Friday, May 16, 2008

Miracle Valley doc: Costume and Makeup Team

Seeking a costume and makeup team for work on a Northwestern University documentary project. Shooting in Tucson, Arizona and Chicago.

The documentary centers on a violent 1982 confrontation between an all-Black church group and an all-White sheriff's department in the small southern Arizona community of Miracle Valley. More information about this story and the documentary can be found at or by replying to this notice.

The premise of the documentary is that actors will read transcripts of court documents, interviews, and news reports surrounding the event in character and in period costume, hair, and makeup. The time period is roughly the late 1970's and early 1980's in a rural Arizona town. A church group transplanted from the Chicago area moved into the town hoping to start a religious community, but soon ran into conflict with their neighbors. Archival photos and video of the people involved are available upon contact and will be posted regularly at the website.

This is a rolling shoot, with casting and shooting starting immediately and continuing into September. There are no sets, just actors speaking in direct address to the camera or to another character, so the costumes and hair will be extremely important in establishing the characters and time period.

Full reimbursement for costs. Pay is negotiable.

Miracle Valley Doc: Casting Call

Northwestern University documentary project seeks actors and actresses for voice overs and re-enactments in Chicago and Tucson, Arizona. All ethnicities, ages, body types.

The documentary centers on a violent 1982 confrontation between an all-Black church group and an all-White sheriff's department in the small southern Arizona community of Miracle Valley. Actors will read transcripts of court documents, interviews, and news reports surrounding the event. More information about this story and the documentary can be found at or by replying to this notice.

The primary roles are listed below, though there are numerous other supporting roles. Please contact for more info if you do not fit one of the following descriptions, as there are still many other roles to fill.

Sheriff: White male, 40-60, slightly overweight, similar to an older John Wayne.
Deputy: White male 25-35, athletic build.
Church Leader: Black female, 40-60, charismatic, strong-willed.
Church Leader's Son: Black male, 30-40, tall, smart, aggressive, athletic build. Facial hair or goatee a plus, but not required.
Neighbor: White male, 30-45, army veteran.
Lawyer: White or Black male 30-45, smart, intellectually aggressive, impatient, pushy.
State police superintendent: White male, 50-65, distinguished and polished.
State policeman: White or Black male, 30-45, experienced, professional, strictly by-the-book.
Reporter: White male, 30-40, roguish, quick-witted, Australian accent a plus but not required
Local politician: White female 30-40, thin, type A personality.

Please contact to schedule an audition. This is a rolling casting call, with casting starting immediately and shooting and continued casting starting in mid-July through the end of September.

SAG welcome via student film agreement.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Miracle Valley Documentary Project

On the morning of Saturday, October 23rd, 1982, two Cochise County sheriff's deputies approached the home of a member of the Christ Miracle Healing Center and Church to serve outstanding traffic warrants. As they knocked on the door, a car quickly pulled up behind them, several men inside. Church members. The men weren't happy. The deputies radioed for help. Their colleagues were already in position. Over 30 armed deputies, plus a reporter and a photographer, streamed into the neighborhood. Church members emerged from their homes, some carrying boards, sticks, guns. Screaming. Confusion. Running. Dust. Gunshots.

Two church members were dead. Another was paralyzed. Several deputies were seriously wounded. The place was Miracle Valley, a small community in the desert at the southern edge of Arizona.

This documentary is the story of that day, of the days before it, and of the days after it. This is the story of all of those days.

The Christ Miracle Healing Center and Church had moved into the neighborhood roughly four years prior, a contingent of about three-hundred people in whole. Its membership was drawn largely from Chicago and from Mississippi. They were known as hard workers. They were people with jobs and careers. They were pious people, and they were drawn to the Valley by the church that was already there. The preacher A.A. Allen was a charismatic, dynamic figure of the 1950's and 60's who built a domed church in the desert, published a magazine, beamed a radio show, and recorded albums with a multi-racial choir. But after his death, his mini-empire fell apart. The Christ Miracle Healing Center and Church, and its leader, Pastor Frances Thomas, rolled into town with with the dream of revitalizing that heritage. They bought property, they established a place of worship across the street from A.A. Allen's old place, they enrolled their children in school, and they looked for jobs. And life in the Valley became more complex for everyone.

The church was all Black. Their neighbors, mostly White. And it wasn't just that. The church members worshiped into the early morning. They believed in faith healing. They formed an elaborate neighborhood watch that initially was welcomed but soon came to intimidate fellow residents. Finally, they didn't back down from confrontations, with their neighbors or with the Sheriff's Office. And there were more and more of those.

Life in the neighborhood became tense. The church members, for their part, felt that they were experiencing a pattern of racist and unfair treatment from some neighbors and from local authorities. There were too many instances of vandalism, or people driving by and yelling slurs, or of questionable traffic stops. The non-church residents wanted action from their Sheriff, Jimmy Judd. They felt that the Sheriff and the deputies were too intimidated to make basic stops or approach church members. And they threatened to handle it on their own, if it came too that. The authorities were often fighting amongst themselves. The state highway patrolmen and their county counterparts often differed on basic police reports, protocol, and jurisdiction, sparking something of a rivalry.

Attempts were made at reconciliation. Mediators flown in. Promises made. Nothing stuck. And there were rumors. Lots of rumors. The church was stockpiling weapons, and burying them in the fields. They were training for a guerilla war. They were not a church, they were a cult, bent on taking over the valley. Or, the Klan was plotting to drive them out. People in sheets were driving fast through the town, trying to scare the church members from their homes. Or, the state police were colluding with the church to embarrass the Sheriff and take over his jurisdiction. Wildfire.

So little events became big events: Church members pulling their children from school. And big events became strange events: Several church children dying. A massive brawl at the local high school, ending in a desperate high-speed chase back the the neighborhood. A group of church women tossing hammers at a local reporter, caught on tape and played repeatedly on the local news. And then there were just big events: A van exploding on the state highway, killing a church member. And there's a whole story to that, too. And then four years of tension, mistrust and anger erupted. Gunshots.

There were charges and counter-charges, lawsuits, criminal cases, government investigations that dragged on for a few years after. Another church member died from his wounds, as did a deputy, but neither could ever be "proven" to have had anything to do with the infamous melee. And when it ended, nothing. No church member or Sheriff's deputy or otherwise was ever officially punished for the events of October 23rd, 1982. There were no final words, no denouement, no bow ties. The church members left with their dead. Never returned to live in the Valley. The cops either got promoted, or transferred to Nowheresville, left the force entirely, or just stayed on and retired. Prosecutors never made that case, defense attorneys never truly proved that wrong. Neither ever really hit that jackpot. The County went about its business. Residents died, moved away. A few stayed put. A.A. Allen's church went through a variety of owners, each struggling to revive its past glory as the famous Miracle Valley.

This is the story of all those days.