Bowman takes on Courthouse Shooting with documentary

Thomas Lester, Editor

August 15, 2011

Countless books have been written on Hillsvilles most noteworthy happening, but the story of the 1912 Courthouse Shooting has never been captured on film.

Until now.

On Thursday at 7 p.m., Carroll County native Ricky Bowman will premiere his documentary, Hillsville 1912: A Shooting in the Court at the Rex Theatre in Galax. The cost to attend the premier is $10.

Bowman, who now lives in San Diego, said from his time growing up in Carroll County to today, he felt the subject matter would make a great film, but nobody ever stepped forward to do so.

I was always wondered why there hadnt been, Bowman said. There are plenty of books about it. I graduated from Carroll County High School in 1981 and worked at the old Ben Franklin across from the Courthouse. Like a lot of the merchants in town, they had the books about it. It always interested me. I felt like it needed to have something on film about it, at least a documentary to put the story in perspective that way, as well. The books are good and helped put my research together.

In order to do as complete a job as possible, Bowman said he spent as much time as he could with area authors and historians, gleaning information and piecing together the narrative. Bowman wrote the script with Bill Perrine (who also served as associate producer), directed it and produced the work with Elara Bowman.

I worked off and on on it for the last eight or nine years. I came back and some of my first interviews were with Ron Hall and Gooch Harmon, Bowman said. Unfortunately, I had to set it aside to take time to make a living. Over the years, I kept working on it, speaking with Ron Leonard he got me a lot of pictures. About two years ago, I flew to Pittsburgh and interviewed Bill Lord who did The Red Ear of Corn.

In addition to interviews and photos, Bowman included graphic art and animators renditions to add to the scope of the film, which is narrated by David Heath. Also, Mike Conner Bowmans cousin and John Miller provide the score heard throughout the documentary. The duo will play for about 45 minutes before the films screening gets underway.

What I had them do is redo The Ballad of Claud Allen, Bowman said. I had them do different versions and weaved it in and out of the story in the documentary. I asked them if for the premiere if they would open the show that way.

Bowman said the story begins a couple of years before the shooting, chronicling events that led up to Floyd Allens March 12, 1912 trial, and follows the story to the arrests of Sidna Allen and Wesley Edwards arrest in Iowa and the subsequent trials.

The documentary takes the first couple of years before the incident, a little background on the Allen family and leading up to the Courthouse incident and the aftermath and what happened with everyone, Bowman said. Its in that two or three year period of before and after.

Following the premiere, Bowman said copies of the DVD will be available for sale, and several of the historians and authors featured in the film will be available for audience questions.

Bowman said he has submitted the film to a number of festivals in hopes of it getting picked up for distribution. He said he has sent a copy to the PBS station in Roanoke and has hopes of working out a deal with the History Channel. Otherwise, he said, people interested in its subject matter will be able to order it through and

Bowman said hes looking forward to coming back to the area to showcase the film and hes hopeful those in attendance will like what they see.

Im pretty happy with it. I hope everybody else enjoys the film, Bowman said.