While the rest of the world spent every waking hour puzzling over who shot JR on “Dallas” during the summer of 1980, resulting in one of the most watched nights in television history, it was a time where everything came together quite differently for Samantha Buck, who knew the real Big D from the time she spent living there, as well as Washington DC, in her youth.
“Both places instilled in me a love of politics and great hair,” says Buck. “[With] Dallas, I have always been fascinated by the city, era, and the very different women who I knew had come into their own during the early ’80s, including my mother, who I watched move from a housewife to a real force in politics during that time. When I entered my thirties, I started to think about my mother’s trajectory and the choices I had taken for granted that she had to fight for.”
Those reflections on her childhood inspired the filmmaker to create the short “The Mink Catcher,” which is currently raising funds on Kickstarter before a June 24th deadline. Set during that sweltering summer in Dallas when the only thing hotter than the high heat was the chatter about the ongoing Reagan/Carter presidential campaigns and whether Larry Hagman’s famed oilman was dead for good, the film focuses on three women who cross paths at a high society viewing party of the “Dallas” season premiere that would reveal the killer. Yet Mary Crosby’s murderous Kristin Shepard might not have anything on Libby Smith, the gossip columnist who uses the occasion to dig up dirt on Pete Pangburn, the wife of the city’s new mayor, while a new socialite to the scene named Kathleen Hunt tries to make a name for herself by hosting the shindig.
To play the three strong women, Buck has recruited three equally strong actresses in Cara Buono, who could be seen recently in “Mad Men” and “The Discoverers,” “Center Stage” star Susan May Pratt and “White Reindeer” star and (Moveable Fest favorite) Anna Margaret Hollyman. She has also has assembled a talented team behind the camera with “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” costume assistant Annell Brodeur and art assistant Jonathan Rudak, “Elaine Stritch: Just Shoot Me” cinematographer Joshua Weinstein, producer Daniella Kahane, and associate producers Chloe Lenihan, Danielle DiGiacomo (“Nancy, Please”) and Marie Schlingmann, who co-wrote the short with Buck. In fact, it was when Buck met Schlingmann at Columbia University’s MFA program that the initial idea the filmmaker had been carrying with her for eight years blossomed to fruition.
“Marie and I went to Dallas last summer and interviewed various women about their experiences during that hot summer,” says Buck, who found a way to incorporate the skills she picked up while making the special education documentary “Best Kept Secret” to bring realism to “The Mink Catcher,” something her writing partner believes is one of the most intriguing parts of the project.
“I think Sam’s doc work has always been influenced by her fiction sensibility, and vice versa,” says Schlingmann. “She’s looking for a hook into a story, and it usually comes in the form of a compelling character that can take you into the world Sam wants to portray or create.”
Naturally, the New York-based Buck will be returning to Dallas for the shoot, set to happen this fall should the Kickstarter campaign be successful, taking advantage of the bigger than life locale and the prodigious production crews that have sprung up there since she last lived there. If all really goes according to plan, Buck hopes that “The Mink Catcher” will be expanded into a feature. But for now, she’s simply excited about the group of collaborators who are rallying around “The Mink Catcher.”
“I have been lucky enough to find a group of people who I just really love working with and who get excited, outraged, or inspired by the same stories I do,” says Buck. “What I love about filmmaking is that it is the most collaborative art form that I know of and I just hope I get to keep on doing it.”
With your help, she will.