Local actors make film debut Saturday

AdaEveningNews.com - Ada, Oklahoma

Paden Brown, a freshman at Byng, will be watching herself on the big screen Saturday. Paden is one of several Chickasaw actors who will make their film debut at the AFI Dallas International Film Festival screening of "Pearl" March 28 and 29.

Produced by the Chickasaw Nation, "Pearl" is the story of the late Pearl Carter Scott, a Chickasaw girl from Oklahoma who is well known as the youngest licensed pilot in America. Paden plays Arnetta, Pearl's little sister. This is the largest role filled by a Chickasaw citizen. "This movie is about a strong Chickasaw woman, and it makes me very proud to be Chickasaw," Paden said. When the Chickasaw Nation produced the biopic of Pearl's early life as a pilot, they honored her memory by involving as many Chickasaws as possible in the film.

In addition to the auditions conducted in Los Angeles, Dallas, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, an open casting call was announced in Ada, Oklahoma, home of the Chickasaw Nation headquarters. The casting crew had hopes of casting Native Americans, particularly Chickasaws, as Pearl's family, friends and in supporting roles. Chickasaw citizens and tribal employees were encouraged to take part in the movie immortalizing the extraordinary life of Pearl Carter Scott.

"The casting day in Ada was a very pleasant surprise," casting director Chris Freihofer said during filming. "We just couldn't find the right people for certain roles until we opened the doors in Ada. They just walked right in.

"Paden walked in and just nailed the audition," Freihofer added. "She was the package. I know this is her first film, and I am not sure she has had much acting experience, but she is doing a fantastic job in the role, holding her own with the rest of the family members, all made up of actors with very long resumes." "Paden is the real deal. This may be her first film, but I can bet it is not her last." Teena Brown, Paden's mother said, "This project has opened up a whole new world to Paden. She can't wait until her next acting job."

Pauline Brown, Chickasaw elder and culture preservationist, portrays Widow Harjo in the film. "I think it's good that they got so many Chickasaws for the movie," she said. "It was set in Chickasaw country and Pearl was a great Chickasaw citizen." Ms. Brown's son, Milton, plays Sharecropper Ishmatubbe in the film and many of her grandchildren were cast as extras.

Paulina Gee, three-year-old daughter of Chickasaw Nation Deputy Attorney General Debra Gee, was cast as Louise, Pearl's oldest daughter. Gee said that she sent Paulina's picture to the casting crew and they felt she'd be a perfect fit. "They told me that she looked just like Louise as a toddler." Paulina's acting debut included long stays on set, sometimes as long as eight hours. "At first I was nervous about her attention span," Debra said, "but she did great and really got along with all of the other actors."

Other Chickasaws who hold speaking parts in "Pearl" are Micah Hart (Older Georgie), son of Jeannie Barbour, director of the Chickasaw Press; former Chickasaw Princess Jaisen Monetatchi (Chickasaw Bride); Dakota Brown (Chickasaw Friend); Tim Harjochee (Sharecropper 1) and Robert Cheadle (Sharecropper 2). Robert Cheadle serves as the Chickasaw Nation Legislative Counsel and worked closely with Pearl during her time on the Chickasaw Legislature. "I was very proud to be chosen for this film because it portrays a very important Chickasaw woman," he said. "Hopefully the film will inspire Chickasaw youth and let them know that they can make a difference."

Dozens of Chickasaw citizens, Chickasaw Nation employees and community members were featured as extras. Friehofer believes that "Pearl" will open many doors for the Chickasaws involved. "The Chickasaw actors did amazing things," he said. "Everyone was really impressed." For more information, visit the movie's website at www.pearlthemovie.net.