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Cowtown becomes star of Western film

Cinematographer Jason Opat, right, explains a scene to director Ricky Lee and actress Micky Maddux during filming Sunday of “Midnight Shanghai” at Cowtown. (April 3, 2016)
Cinematographer Jason Opat, right, explains a scene to director Ricky Lee and actress Micky Maddux during filming Sunday of “Midnight Shanghai” at Cowtown. (April 3, 2016) Eagle correspondent

The Old West town square at Wichita’s Cowtown Museum became a film set Sunday.

Cowboys rode in. Horses neighed and hooves clopped on the dirt street. Women in long dresses and Victorian hats passed each other on the boardwalk.

And Ricky Lee, wearing makeup and what an Apache warrior might have worn around 1875, called out things like “Quiet on the set” and “Action” and “Cut” as cameramen worked with quiet intensity.

The film is “Midnight Shanghai,” and Lee is director and co-producer along with cinematographer Jason Opat. Opat is a Wichita entrepreneur, “but (making films) is my passion,” he said Sunday. They describe the piece as an independent Western short film.

Part of the filming has been done in New Mexico, part in Cowtown, where authentic and realistic-looking 1800s buildings create an Old West atmosphere.

The film gives students at Bethany College at MindFire, a digital and media arts program, a chance to experience the kind of things they hear about.

It’s also a way for Cowtown to get exposure, said Opat and City Council member James Clendenin. Clendenin visited the movie set Sunday afternoon.

“I’m just excited that they’re here,” he said. “It’s a great example of how the film industry can do good work in Wichita,” and it helps with economic development.

During a break in the filming, in warm conditions, Lee said, “Hey, where is the water for the horses?” When someone pointed out where, he added, “OK, everybody go water your horses.”

Later, working up to gunfight scene, someone asked, “So we need to do a blood pack now?”

Not everything could be controlled. Geese made a loud, honking flyover. The April wind showered tree buds onto actors and blew black hats off heads, sending the hats rolling down the street.

Micky Maddux plays one of the lead roles, an American Indian woman named Ela whose husband is killed by the bad guys. In real life, Maddux lives in Valley Center, has appeared in commercials and other film projects and works as an artist.

Her character becomes a gunslinger and helps an oppressed Chinese girl.

“We need more strong female roles,” Maddux said. “That’s what I like about this (film role).

“She (Ela) just won’t take crap from anyone.”

Tim Potter: 316-268-6684, @terporter

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