September 6, 2013

South Park City set for French documentary ‘Calamity Jane’
Local actors and extras hired

Laura Van Dusen, Correspondent

Young Calamity

Cameron Fikejs, 8, of Fairplay and a student at Edith Teter Elementary, poses on Aug. 27 between scenes at the South Park City location shoot of a French documentary film about Calamity Jane. Cameron plays a young Calamity Jane. (Photo by Laura Van Dusen/The Flume)

During the week of Aug. 26, a French film company took over portions of South Park City to film a documentary about the life of Calamity Jane. It will be released in France when completed.

Visitors to the museum had the opportunity to watch filming and talk to the cast and crew during the outdoor scenes. Occasionally an exhibit was closed to visitors while shots of the movie were filmed inside the structure.

Marie C. Destandau, producer of the film, was not available to talk to The Flume during filming, and an emailed request for information was not answered by press time.

But according to a bit player in the movie, Erik Swanson of Alma, Destandau chose some of the extras – or actors in minor roles – when she visited South Park City during Living History Days. He said Ann Lukacs, of Fairplay-based Lukacs and Associates, suggested that Destandau scout for extras during the event on Aug. 10-11.

The Lukacs and Associates firm was hired in June as a part-time film consultant for Park County. (See the June 21 Flume.) The company acted as a liaison between companies filming on location in the county and local property owners; it also promotes Park County to movie, commercial advertising, photography, television and other film and video industries.

Extras and actors

Swanson said he and his wife, Beth, talked to Destandau at Living History Days, and he said she specifically asked if the costumes the two were wearing were absolutely authentic to the 1880s era. The Swansons assured her they were and they, as well as others who were dressed in period clothing during Living History Days, were asked to play minor parts in the Calamity Jane movie.

In the Swansons’ scene, a group of extras walked down the street. Erik and Beth Swanson were arm in arm and, as they passed a gentleman on the street, Erik Swanson tipped his hat. That scene, he said, was filmed more than 18 times until it was exactly right.

Carrie Fikeja, of Fairplay, said she was told about the movie and provided photos of her daughter, Cameron, 8, for consideration as an extra in the movie. Cameron, a student at Fairplay’s Edith Teter Elementary, was chosen to play a young Calamity Jane. She was filmed on Tuesday, Aug. 27; in the scene she first sat outside the train depot on a bench and then she walked toward the train.

The part of a journalist who interviewed Calamity Jane was played by Cassidi Leigh Parker of the Denver area. She said she was chosen after an audition and that “being able to speak French was indeed helpful in getting the part.”

Parker is a professional actress who has worked on the stage all her life and learned French when she was recently working in Paris as an au pair (a young foreign person, typically a woman, who helps with housework or child care in exchange for room and board). She is a graduate of Point Park University’s Conservatory of Performing Arts in Pittsburgh.


Bit players in the French documentary film about Calamity Jane wait for their scenes to be filmed on Aug. 27. From left, they are Beth Swanson, Erik Swanson, Mark Pazen, Howard Melching and David Wright. (Photo by Laura Van Dusen/The Flume)


All of the scenes shot at South Park City were of about a minute duration, said Carol Davis, curator/registrar at the museum. But it could take up to 45 minutes of filming to get one scene precisely right.

She described scenes such as Calamity Jane stumbling out of the saloon drunk, and a winter scene where cotton batting was used to depict snow. Also used for “snow” was a limited amount of instant mashed potatoes and potato flakes.

More locations

The film crew used the South Park City location through Friday, Aug. 30. From there they were headed to Colorado locations near Monte Vista and Durango.

Calamity Jane

Calamity Jane’s history is difficult to trace because details from different sources do not match, but the following may be close.

She was born Martha Jane Cannary in Princeton, Mo., probably in 1852. She was known as a hard-drinking, tough-talking, female sharpshooter, and she probably acquired that behavior after her mother died in 1866, when Calamity Jane was 14. Her father died a few years later. She was the oldest of her two brothers and three sisters, and most sources agree that she raised her siblings.

She may have earned her nickname when she saved an army captain from attack by Native Americans in South Dakota in the 1870s.

Calamity Jane traveled with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in the 1890s. It is rumored that the lawman Wild Bill Hickok was the true love of her life.

After she died in Terry, S. D., on Aug. 1, 1903, she was buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood, S.D., next to Wild Bill Hickok.