it, a little sun, dust and sweat on a movie set was nothing, even while wearing all that clothing. Some call it "costuming" - I call it attire. Those layers of petticoats, bustles and long sleeves, they are a part of me...more so than the jeans and t-shirts I wear in-between events. I needed that familiarity, for as comfortable as I am in period attire, I am that uncomfortable in front of a camera. I tend to freeze, to resort to inner flight. And yet, I refuse to allow my insecurities get the best of me.

   The opportunity arose to become a small part of someone's creative dream, and my husband and I jumped at the chance. I was surprised to find, if I can set aside the fear of the camera, it wasn't so difficult from the inner-workings within my own world, and that I share with my husband. We reenact American history. Not so different from taking cues from the cast and crew on a movie set, and as for writing? The only limits in "building" a fictional story are those you set within your own mind. I refuse to set such limits. When told I cannot do something in my passion of western fiction, I question, why not? Aside from the limit of accuracy in dealing with a traditional historical fiction, anything is possible.


     A year ago, if someone had told me I would have a story published, an ever-growing friendship with a group of talented authors, and a promising outlook on future books, let alone catch filming fever by playing a role as an extra, I would have laughed. Yet, this is the path I set forth with in mind when I first picked up a pen and began to write - with the lofty dreams of published works, and of the best of those works to be showcased on screen. Lofty goals, some say. Unapproachable dreams, I have been told. Certainly, if one begins a journey with such reservations, they will not go far. I believe if you work hard enough, fight the battle toward conquering your own fears, and work your way up the ladder toward your own chosen destiny...anything is possible. Work for those dreams, and as I learned through observation on set from a talented director with a beautiful vision, if something isn't quite right, if you fall down, get back up, dust yourself off, and go Back to One.

What are your "Back to One" experiences?

                 ~Written by S.L. Matthews

                                Images and movie trailer with permission Ron Newcomb of The Forge Studios

All Photographs, excerpts and information (C) copyright S.L. Matthews. 2020 Proudly created with Wix.com