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Cody filmmaker wins short film contest

Documentary features Meeteetse man

A young Cody filmmaker has won $25,000 toward his next project after taking top honors in the Wyoming Film Office’s 2012 Short Film Contest.

The 15-minute film was not the one Preston Randolph initially set out to make. It was only with about a week to go before the April 4 contest deadline that it became clear that actors’ schedules and other issues simply weren’t going to come together for the project he’d been planning.

So, Randolph thought of Bob Taylor, a man he met four years ago while a Cody High School senior. Taylor was a teacher’s aide, and Randolph knew he had a good story.

“There was something special about him,” Randolph said.

Taylor, as he recounts in Randolph’s documentary, “The Summer of ’81,” grew up amid the bustle of city life before deciding to move out to West. (You can view the film here)

After an eight-year stint cowboying, Taylor settled down on a 10-acre patch of land northwest of Meeteetse. Taylor’s ties to the property from his start on the property in 1981 to the present serves as the focal point of the film.

“Looking back at it all now, I can see that most of what I am, what I have become, has happened right here on these 10 acres we call the Outland,” Taylor says in the film.

It’s where he built a log cabin by hand. It’s where he got married. It’s where he raised his two daughters. And it’s where he built a baseball diamond called “Outland Field.”

The field, located about three miles outside Meeteetse at the end of a dirt road, has drawn hundreds of players to an annual Memorial Day tournament.

Outland Field wasn’t the inspiration for “Field of Dreams,” but it’s off-the-beaten-path appeal has drawn the attention of that film’s maker.

“He said, ‘Bob you built it and they came,’ and now thinking back, he was absolutely right,”  Taylor says in ‘The Summer of ’81.’

“If it’s just playing catch with a few people or having hundreds camping out, playing during the Memorial weekend, I think we’ve really got something special going on here.”

Randolph agrees.

“He (Taylor) is a Wyoming treasure, someone you would rarely find anywhere else but a place like this,” Randolph said. He suspects the Wyoming Film Office’s panel of judges saw the same thing in choosing the film for top honors among more than 40 entries.

“We had a good story, and I think Bob’s life is something special that’s an American-type story, and it’s also a Wyoming story,” Randolph said.

The “we” Randolph refers to is himself and his brother Garrett, whom he drafted into helping with the film.

Garrett Randolph initially was reluctant, but that changed soon after arriving at Taylor’s Meeteetse property.

“When I went there, I just kind fell in love with it,” Garrett said.

Garrett’s credits in the film are for the guitar and piano music that accompanies it, but as a brother, there were other duties. They included lugging the tripod and gear (“He [Preston] wouldn’t let me touch the camera, no way,” Garrett adds) and offering his opinion on shots. “Since we’re brothers, we can be totally honest,” Garrett said.

Another large part of Garrett’s duties was collecting the field audio — the hammering of a stake into the ground, the flowing of Meeteetse Creek, underbrush crinkling, a baseball hitting a glove.

“Crazy the amount of work that goes into that,” Garrett said, adding “I can’t even imagine a two-hour, full-length film.”
Fifteen minutes was pushing it plenty, with the two brothers barely having enough time to finish the short before the deadline.

“I had to come up with something (for the music) in about one night, and it just magically came out and sounded good on the piece,” said Garrett.

In total, there were four days of shooting, followed by three 20-hour days of editing, Preston said.

Garrett recalled going to bed at 4 in the morning, while Preston stayed up for a few more hours.

“It was crazy,” Garrett said. Mercifully, his parents let the Cody High School junior miss a couple days of school.

“It was long, long days, but we got it done,” Preston said.

Preston Randolph currently is in the third year of production on a documentary about American Indian activist Leonard Peltier that will support the argument that he was wrongly convicted in connection with the murder of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. Randolph has some big names associated with the documentary — including actor Danny Glover and artist Shepard Fairey, the creator of the iconic 2008 “Hope” image of then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama — but fundraising has been slow. Sometimes, frustratingly so.
Randolph is shooting for a 2013 release, though that’s dependent on the fundraising.

“We’re making it happen, it’s just taking a lot longer,” he said.

The $25,000 award from the Wyoming Film Office must be spent on a project shot in Wyoming, and Randolph has a lot of ideas on the table.

“It will be nice having a budget other than $100 ... and it will be nice not being rushed,” he said.

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