A Scottish movie director who lives in Bulgaria. An award-winning novel about Native Americans that focuses on a 95-year-old elder. And a tour of rural communities in order to get a movie seen by people who ordinarily wouldn’t have a chance to see it.
That’s the fascinating amalgam that exists with the film “Neither Wolf Nor Dog,” which will be shown in two different screenings this weekend at the Krider Performing Arts Center in Paris.
The movie, directed by Scotsman Steven Lewis Simpson, will be shown at 7 p.m. Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday at KPAC.
The film, shot by Simpson over an 18-day period mostly in the northern part of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, is based on the novel, Neither Wolf Nor Dog, by Kent Nerburn, which was published in 1994.
The story follows a white author who gets sucked into the heart of contemporary Native American life in the sparse lands of the Dakotas by a 95-year-old Lakota elder and his sidekick.
The movie, sparked by a lauded performance by the late Dave Bald Eagle as the elder, has served as an interesting test case for a unique style of marketing used by Simpson and his distributors, in which the film has played in many small markets where viewers might not have had a chance to see it otherwise.
Simpson, speaking Tuesday from his home in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, said the approach he and his distributors have taken has been a matter of “knowing where the audience is” for such a film.
“Most independent films get ignored by the movie studios. And that’s understandable in a way. They want the easy sells, the big shiny Hollywood movies,” Simpson said.
“But there are so many stories out there to tell. There are about five thousand movies submitted to the Sundance Film Festival every year,” he said.
The decision was made to have “Neither Wolf Nor Dog” play in big city multiplexes when possible but also to target small towns. The average amount of money made per screen has been eye-catching. Shot for about $30,000, the movie has now played in about 500 venues in North America. Simpson said that when it has played in multiplexes, it sometimes has beaten every Hollywood movie at the same multiplex in terms of average per screen. Based on average per screen, Simpson estimated the movie was the 55th most successful film of the year last year.
“We’ve been able to get people in smaller towns to pay attention to it, too,” he said. “I think people that aren’t usually represented in Hollywood movies feel that they’re seeing their world up there on screen with this movie.”
Simpson credits a huge amount of the movie’s success to the performance of Dave Bald Eagle in the lead role. Bald Eagle died not long after the movie was finished in 2016.
He had worked sporadically in films for several years, sometimes as a stuntman back in the 1950s, but had never had a starring role before.
The film has a favorable score of 95 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes website, Simpson said.
“Most of that, I think, is because people have just fallen in love with the character played by Dave Bald Eagle, and the sense of adventure the character has,” Simpson said.
Tickets to the screenings at KPAC are $10 for adults and children, and $8 for people aged 65 and older. Tickets will be available at the box office for the screenings, or in advance at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4309961.