Best Indie Feature Films
1. MATEWAN (1987)
John Sayles, the single most famous independent feature film director in
this country, came to WV in 1983. For four years he raised the money,
getting most of it from Bruce Springsteen, and finally shot the film in
Thurmond and other locals in the state. It is widely considered to be
the greatest labor history film ever made, and is
now being re-released by IFC as part of a nationwide series of showings
of films by Sayles.
(1998) Susan Skoog grew up in the 1980s in New Jersey, but she found
that Wheeling looked just right for her coming-of-age film. The
producer, Michelle Yahn, grew up in the town. The film had its only WV
screening at the WV International Film Festival.
(2002) Directed by Mike Lilly, a native of Charleston, this is the
newest film on the list. It took Lilly several years to actually film
it, shooting part in Moundsville, and then flashback scenes in
Charleston and other WV locations. It has been shown in Charleston,
Moundsville, and Beckley. Everyone who worked on the film is from WV,
including stars Mollie Brown, Russ McCubbin, Michael Martin, and the
4. THE TURNING
(1997) Lou Puopolo, assistant director of Field of Dreams (1987),
directed this film version of the play Home Fires Burning. It was
made on the WV/VA border in Pocahontas, Virginia. It is the story of a
Tim McVeigh - style racist who returns home from 4 years of racial
warfare to see his family. The star was Gillian Anderson, star
of The X Files. Puopolo came to Charleston in 1998 to introduce
the film. Karen Allen, Tess Harper, and other TV and Hollywood people
(or Heroes of the Heart) 1991. WV filmmaker Daniel Boyd directed two
previous independent films, Chillers and Invasion of the Space
Preachers. This film stars musician Larry Groce, silent film star
Lina Basquette, and several other well-known country music singers,
including Johnny Paycheck, Dusty Rhodes, Porter Wagoner, and Webb
Wilder. An elderly resident of an Appalachian trailer park wakes up one
morning with a vision that God will visit the park later that evening
and grant all the tenants a wish. The love-hate relationship this
memorable group of wonderful characters have with their impoverished
existence surfaces, in funny, often bittersweet ways, as the effects of
floods, unemployment and family strife trigger fantasies of love,
wealth, elaborate song and dance numbers, and dreams of what's yet to
DRUMS, NO BUGLES
(1971) Hollywood director and screenwriter Clyde Ware returned home to
Doddridge County to make this first of two WV-based indie feature films.
The star was a then unknown Martin Sheen, who had turned down the
starring role in The Graduate. This film is based on the true
story of a local man who evaded the Civil War by living in a local cave.
Ware has directed 15 films, including one of TV’s best films, Coward
of the County. He returned home in spring 2001 to film the
screenplay of Rough Diamonds, based on a story by Martin Sheen.
(1965) This is the state’s first indie feature film, and one of the
first truly indie horror films ever made. The first Encyclopedia of
Psychotronic Movies has a very positive review. Even though it was made
in Huntington, locals refused to show it, so it ran across the river in
Ohio at a drive-in theater. It was finally officially shown in WV on
Halloween, 1990, at the St. Albans Public Library. A few years later it
was finally screened in Huntington. It was re-issued on a DVD with
TEENAGE GANG DEBS in 2001.
SEVEN TO MIDNIGHT
(2002) Scott Martin directed this film in his native Princeton, WV,
using other WV locations, including Charleston and Pipestem State Park.
The film premiered at the Fall West Virginia International Film Festival
now lives in Chicago and is trying to get the film entered in film
festivals around the country.
(1990) Jerry L. Jackson, a native of Iowa, filmed this movie about the
real life of one of America’s greatest religious leaders, Alexander
Campbell. He founded Bethany College and the largest American-based
religion, the Disciples of Christ. Only part of the film was made in WV,
but it is important for the many members of the Disciples.
10. THE LIGHTS (2002) Ray Schmitt, a Washington, DC based filmmaker for more than twenty years, directed his first feature film in Hardy County, WV. Ray shows locals talking about the amazing lights - based on many sightings of local UFOs - and introduces us to two female visitors who get more than they expected.
Additional AppLit Resources:
Films and From the Brothers Grimm
release from September 9, 2002, entitled “World premier screenings at
Flooded Out Film Festival
Winning Festival Films, background information on the first festival, local history, links to sponsors, links to information on film such as The Griffin and the Minor Canon, The Night of the Hunter, Invasion of the Space Preachers, etc.
The West Virginia Filmmakers Guild was created in 1985 to provide networking and communication between West Virginia film and video makers and those interested in these crafts in West Virginia. Central to its mission is educating the public and promoting West Virginia filmmakers and their films to the public.