When Hollywood came calling: Beverly men in western movie

From left to right: Corey Hoover, Christopher Mitchum and Butch Hoover.

From left to right: Corey Hoover, Christopher Mitchum and Butch Hoover.

Distinguished. Wiry. Everything about him – including the iconic, rugged voice – exudes the classic movie cowboy, yet his background is anything but. Educated at Ohio University, with an environmental drilling background, Butch Hoover of Beverly never gave thought to the movie business until morning coffee with buddies three years ago. Spotting a newspaper casting call for extras in the 2014 movie, Pro Wrestlers vs Zombies, his buddies taunted him into applying and the rest is history.

Nine movies later Butch is hooked and hoping the same bug takes hold of his son, Corey. Recently back from six, sweltering days on the Texas set of “Judgement” Butch assumed the role of the marshal’s sidekick, Squeaky: a “modern day Festus”. Those of us who’ve been around a while understand the immediate reference to Gunsmoke.

With experience behind the camera as well as in front, Butch frequently peruses casting calls. “When I ran across Judgement and found out Chris and Bentley would be in it, I had to be in it too.” Not many would travel 1400 miles during the height of summer for a more sweltering location, but Butch & Corey did so gladly recognizing that this could be their only opportunity to work with true Hollywood legends.

Filmed in Blanco, Texas, Butch and Corey – as well as the other cast members – attended workshops organized and taught by Ryon Marshall (horse trainer for The Hunger Games), producer, Brent Rock and stuntman, Chris Swinney. No western would be complete without horses, but they can present unique challenges for the rider when implementing the director’s vision. A horsemanship workshop provided the knowledge to lesson those challenges. Firearm safety, set design, taking command of an 1800’s wagon and stagecoach (the same one used for the television series, Medicine Woman and movies, There Will Be Blood and John Wayne’s, True Grit), and all things necessary in taking a bullet to the chest, were the other workshops.

Butch, who has set design and construction experience, including the set in which we first met (White Zombie filmed in Marietta and Harmar Village), found the “break away glass workshop particularly enlightening”. Utilizing “a sugar and Jello solution I assisted in setting up the saloon windows that would be blown out” by one airborne cowboy on the losing end of a bar fight. Other western props – such as beer bottles – were formed from the same solution, and even though much safer than the real thing, Butch assures us “one can still be cut by the flying shards”.

With only a photo submission, Butch was chosen by the director. “Bentley liked my looks and once I arrived — my voice as well.” Butch went on to say, “When he realized my height, my original role as Shorty would not work and I was quickly reassigned to the role of Squeaky” – a humorous homage to Butch’s rich Sam-Elliott-like voice and appearance.

Like any cowboy, Butch and his son, Corey, who played an extra and served as production assistance, rose early for their “6:30 am costume call. The days are long – sometimes 18 hours” – and demanding – especially under a July sun, but the learning opportunities are immeasurable. Two of those rare opportunities came by way of the director, Bentley Mitchum and his father, Christopher Mitchum, who plays the part of a U. S. marshall, and served as Butch’s acting coach. Filmed at the Pine Moore Old West Studio, Chris and Bentley are second and third generation actors (respectively), with the first being award winning, Robert Mitchum.

Fresh off the dusty trail, I talked with the director, Bentley and his fiancÈ, actress, co-writer and producer, Alannah Rae. For an hour and half an enlightening crash course on Movie Making 101 consumed me with awe. My Romper Room debut nor my five seconds as a White Zombie extra were no match to what I learned from these two pros. Technicalities of film making – the writing process – staging – design – editing – directing – acting and the biggie, producing – are an article in themselves, but the aspect that left the biggest impression on this Appalachian gal: regardless of our origin – Hollywood or Appalachia – we all share common ground when listening with the desire to learn.

Bentley, who serves as co-writer and producer, and Alannah, a former adult recreational therapist who “utilized elements of theatre to give those with disabilities a creative outlet”, were humorous, engaging and full of enthusiasm for their craft. And when I heard, “I’ll bring some Texas sausage”, Bentley’s eager response to noting my family’s love of storytelling around the campfire, I knew I’d found kindred spirits regardless of what initially appears to be vast differences in our backgrounds.

With filming behind them, the two month editing process begins along with inserting the score and special effects. Production continues throughout the processes followed by assessing the available film festivals, their deadlines and requirements.

Most of us are aware of the notoriety heightened by the glitz and glam of film festivals like Sundance and Cannes, but until our conversation I was unaware of the tiered system. “Sundance — Tribeca — Cannes — Toronto — are all A’s (level) with Palm Springs — Los Angeles” classified as B’s. “Upon completion of Judgement we’ll ascertain the available festivals, their deadlines, length requirements and apply accordingly.”

Bentley – like his father and grandfather – began his career in front of the camera with forty-eight movie and television roles to his credit, “but my passion is writing”. When offering acting workshops, “we (Alannah) fell in love with the area and the western movie set and began discussing script ideas.” Wanting to “pay homage to the classic western genre” we returned as writers, producers and director. After watching his father gun downed, the film takes us on a young man’s journey into adulthood with one goal: seeking revenge by tracking down his father’s killers. “I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s an unexpected twist at the end,” Bentley assures us.

Not wanting to diminish Bentley’s vast accomplishments and credits, I steered clear of posing questions directly pertaining to his family’s careers, with the closest being: “What’s the best as well as the most challenging aspects for a third generation Hollywood actor?” Bentley, who did star with his father and grandfather in the 1985 television movie, Promises To Keep, reminisced of a time he sat in a restaurant with his grandfather. “With swarms of admirers seeking autographs, the attention was exciting through a kid’s eyes. It was appealing as a young actor. I suppose if my family had been plumbers, I would have been a plumber, so it was natural that I’d be drawn to an acting career,” but the notoriety comes at a price.”

Another challenge is “constantly proving yourself.” It’s a natural assumption that when one’s family background is in a given profession that “a certain level of expertise is expected, so you’re constantly proving your abilities.”

“The pros are relationships. As in other career choices relationships provide the necessary connections to see your vision reach fruition. Growing up around actors, directors and others in the business, I’ve formed countless relationships which help tremendously.”

Thinking that a western genre would be easy to replicate on screen, especially with an established western set, Bentley convinced me otherwise.

, “In some ways it’s more challenging. “Everything in the camera’s eye must be scrutinized: Was that gun or rifle used during the time period? Are the costumes, accessories and hairstyles accurate? The audience is smart and they’ll pick up on discrepancies.”

When I repeated a sentiment expressed by Butch, Bentley & Alannah mirrored the same response: “returning home is an adjustment. You just left your family behind, and it’s unknown if you’ll see them again.” With the possibility of the film’s premiere returning to the site of filming, Bentley holds hope for a reunion.

As our conversation drew to a conclusion Bentley and Alannah couldn’t ravish enough praise on Butch and Corey. “Both are pros – hardworking – eager to pitch in with anything. Regardless of the heat or length of time on set, Corey threw himself into the work — always a smile on his face. I’d have them back in a heartbeat!”

Judgement’s film festival/theatre progression, behind-the-scenes footage and production photos can be viewed by accessing the Facebook page: Judgementthemovie. You can also follow this writer’s posts on her two Ohio Facebook groups: Harmar Village-Marietta, Ohio and Monroe County, Ohio (Memories). And if Bentley and Alannah bring Texas sausage to our next family campfire, a sequel – with pics – is guaranteed.

Trish Caldwell-Landsittel spent 20 years as a social worker and fraud investigator (Washington County Job & Family Services); Student Advisor (Ohio University); ten years as an Ohio Gifted Education Advisor/Instructor. As a freelance writer, Trish has three undergraduate degrees in psychology, social work and education, with a master’s in education and certifications in gifted education and gerontology. As a freelance writer, she has composed countless publications, including a birth order book and academic book, “Puzzled by Math!” published by Prufrock Press.

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