After two days of filming over the summer and many more hours of editing, the “White Paper” is finished and will be premiered on Veteran’s Day. The film was the result of a collaboration between Helms Productions, owned by Michael Helms, a local filmmaker who lives in Lincolnton and Thunder Over Carolina, Inc. It is based loosely on the story of the Battle at Ramsour’s Mill.
“I had originally scheduled about three months of post-production but it really only took me six weeks,” he said. “Typically on a shoot you’ll try to get in several 12 hour days but you still don’t always get what you need. What’s awesome with this film is that I was able to get everything I needed and maybe a little more than I needed in two, six hour days. I’ve never accomplished that before.”
The title of the film came from the use of small piece of white paper (or cloth) the patriot militiamen put in their hats to designate them as patriots. Except for loyalists Lt. Col. Moore and Major Welch, the North Carolinians on both sides of the fight didn’t have uniforms. The loyalists used a green twig as proof of their allegiance.
“When I was writing the script for it, the main thing was to capture the tragedy of this whole resident war going on in Lincoln County and the irony that the patriots used the piece of white paper to differentiate themselves from the enemy,” said Helms during an interview while the film was being shot. “It actually turned out to be detrimental as it provided the enemy with easy targets. It’s ironic and tragic at the same time.”
After the battle, it was discovered that many of the deceased patriots had bullets shot through the “bull’s eye” of the white symbol in their hats.
The Battle of Ramsour’s Mill will celebrate its 240th anniversary on June 20, 2020. The play, “Thunder Over Carolina” will return with a slightly rewritten script. Both Chris Stone and Ryan Gurganious, who acted in the “White Paper” are slated to take part in the 2020 production which will be shown at the James W. Warren Citizens Center.
The film will be utilized both as promotion for “Thunder Over Carolina,” Battle Week 2020 and entered into film festivals by Helms.
“Being a filmmaker, I thought it would be good to kill two birds with one stone and I could get a short film out of it and we could use portions of it for promotional material,” he said. “I wanted to be able to lend my services to ‘Thunder Over Carolina.’ Ultimately, I don’t think it’s for me, it’s for ‘Thunder’ but I get the benefit of having made another film.”
Gurganious, has acted in numerous local theatrical productions, including “Thunder” but this is the first time he’s done on-film acting.
“It’s definitely different from theater,” he said in an interview during the filming. “The difference is the intimacy of the camera versus being on stage. This is in-depth, right on the face of the person and you’re seeing the emotion in the eyes, the face. These are emotions that you wouldn’t necessarily pick up on stage. It’s a different experience, one I’m really excited about. I think this is going to be great for ‘Thunder.”
Unlike theater, there’s more than one take associated with filming. In theater, if an actor makes a mistake, the show goes on. With film, a scene can be done over and over again until it’s right.
“We decided that Veteran’s Day was the best day to show the film,” Helms said. “With this film, we wanted to bring to light the actual battle and bring it to a wider audience. Those who aren’t regular theater goers watch films so it’s easier, I think, to reach more people if you have a film or something on video that is easily accessible. We seem to have reached a lot of people already with it and have gained more support from other Revolutionary War groups around the area.”
The film is basically about a man who leaves his wife behind to go to battle and takes a friend with him. Along the way, they get ambushed by loyalists. Like so many people living in the area, Helms has become fascinated by the history of the battle and that it was a resident war rather than two traditional armies clashing.
“It gave me an opportunity to make another short film and challenge myself on another period piece,” he said. “Period pieces are always challenging and a lot of fun.”
The “White Paper” will be premiered on Monday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Cultural Center. Admittance is free, however donations will be accepted. The Lincoln Cultural Center is located at 403 East Main Street in Lincolnton.