Civil War film with local angle to debut

BRANDON — A local historian’s two-year mission to make a film about a fascinating Brandon Civil War story will end Sunday with the premiere of the documentary at the Brandon Town Hall.

Former University of Vermont History Professor Kevin Thornton has invited the entire town of Brandon to the premiere of “Death in the Wilderness: A Love Story,” which will be shown at 7 p.m.

The film tells the story of Mrs. Frankie Davenport, who traveled to a battlefield in Virginia to retrieve the body of her soldier husband, George Davenport, and brought him home to Brandon.

Thornton is an American history scholar and has a keen interest in the Civil War, the role Vermonters played, and the attitude with which they viewed the war and its aftermath.

Thornton said he wants the whole town to see the film because so many local people helped him make it. Mike Boyce did the sound editing, Courtney Satz designed the film poster, and Gene and Jean Childers provided period music with the help of the Brandon Congregational Church Choir and singers Kristen Varian, Sue Gage and Denise Keating. Then there are all of the people who donated money to Thornton’s Kickstarter campaign last spring that raised the $11,000 he needed to make the film.

Thornton also thanked Stephanie and Brian Jerome, owners of Visual Learning Systems in Brandon, for letting employee and filmmaker Josh Hummel take on the documentary as a project.

“He did all of the technical stuff, all the filming, all the editing,” Thornton said of Hummel. “Thanks to digital technology, he did it all on a laptop. We couldn’t have done this 15 years ago.”

He also thanked Brandon filmmaker Jon Andrews, who he said gave him great advice in the beginning, and Andrews’ daughter Eva Andrews and Sophie Moore, who were Brandon “flower girls” in the film. The uniquely Brandon Memorial Day tradition of first-grade girls in white dresses laying flowers at the base of the Civil War monument in town is one that Thornton also researched and illustrated in the film.

Thornton also had kudos for local businessman and History Channel writer Steve Zorn, who gave him invaluable advice on the script.

“Steven helped turn something that was a shapeless jumble into a story, and it was just fantastic,” Thornton said. “This has been an experience where I would make mistakes and I would learn from them, and people have been so patient with me.”

Thornton said that almost everyone who voiced a character in the film is from Brandon.

“There are probably 50 to 60 people in this town who helped out in some way,” he said, “and I really want everyone in Brandon to see it.”

There will be a free will offering at the door at the town hall premiere, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the hall. But Thornton said he wants to emphasize the word “free” so that more people will attend the screening.

“Anyone who was ever a flower girl or in the Neshobe band of the Otter Valley Band, they are a part of this,” Thornton said. “It’s something I want everyone to see, and to hear the story of their town.”

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