- Associated Press - Saturday, June 27, 2015

VICTOR, Colo. (AP) - A preacher, a chef, a railroad buff and other residents of this historic town are leaving their real lives behind for a few days to become a buyer of bodies, his sidekick, a blind man and a host of other odd but endearing characters.

Denver-based Endeavor PICS, an independent filmmaker, is in the midst of shooting an adaptation of Mark Twain’s short story, “The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut.”

Twelve Victor residents were hired as extras.

“It’s awesome. It’s fun. It’s good for our town - it’s going to get us a little bit of notoriety,” Mayor Buck Hakes said.

A booming Gold Rush-era mining hub of 8,000 residents in 1894, Victor today has a population of 410, Hakes said. Maybe 415 in the summer.

While the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Company has restored mining to the town and brought upwards of 500 jobs, the modern-day, open-pit operation also has drawn criticism for its land use.

The community has focused on renovation and preservation of its past, but last year, a lightning-sparked fire destroyed a historic union hall for miners.

Many of the locals hope the filming, which wraps up Monday, will cast a positive spin on the town.

“There’s been controversy here and there’s been tragedy here, and this is a positive, interesting, historic endeavor,” Shawn Frizzell said. A 42-year resident of Victor, Frizzell works as a park ranger at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and is playing the part of an old lady in the film.

No fancy Hollywood sets are needed. Set in the 1890s, the film is relying on centuries-old buildings and the rustic backdrop of the small town.

“There’s a lot of history and period pieces already here,” producer Jessica Jones Carson said.

The story takes an imaginative look at a man who meets the personification of his conscience, kills it and finds himself on an adventure. There’s no blood and gore, Jones Carson said. But there will be contemporary touches such as prosthetics and mechanical devices.

“It’s not a well-known story, but it’s so good,” she said.

The professionals include Denver actors Jordan Leigh, Jude Moran and Carla Kaiser Kotrc, and child star Annabel Haffey.

Gerry Arnold, known around Victor as “Gerry with a G,” as opposed to another resident named Jerry, said they twisted his arm and he agreed to play the blind man, which the director wrote into the script after seeing his photo.

“I have a speaking part. It’s three words: ‘I can see,’” Arnold said last week. “My character gets into trouble. He grabs the floozy. I’ve been rehearsing all week.”

Like many of the other extras, Arnold, a former railway mechanical engineer, has little or no acting experience.

Andy Watson, a preacher, said he’s never acted but was game because the project sounded like fun. Plus, his dad owns the Gold Coin Club building, where some of the scenes are being shot. The former athletic facility for miners had a full-scale bowling alley, was a training center for pro boxer Jack Dempsey and hosted Teddy Roosevelt in 1900 after he returned to Victor to accept apologies for being run out by an angry mob.

“We’re hoping this will spark some interest in the area,” Watson said.

Richard Courson, a chef and miner, said he’s excited about the opportunity for 15 minutes of fame and researched his part of the buyer of bodies’ helper for weeks.

It’s about time somebody noticed what a treasure Victor is, locals agree.

“This is one of the best preserved original mining towns in the country,” Courson said.

“Which we attribute to a lack of economics,” said Sam Morrison, who is acting as the professor in the film.

Frizzell said she wanted to participate because it’s an opportunity to contribute.

“It’s light and it gives us a chance to get together, have some giggles and support independent filmmaking and the town of Victor,” she said.

As far as locals know, no movie has been filmed in Victor.

“We were on the finals list for a Hallmark Channel series, but they went to Canada,” said Hakes, one of two movie extras who play themselves. Hakes was cast in the role of mayor, and Penga the wonder dog will be acting as herself.

Jones Carson also considered Victor for her film “Emancipation” but went to New Mexico because the state offered incentives. Colorado provides a 10 percent financial incentive only for movies with budgets of more than $100,000.

“That doesn’t help any of the homegrown films. It’s completely unfair,” Jones Carson said. “We should be making films in Colorado’s historic towns. Every time we do, we use locals and support the community.”

The 15- to 20-minute production will be sent to indie film festivals by year’s end.

Jones Carson said she also plans to have a screening in Victor.

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Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazette.com

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