“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ― Sun Tzu

“Wicked Spring” A Classic in the Classroom?

Welcome to a special mid-week edition of “Clawing My Way to the Middle”. Once in a while you get a great piece of feedback on a film project. Unlike stage performers (musicians and athletes included) that draw energy from a live audience film actors often have to draw from a personal well. Some of the films have been seen by hundreds of thousands to millions of people. Often we don’t get to confront feedback from our audiences but in this unique opportunity I wanted to respond.  Here is the email I was sent below

(Email)

Dear Mr. Perry,

My name is Angela Lucus and I am a Senior polisci and economics major at Valparaiso University. I am currently taking a graduate level class called: The Civil War and Reconstruction. The class is comprised of readings, lecture, and film lab. Our latest film lab tonight was actually a viewing of Wicked Spring. And let me tell you, it raised quite a bit of debate. I say that in a sense that, all our previous film labs included big named Hollywood Civil War films such as: The Birth of a Nation, Gone with the Wind, Ride with the Devil, Glory etc. Our professor gave us a lot of literature on these films, and we were able to search for film analysis online. However, with your film, there’s practically nothing online. Although this could be viewed as a good thing, which I suppose it is, because it made us really think about the film without bias, it also raised many points/opinions in class could neither be justified or confirmed by the creators or actors in the movie. This is why I am writing you. The film you starred in brought out such a great discussion in class, better than these million dollar hollywood films, and I would just like to understand the film better. I am attempting to contact both you and Kevin Hershberger (it seems nearly impossible to find him, but I emailed his company so hopefully that proves fruitful), and I chose you because lets face it, I thought your character was the most appealing to me. You felt authentic.

The questions I pose to you are, and I hope you can address these, but I understand if you are busy:

1)What do you think Wicked Spring is about?
2) What would you say the theme of the film is, for instance (reconciliation, no reason for war, humanizing both sides etc)
3) Does Harrison and John represent a reconciliation between the North and the South?
4) Why was the issue of slavery not brought up?

5) Also, why do you think there was not any politics? Most civil war movies bring in politics at some point, yet Wicked Spring barely raises the question as to why there was war.
6) What do you think the final death scene represents? i.e. yankees and confederates laying together dead

Well, as you can see, your film was slightly mind-blowing, especially after watching several Hollywood films on the same subject. I hope you can be of help. Thank you so much for your time.

Sincerely,
Angela

MY RESPONSE

I want to give a big “thank you” to Angela for the kind words and for taking the time to email. It is a unique time because we recently got back all the rights to the film after a great run with Illuminations Distribution which included 5 years of UK TV play and various US network showings usually late at night. We are prepping the film for a special edition release that will also have a 60 min making of doc, soundtrack and more. I hope that we can reach a new generation with this powerful film. Let’s look at these 6 questions.

1) What do you think Wicked Spring is about?

“Wicked Spring” is about the spirit of the common man pushed into the chaos of war. It is about two relationships – one a blooming new love and the other – a deep love of a family man. It’s about two men who both wanted to make the world a better place in their view. It is about the cost of war when virtue’s collide and lives are changed forever.

2) What would you say the theme of the film is, for instance (reconciliation, no reason for war, humanizing both sides etc)

The film has many themes that I love – Courage, Faith, Fear, Love, Hate – I mean the list could go on and on because I think war brings out the best and worst in human beings. I think the one MAJOR theme is CHANGE OFTEN COMES WITH  A COST.

EXAMPLE: We can easily dismiss the bodies here and there in the film. We also seem to easily ignore the nightly news that reports 6 dead in Afghanistan on any given day. The dead are just distant. We don’t KNOW their story. They all have a story, a life that was cut short by war.

3) Does Harrison and John represent a reconciliation between the North and the South?

Taking the torch from above – I think that Harrison and John are a focused look at the COST of war. I’m not anti-war because I’m not sure we can truly do away with ambitions and acquisition driven urges. Mankind has been fighting over mates and territories since the earliest conflicts. I think “peace” is realized only when those with fear of losing what they have gained cease – hence temporary peace. I think the film slows us down from our 4G instant download Blackberry haze. It puts us around the most primal of elements (fire) and we have two scared men who bare their souls. A war that was to last a season dragged into a several year war where hell on earth reigned. John and Harrison might have been an illustration of the weariness of the warriors on both sides pushed about like pawns on a chessboard. They perhaps did foreshadow the healing that would soon follow. But a COST is felt. From the chaos of war we learn to feel for these men and at the end – no fairy tale endings. No happily ever after or ending wrapped in a bow – Death! Real people DIE! Real people back home will CRY! The audience is made to swallow the bitter pill of reality. The Cost of War.

4) Why was the issue of slavery not brought up?

My studies revealed that slaves were expensive and mainly used by the wealthy estates. The common southerner likely did not own slaves. Many historians will point out slavery was only a single part of the conflict. In the brutal war of life and death I think that more devoted causes had to lie in the heart’s of the Southern soldier than just slavery. If you look at the film – those men were battered and at the edge of going AWOL. At that point many soldiers will tell you they fight for self-preservation and the lives of those men fighting beside them. It wasn’t about slavery at that point is was about survival.

5) Also, why do you think there was not any politics? Most civil war movies bring in politics at some point, yet Wicked Spring barely raises the question as to why there was war.

High ideals and differences in government screamed for diplomacy especially after someone witnesses a gruesome head or limb suddenly removed by cannon-shot. These men in our film were not freshly pressed uniforms given the hurrah speech before their 1st march to war. These were surviving soldiers in a living hell. I think they prayed daily for wiser men in government to make peace so that they could go home to a life. The world after just might be a tad bit improved for the blood spilled. I think these men were at the point of wanting/needing peace. All they wanted was the safe arms of their loved ones. I don’t think they much cared to stoke the fires of politics. This film is about the human soul not what color uniform they wore. The sacrifice was the same – the cost great.  At this point it is not about the chess players but the chess pieces.

6) What do you think the final death scene represents? i.e. yankees and confederates laying together dead

This is one of the most powerful parts of the film for me that you’ve focused upon. If you watch the film you will see groups of bodies here and there like cold sculptures of death. They pass by our eyes as the scenes unfold and we almost get so desensitized that we almost don’t take full notice. The point that is driven home for me is that EVERY dead group/man you see had a story. The audience gets to know our small group and in the end they too just become another name on a killed-in-action roll call. All those pictures of real dead reaching for some unseen loved one died with someone’s name on their lips. It takes on a heavy emotion weight when you think about family’s with no father or a lady in waiting denied a life of love. What side they fought on matters not they are all the same in death.
As a film producer and actor I’m very proud of that film. Out of 50 story ideas Kevin Hershberger had on a list I choose “Wicked Spring” because it spoke to me. I think we made a film that gives tribute to the actual men who fought, died and survived. I think if you want to see history on film many good films showcase General this-guy and Captain this-guy – but if you want to watch a film about the soul of a soldier than give ours a watch.
WICKED SPRING is consistently listed and ranked with the top Civil War films. Most of the lists are dominated by Hollywood budgeted giants.  I’m so proud of our artists who pulled together to tell this story. It was both of my Grandmother’s favorite film – followed close by “Dean Teaster’s Ghost Town” another beautiful western drama we released with Lionsgate a few years ago. I’ve always tried to tell a good story. I ask that you explore our films http://www.cdiproductions.com and feel free to continue and follow my artist’s blog. I usually publish on Saturdays each week but I made this a special blog.
Angela, I hope this write-up helps give you some insight to “Wicked Spring”. I’ve been blown away over the years by the reaction to the film and to my character John (Especially the letter scene). I’m very happy that teachers recognize the value of our film. I think that it is one of those films that will be reflected upon for years to come.
So thank you for listening to my ramble.
DJ Perry aka John “Wicked Spring”

http://www.cdiproductions.com

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