To understand and appreciate the story of Painted Woman, you have to know it's beginnings. When I first sat down with the Amber, she was looking to adapt a novel of famous western author, Dusty Richards, who tragically left us too soon after the theatrical release. It was a good idea. Dusty has a rabid fanbase and western lovers are an underserved audience.
But there's a reason westerns aren't made often. They are difficult, expensive, everything must be created, horse and gunfire insured. When you don't have the budget to build an epic, or what the audience understands the western to be, it needed to be about the characters and built around the things you can do.
I know I wanted to make Dusty's fans happy, and I hope I have. I know he was, as he put it, "thank you for making an old man's dream come true." He knew I would have to work to make this film as good as it could be, and change some things. I did. As I read the book, I found myself more interested in the female character, Julie. She had very little backstory, but the way she was written said all you needed to know. Through the mystery, Dusty made Julie something special. She was a woman with a tragic backstory who was now out of her element in the wilderness, but had a deep fight in herself that even she didn't realize. I really wanted to explore that. Make something different.
In Amber I found a like minded spirit. She had all the same ideas before I came on board, but needed someone to believe in that concept as much as she did.
I was excited. I thought a western told from female's perspective, rather than the tired male western hero we had seen, nor could we afford the spectacle that kind of story would deserve. It would be story with a message, to fill in the gaps of Julie's past, and bring her from darkness, that was no fault of her own, into finding herself, learning who she was through good people finally giving her a chance. The turn of the century was a unjust time and was the perfect backdrop to problems that women face in our world, sadly even today.
Amber and I hope that Painted Woman is a message of hope, not only to women who find themselves in abusive situations, but to the rest of us, who should see them, offer our hands to hold them up, help them see the worth in themselves. We all need love.
We hope for a time when we can all be empowered and the bad guys have all gone away.
Until then, if you are experiencing a life like Julie, please call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 800-799-7233. You deserve more.
ONE MESSAGE RECEIVED
Geena Davis's Bentonville Film Festival, which serves a message of diversity, honored Painted Woman's premiere with a spotlight screening.