Here — some foolishness for All Fools Day. These are the minutes from a secret planning session held at Greasy Coat Productions, April 1st, 2003. Sitting in a porch swing is Artistic Director, Ezekiel Reese Jackson, discussing matters of grave cultural import with his Ombudsman and Treasurer, Walter ‘Wally” Stamper.
Ezekiel Reese Jackson: Let me tell you what, I’m hoppin’ mad today — hoppin’ mad.
Wally Stamper: Hoppin’ huh?
ERJ: That’s right!
WS: What’s got you riled, son?
ERJ: I seen it on the news — how they’re gonna make a movie of that novel.
WS: What, another Tom Clancy?
ERJ: No man, don’t you pay attention to none of this local news? — I mean that Charles Frazier book what Oprah liked so well. Takes place over on Cold Mountain.
WS: Cold Mountain? — over by Waynesville?
ERJ: That’s the one.
WS: Waynesville’s in a novel?
ERJ: Not Waynesville per se — up on the mountain.
WS: What’s this book called?
ERJ: Well sir, its called Cold Mountain.
WS: Oh! — that book! Cold Mountain, sure… some feller gets back from the Civil War and runs up into a bunch of adventures all in the woods and such: like a North Carolina version of the Odyssey by Homer — ‘course i remember that book.
ERJ: Well, they gonna make a movie.
WS: Is that so. Alright. Who’s gonna play the chicken?
WS: Yeah — best part of that book, some soldier gets his brains blowed out, and this chicken hops down and starts peckin’ at ‘em. Just exactly like a chicken would do. So who’s gonna play the chicken?
ERJ: Hell, they ain’t gonna put that in a movie!
WS: Why, ain’t they got chickens in Hollywood? I know they got chickens in Hollywood. The place is full up with chickens. Chickens and waffles!
ERJ: Can’t you be serious for a minute — it ain’t the chicken I’m worried about, it’s the mountain. Who’s gonna play the mountain?
WS: What kinda serious are you bein’? Whatd’ye mean, play the mountain?
ERJ: Here we got a story set in the unspoilt wildernesses of western North Carolina, and they gonna pick up all these rockstars and Hollywood starlets and whatnot and haul the whole mess out to some backwoods in Romania to shoot this movie.
WS: They ain’t gonna shoot the movie in Waynesville?
ERJ: No! With all the God-granted tax-breaks the great state of North Carolina hands out to get filmakers to make their movies here — and I know I don’t have to make the list out for you: Deliverance, Last of the Mohicans, The Fugitive, Nell…
WS: Don’t forget that Werner Von Herzog movie.
ERJ: Which one?
WS: The one with the chicken.
ERJ: Oh, yeaaah — the one with the chicken, down in Cherokee… But, c’mon — I mean it, I’m serious, all those movies — if they need a temperate hardwood forest they just pack up the production and come see us, but here we have a movie that’s actually set right here: wild and wonderful Western North Carolina — Haywood County for cryin’ out loud — and they’ve got the nerve, the unmitigated gall to snatch that bone out from under our noses and go traipsing off to dang Romania.
WS: They got rhododendrons in Romania?
ERJ: I don’t know.
WS: They got chickens in Romania?
ERJ: I don’t doubt they do, but that’s not my point. My point is: it’s criminal! They should have a dang civil rights tribunal at the dang Hague!
WS: You gonna sue for reparations?
ERJ: You’re dang right I am! Hollywood owes us!
WS: Maybe they’s a movie set in Romania they could shoot here. Like a Draculer movie? They always makin’ new Draculer movies, seem like.
ERJ: I got my eyes on somethin’ bigger.
WS: Bigger’n Draculers?
ERJ: Mm. That’s right. Better than Draculer — Elves. Elves and Goblins. And Dragons and Trolls and such!
WS: Now what are you on about?
ERJ: I say if they’re gonna outsource Cold Mountain, I want ‘em to insource that Hobbit movie they gonna make.
WS: You mean all that Lord of the Rings mess? They already shootin’ those movies down in ol’ New Zealand.
ERJ: And what has New Zealand got that we ain’t? They can’t be any more backwoods and third-world than Appalachia! We got wild woods and mountains and taxbreaks for Hollywood.
WS: I don’t know, Reese. I’m pretty sure they already bought New Zealand a couple of times over with them movies.
ERJ: So we gotta show ‘em. Greasy Coat Productions gonna get into the movie biz’ness. We’ll make a little demo film and give it to that Peter Jackson feller and he’ll see.
WS: You sayin’ we oughta dress up in chainmail and bathrobes, go out in the woods and bust each other up with swords and such?
ERJ: That’s about the size of it.
WS: What we gonna do for Hobbits?
ERJ: We got all kinds’a short hairy hippies livin’ in these woods, we’ll just go down to the Jackson Co. Farmers Market and scoop some up. And we wont stop there — there’s all kinda orc-looking sons-a-bitches on any given day or night at the Walmart. We’re set!
WS: Ain’t there a volcano in this movie? Don’t the main Hobbit guy throw his magic ring and that gimp-slave frog-boy Gollum down in a volcano at the end of the movie?
ERJ: Your cousin Jeff works at the paper mill in Canton. Any scenes we need steam and smoke and pits of hell in we’ll go over to Canton.
WS: Dang son — you seem kinda like a genius when I squint at ye in just the right light….
ERJ: Way I see it, they’s only two things our Lord-o’-the-Rings-type movie needs, that’s a bunch a big old trees and a sweeping epic soundtrack. Trees we got. And guess what buddy? We run a music production company, all we need is to get a buncha’ the guys down here in the studio and they’ll whip us up a stunner, a real Hollywood Swords-and-Sorcery stunner!
WS: What, all these danged hillbilly bands? You figgering on cotton-eye-joe and Rocky Top for your soundtrack?
ERJ: Hell, we can make do. Our mountain music will be perfectly suitable for this demo tape — Appalachian music got all kindsa’ Dungeons-and-Dragonsy Scotch-Irish roots: that’ll garnish up the proceedings just dandy. Now finish up your beer and let’s get going, I wanna talk to Jimmy Squarefoot over on the reservation, I figure we can get all his Cherokee friends to play the Elven-folk — they got a ton of practice bein’ magical woodland peoples.
Our musical selection this week is a smidgin of that Swords-and Sorcery soundtrack, full of fulminatin’ supernatural bombast and rooted directly in these Southern highlands, to whit: a fiddle tune called ‘June Apple’ and an old shape note gospel tune ‘When Sorrows Encompass Me Round.’