The latest project from Choctaw filmmaker Mark Williams is Violet, a 45-minute chiller that has screened just once, but has already booked spots in three film festivals, the first of which is the Red Fork Native American Film Festival, which takes place this weekend in Tulsa.
Those who track emerging Native filmmakers will recognize Mark Williams' name in association with the 2012 short film The Unrest, which won Best Feature honors at the Mvskoke Film Festival in Okmulgee, OK, and Red Fork. Violet is his 12th project overall, he says—"that includes music videos, a number of short films, and some promo things." In the film, an escaped mental patient dies under mysterious circumstances. The real story emerges some 30 years later as a newlywed couple are starting their life together. During the move into their new home they stumble upon a mysterious package that was never meant to resurface. The film stars Delno Ebie (Delaware/Ojibiwe/Cherokee) and Happy Frejo (Pawnee/Seminole) as the leads. Frejo had the task of bringing life to the complex role. "I tried to bring a happy, spirited, upbeat presence," she says. "I feel like she had a lot of different levels; from happy to confused to frustrated, and a little fearful. I just tried to portray all those. It was a lot of fun, actually."
Writer/director Williams describes his film as "a psychological thriller, with a lot of mystery involved," and it's informed by Williams' work on the documentary series Native American Paranormal Project (N.A.P.P.). "Delno's character goes through a lot as he watches his wife break down," Williams explains. "As he tries to solve what's going on with her—why she's making up these stories about a woman in their house—he starts to discover what really happened to Violet. And who Violet was. As he starts to discover what really happened, the audience is going on this journey with him. Just when you think you've got it figured out, something else happens. ... You see Happy's character undergo a huge transformation. You see Delno's character become frustrated. And it's all because of Violet's presence in that house. When you find out the truth, it's a shocker."
Happy Frejo and Delno Ebie play new homeowners who get more than they bargained for. Image source: facebook.com/thevioletmovie
The file on 'Subject 23: Violet' from Collins Psychiatric Hospital. Image source: facebook.com/thevioletmovie
You can't have a scary movie without a creepy doll. It's a rule. Image source: facebook.com/thevioletmovie
'She's watching you.' Oh, great. Image source: facebook.com/thevioletmovie
Williams wrote the script with an idea of who he wanted to cast. He had never worked with Ebie, but he had followed his previous work, and his hunch about the actor was confirmed when Ebie read for the male lead. Frejo became attached to the project through some twists of fate even before they began filming. Williams auditioned several actresses before he decided on her. Frejo knew she wanted the role from the get-go. "I heard about the movie from a co-worker—I read the script, and I was like, I gotta do this," she says. "I like Carrie's role. Mark had an idea of who he wanted. He had the look already in his head. I wanted the part really bad. I've been training and waiting for a good role to help me with my career. I did my audition. And, here I am."
Williams wrote the suspenseful drama as a short film with the intention of lengthening it out. " I tend to look at Violet as a short film that's screaming to be a feature. It's just a shade under 45 minutes. And I did that purposely so that when we submitted it to festivals, it would qualify as a short. We want to make a feature-length film, but we need financial backing."
Violet's only screening to date was a sold-out January 11 premiere at Harkins Theater in Oklahoma City. In addition to the Red Fork Native American Film Festival, where it will screen at 3:15 PM on Saturday, February 28, it's also been accpeted to two other festivals, both taking place in April: the Oklahoma Urban Cinema Festival in Oklahoma City and the Bare Bones International Film Festival in Muskogee.
Check facebook.com/thevioletmovie for more information including screening dates.