Movie stars, crews invade Tribbey to film 'Pearl'

* By Amanda Gire of the Shawnee News-Star, October 11, 2008

Shawnee, Okla. - Louise Thompson remembers the stories her mother, the late Pearl Carter Scott, told her about learning to fly and living through the Dust Bowl days, but it was a movie crew that gave those stories life.

"I've heard the stories all my life, and now, the story has come to life," Thompson said. Scott was a Chickasaw girl from Oklahoma who took to the skies at age 14 to become the youngest licensed pilot in America. Her story is hitting the big screen as the Chickasaw Nation teams up with Media 13 to film "Pearl."

Filmed on locations in Oklahoma, the Jude and Jody Ranch and airport in Tribbey was the last stop for the crew. Jude Northcutt said "Pearl" is the first film for the ranch. Northcutt also served as a businessman for the film. He said his part was about discussing the efficiency of an airplane over a car. "It's a thrill," he said. "We've been on TV for 28 years, but to have a part in the film, you bet."

Northcutt was one of several hundred Oklahomans in the film or helping with the crew. The Heartland T's and the Horseless Carriage Club of America, Oklahoma City chapter, provided various vintage automobiles, including a 1928 Model A Roadster, 1924 Touring Sedan and a 1922 Dodge Enclosed Patty Wagon.

Casting for the movie began in July with auditions held in Los Angeles, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Ada. Elijah De Jesus, from California, was cast as Scott, and Isabel Archuleta was cast as Scott's sister. Archuleta is a graduate of The University of Oklahoma. Wiley Post's character is portrayed by Tom Huston Orr, who is the director of the drama department at OU.

The Chickasaw Nation also provided several cast members - eight hold speaking roles for the film and many more are serving as extras. Thompson said the actors in the movie are perfect fits for the characters. "You can actually tell who's playing who," she said as she pointed out "Big Mama," who is Scott's mother. Thompson said that as she watches each scene being filmed, she knows where it fits in the overall story.

Producer David Rennke said they were looking for a grass landing strip with a small hangar to give the small rural air strip without modern amenities, because the film's time frame is 1920 to 1932. That's when they found Jude and Jody's airport. "We wanted nothing modern, so this ranch lent to the period piece really well," Rennke said. Rennke said it will take another eight months for developing, editing and marketing before the film is ready for public viewing. He said the film will be released in film festivals and may find its way into theaters. Being rich in Chickasaw heritage, the film will be aired at the Chickasaw's cultural center in Sulpher. "It's a good story that far exceeds my expectations," Rennke. Rennke said he is a member of the Chickasaw Nation and the tribe has an advanced multi-media department. "We've wanted to do a feature film for awhile and this is a great story to tell," he said, adding the story appeals to everyone.

De Jesus said, "I love it. It's fun, especially because it's based on a true story. I know all the scenes actually happened."