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Released in 1999, THE PROSPECTOR is a 28-minute black & white film directed by Owen Renfroe, produced by Jeremy Arnold and stars Tim DeKay and Elisa Taylor.

Storyline: The year is 1850… A gold prospector, seeking his fortune, finds more than he bargained for when he befriends a stranded woman on his journey through the California Sierras. When their water supply dwindles to almost nothing, he discovers he can perform an extraordinary act that will permit the woman he’s met by chance to reach her baby and husband.

The film premiered at the Lone Pine Film Festival’s 10th Anniversary, October 1999. The Program guide noted:
“All Silent, All Western. All Black and White” is how the press book for “The Prospector” starts out, a charming and catchy way to present this short drama to the powers-that-be in Hollywood.

The film’s young producer-director team, Jeremy Arnold and Owen Renfroe, chose this manner of showcasing their talents as they continue to knock at the doors of Hollywood feature film production. “Maybe this will open a few of those doors.” Arnold said, letting the film do their talking for them. Long inspired by the films Budd Boetticher and Burt Kennedy did here in Lone Pine, Arnold and Renfroe came here on location also, even including some shots of Inyo’s authentic ghost town, Cerro Gordo.

Your Film Festival was impressed with the team’s zeal so decided to present their efforts here. You never know who’s sitting out there in the dark watching these Lone Pine movies. Attending the festival that year were Western Celebrities Robert Blake, Ernest Borgnine, Budd Boetticher, Burt Kennedy, Jack Palance, and many others (see 1999 Program Guide )

Back Story:
In 1999, Dave Holland invited Jeremy and his filmmaking friend, Owen Renfroe to screen their newly produced short film, THE PROSPECTOR, at the Lone Pine Film Festival. Shot in 16mm in the spring of 1998, principal photography took place entirely in the Alabama Hills and Olancha sand dunes, plus some additional scenes at Cerro Gordo. Owen wrote and directed, and Jeremy produced. Both were inspired by the films of Budd Boetticher, who was a close friend and mentor of Jeremy for the last decade of his life.
During the festival, THE PROSPECTOR actually played right before a screening of THE TALL T, with Budd Boetticher and writer Burt Kennedy in attendance. (Note: Jeremy was instrumental in persuading Budd to actually come to the festival.)
This year’s Festival committee was approached by Arnold to see if there was any interest in celebrating the 25th anniversary of the screening with a repeat commemorative showing of the film, again paired with THE TALL T to recreate the 1999 program.
After viewing the film, the committee agreed that this magnificent effort truly feels like an actual silent-era western film. It’s a film that, as Renfroe says, “uses the landscape to chart the journey of our hero. We were trained by watching the greats—Ford, Borzage, Hawks, Wellman—not so we could imitate them but so that we could integrate the lessons and find our own expression. I’m proud of how the film turned out, and that we can again share it with the Lone Pine film community that appreciate the art form we all love.” The film’s complementary musical score is by composer, Robert Israel.
One Museum spokesperson said of the film, “We’ve seen plenty of these types of classic, stylistic pastiches over the years, but THE PROSPECTOR is truly authentic. It is a real work of cinematic art … a classic silent western. The beautiful landscape compositions of the Alabama Hills, coupled with the storyline’s searing dramatic scenes, provide strong emotional impact for viewers.”

THE SCREENING of THE PROSPECTOR WILL BE  –  Friday October 11th in the Lone Pine High School Auditorium @ 10:00 AM.  After the screening, Courtney Joyner will host a Q&A with director Owen Renfroe and producer Jeremy Arnold. For those wanting to see the Boetticher/Kennedy film, THE TALL T, that will begin screening at 8:45 AM,

PRODUCTION NOTES

THE PROSPECTOR was filmed near Lone Pine, California in 1998 and was the vision of writer-director Owen Renfroe who comes from a long-line of western homesteaders. His great-grandfather settled in West Texas in 1901, leasing land for his cattle from the Red River Railroad Company. Owen’s great-great grandfather was the Sheriff of El Paso, Texas just after the Civil War.

Owen Renfroe and his production partner, Jeremy Arnold, set out to make a silent western as an exercise in visual storytelling and as an excuse to spend a week in the wide-open empty of the west. Shot in the striking rock formations of Lone Pine’s, “Alabama Hills”, located in the Eastern Sierra Nevada at the base of Mt. Whitney, which at 14,505 ft. is second only to Denali as the U.S.’ tallest peak.  Located 3 ½ hours northeast of Los Angeles , The Alabama Hills have been the landscape for over 500 Hollywood films including GUNGA DIN, HIGH SIERRA, and TREMORS, to name a few.

The independent project’s “on-set” production crew consisted of a producer, director, director of photography, assistant cameraman, and a production assistant. To save time, all locations were scouted well in advance and storyboards were prepared for each scene. 75% of what’s in the picture was captured on the “first take” and the film’s shoe-string budget meant the cast and crew had to “get it right” the first time, most of the time. The film was shot on 16mm, black and white Kodak film, with an Aaton camera. It was filmed over six days.

The town which appears in the film is an actual Western Ghost Town, Cerro Gordo, with an elevation of 8,500 feet. In the late 1800s it was the foremost supplier of coal and silver in the Southern California region. It was also home to many a rough character; in the 1870s Cerro Gordo logged a murder a week!

Note: Since THE PROSPECTOR, Israel has gone on to build a reputation as a “composer par excellence” (according to Leonard Maltin), and “one of the finest practitioners of the art of silent film accompaniment” (according to late film historian Ronald Haver). Israel has composed and conducted new scores for countless silent classics, including 20 for the films of Harold Lloyd, and performed in such venues as the Museum of Modern Art, the Musee d’Orsay, the National Gallery of Art, and La Piazza Maggiore in Bologna, Italy. See https://www.robertisraelmusic.com/.

BIOS:

OWEN RENFROE
Owen Renfroe is a feature writer/director living in Los Angeles. Born in New Jersey, his professional career began at age ten, when he sang in the children’s chorus of the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York. He graduated from Wesleyan University with a BA in film studies under the mentorship of Jeanine Basinger, and has since directed over 500 episodes of network daytime dramas for CBS and ABC, earning him six Daytime Emmys and a DGA Award. Owen also directed the pilot and multiple episodes of the Nickelodeon series HOLLYWOOD HEIGHTS, based on the successful Mexican telenovela, Alcanzar Una Estrella. In 2015, Francis Ford Coppola invited Owen to Oklahoma to collaborate as his directing consultant on his “live cinema” project, Distant Vision. As a writer, Owen’s western screenplay, THE SAVAGE TRAIL, won best screenplay at the Richmond International Film Festival and the Jaipur International Film Festival in India. His current screenwriting projects include LOS TRES, a bilingual western; and CANARY, which he co-wrote with Ricardo DeMontreuil.

JEREMY ARNOLD
Jeremy Arnold is an author and film historian. His books include Christmas in the Movies; The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter; and The Essentials: Vol. 2. Jeremy also wrote Lawrence of Arabia: The 50th Anniversary as a supplement to that film’s deluxe Blu-ray release. Contributions to other books include; The Call of the Heart: John M. Stahl and Hollywood Melodrama, The World War II Combat Film, and The Lady with the Torch: Columbia Pictures 1929-1959, published as a companion to a major Columbia retrospective at the 2024 Locarno Film Festival.

His writing has appeared in Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Moviemaker, Premiere, DGA Magazine, and on the TCM website, to which he has contributed over 700 programming articles. As speaker, he has recorded commentaries for the disc release of 20 classics, including the westerns RIDE LONESOME, DAY OF THE OUTLAW, and WINGS OF THE HAWK; appeared as a guest on TCM and CNN; and been engaged to speak at festivals and repertory houses across the United States. In 2023, Jeremy programmed and guest-hosted a 20-film TCM spotlight on B movies of the 1930s and ’40s, which will be the topic of one of his next books. He is also at work on a book about the making and significance of DAY OF THE OUTLAW. Born in Washington D.C. and living in Los Angeles, Jeremy is a graduate of Wesleyan University, where he studied under the eminent film scholar, Jeanine Basinger.

Photos and Production Stills
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