Let's Make a Movie

New short film from Peabody Award winner casts 1980s Dallas as main character

New film by Peabody Award winner casts 1980s Dallas as main character

Dallas is about to become the center focus of a new movie directed by Samantha Buck. And though she may be best known as Detective G. Lynn Bishop on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, her writing and directing chops (she’s a Peabody Award winner for her documentary Best Kept Secret) are about to get some more play.

Buck, a Dallas native, has co-written a short film with Marie Schlingmann called The Mink Catcher about a local gossip columnist in 1980s Dallas who’s trying to acquaint herself with the city’s mystifying new first lady. The titular character will be played by Cara Buono (Mad Men, The Sopranos) and the object of her attention — the mayor’s wife — will be played by Susan May Pratt (10 Things I Hate About You, Center Stage).

 “This moment in time (and place) seemed ripe with dramatic, suspenseful and funny possibilities,” says director Samantha Buck.

The story catches fire at a high society viewing party for the hit TV show Dallas. The infamous “Who Shot J.R.?” episode is about to air, and the city’s most well-to-do have gathered to toast the television series, socialize, and watch the drama on screen — and around the room — unfold.

“We felt that specifically the year 1980 was a turning point for the city of Dallas, as well as for national politics and the temperament of the country,” Buck says. “In a way it seems like Dallas was at the heart of what was defining for the country at large, the role of popular culture and the role of women in politics and work life being two significant elements of these shifts.

“This moment in time (and place) seemed ripe with dramatic, suspenseful and funny possibilities.”

Buck actually credits her mother with providing inspiration for the film. “I saw her and her female friends’ ambitions and struggles during that very tumultuous time, and I guess I never really thought about the dramatic potential of it all until I became a storyteller myself.”

That story is currently positioned to be a 15-minute film with plans to release next spring, at which point an accompanying feature script, The Big D, should be ready. (The Big D will have a larger cast of characters and more broadly cover the heatwaved summer of 1980, the presidential race and the whole “Who Shot JR?” craze.)

The goal is to shoot everything on location in Dallas and submit the final product to festivals next year. But first, the nine-person crew has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for everything from location fees to hair and makeup. The goal is $9,000, and backers have already pledged more than $7,400. That said, the team needs to meet its target in these final hours in order to cash in on those promises.

“We love the idea of bringing an audience into the picture in the early stages, before the film is even made,” says producer Daniella Kahane. “Part of the beauty of filmmaking is that it takes a village, so to speak, and with crowdsourcing it’s the same way. A truly successful campaign relies on reaching many people who are giving small donations rather than few people giving large ones.”

The project is fully cast, has about 90 percent of the crew committed and its dream location locked down. And, by the end of day June 24, the team just might have an extra $9K to make its “darkly comic melodrama” script into a mini-movie.

Director Samantha Buck of the Mink Catcher
Director and co-writer Samantha Buck was born in Dallas and wants to use the city as a crucible for her melodramatic story. Photo courtesy of the Mink Catcher
Actress Cara Buono
Cara Buono (here as Dr. Faye Miller on Mad Men) will play protagonist Libby Smith. Photo courtesy of the Mink Catcher
The Mink Catcher teaser still
The short film will take place in 1980s Dallas and follow a gossip columnist's attempts to get to know the new mayor's mystifying wife. Photo courtesy of the Mink Catcher
Director Samantha Buck of the Mink Catcher
Actress Cara Buono
The Mink Catcher teaser still