Beau Jennings, Bradley Beesley launch fundraising tour for “The Verdigris: In Search of Will Rogers”

NORMAN, OKLA., April 7, 2011 — A group of notable Oklahoma musicians and filmmakers has announced plans to create a documentary tracing the life of Will Rogers across the United States.

“The Verdigris: In Search of Will Rogers” will consist of two parts — a documentary film and an accompanying record. Oklahoma-born musician Beau Jennings, has spent the past several years writing songs about Rogers, his boyhood hero. Oklahoma filmmaker Bradley Beesley will follow Jennings across the United States as he performs these original songs at various locations where significant events in Rogers’ life occurred — from Oklahoma to Hollywood to Alaska.

“‘The Verdigris’ is something that has become very special to me — it’s named for the river that runs through both my hometown and Will’s — and I hope it can become something special to others, too,” Jennings said. “I think everyone knows Will as Oklahoma’s favorite son, but I also think he has faded into the past a bit, reduced to a few memorable quotes. Hopefully with this project, we can all rediscover what made Will Rogers so cool.”

The footage of Jennings’ performances will be interspersed with interviews and other narrative elements to tell the story not only of Rogers’ life, but also of Jennings’ attempt to explore through his songwriting the inspiration he finds in Rogers. The accompanying album will include songs performed on location, as well as songs recorded in the studio.

In addition to Jennings and Beesley, the project team will include producers Eric Steel and Adam Donaghey, co-producer Jonathan Fowler, and music producers/studio engineers Jarod Evans and Chad Copelin from Blackwatch Studios.  

The team will launch a six-show fundraising tour beginning on April 21 in Denton, Texas, and culminating on April 30 at the Norman Music Festival in Norman, Okla. Other tour stops include Dallas, Tulsa and Austin.

“I’m asking anyone and everyone who is interested to come to a show, watch the trailer screening, hear us play some songs, and donate whatever you can to help us make this project a reality,” Jennings said.

To coincide with the first date of the fundraising tour, Jennings and the rest of the team will launch an online Kickstarter page. Supporters will be able to donate through this webpage or directly at the shows.   

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PHOTO CAPTION: Beau Jennings (photo credit: Angela Hodgkinson)

TOUR INFO:
Thursday, April 21 – Denton, TX @ Dan’s Silverleaf
103 Industrial St. | (940) 320-2000 | www.danssilverleaf.com
 
Friday, April 22 – Dallas, TX @ The Texas Theatre – FUNDRAISER SHOW
7pm - 11pm
231 W. Jefferson Blvd. | (214)948-1546 | www.thetexastheatre.com <mailto:info@thetexastheatre.com>
No cover at the door, suggested donations only.  Trailer screening and live album preview. Musical performances by others TBA.  
 
Saturday, April 23 – Norman, OK @ The Chouse – FUNDRAISER SHOW
7pm - 11pm
717 W. Boyd | 405-447-9805
No cover at the door, suggested donations only.  Trailer screening and live album preview. Musical performances by others TBA.  

Monday, April 25 – Tulsa, OK @ The Church Studio – FUNDRAISER SHOW
7pm - 11pm
304 S. Trenton | 918-747-3360 | www.thechurchstudio.com
No cover at the door, suggested donations only.  Trailer screening and live album preview. Musical performances by others TBA.  

Tuesday, April 26th – Austin, TX @ The Mohawk
912 Red River | www.mohawkaustin.com
 
Saturday, April 30 – Norman, OK @ Norman Music Festival
Downtown Norman, OK | www.normanmusicfestival.com
 
TEAM BIOS:

BEAU JENNINGS (DIRECTOR/MUSICIAN) may hang his hat in Brooklyn these days, but the subject matter of his carefully crafted songs remain tied to his home state of Oklahoma. While attending the University of Oklahoma, Beau started the Americana-rock band Cheyenne, quickly attracting local and regional attention for his devotion to songcraft backed by beautiful and layered instrumentation. In 2005 Cheyenne released their debut album I Am Haunted, I Am Alive (The Record Machine), which was followed by regional touring and music festival appearances. The song Houses from this record was featured in a commercial for City Harvest, currently being aired nationally. After relocation to Brooklyn, Cheyenne’s second album The Whale furthered awareness of the band, and was followed by a national tour.  In 2008, Beau released his first solo album Holy Tulsa Thunder (A Silence Production), a collection of songs that brought his songwriting focus full circle back to his home state of Oklahoma.  Occasionally channeling the energy of a young Bruce Springsteen, other times the delicate vocals of Jeff Tweedy, Jennings quietly crafted an Americana masterpiece with Holy Tulsa Thunder. In 2010, all three of Beau’s full length albums made the list of the top 100 Oklahoma Albums Released in the 2000’s.  It is no coincidence that when not performing solo or with his band Cheyenne, Beau works as an architect in New York City. The same eye for detail that Beau uses in building design seeps into his songwriting and provides a valuable tool for the first-time director.

BRADLEY BEESLEY (EXECUTIVE PRODUCER/DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY) Austin based filmmaker Bradley Beesley has made a cinematic career documenting oddball Americana, strange sub-cultures and homegrown rock stars. Post art school and somewhat damaged, he began drinking moonshine and filming with legendary bluesman R.L. Burnside to make his first movie Hill Stomp Hollar (SxSW). He has since directed 9 feature-length films, including 7 documentaries, a concert film and a sci-fi narrative.  Bradley is the producer and director of the backwoods cult classic Okie Noodling (PBS). The film chronicles the lost art of bare-handed catfishing in his home state of Oklahoma and continues to have encore broadcasts nationwide. After collecting over 400 hours of footage, Shout! Factory released The Fearless Freaks, a documentary starring The Flaming Lips in 2005. He has collaborated on over 15-music videos with the Lips and recently teamed-up with Wayne Coyne to make the science fiction picture Christ mas on Mars (Warner Bros.). Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo (HBO) is his latest effort and goes behind prison walls to follow convict cowgirls as they compete within this coliseum-esque gladiator spectacle know as the Oklahoma State Penitentiary Rodeo. Other feature documentaries include The Creek Runs Red (Independent Lens), Summercamp! (Sundance Channel) and UFO’s at the Zoo (Warner Bros.). His TV credits include Roller Girls (A&e), Paranormal State (A&e) and Storm Chasers (Discovery).

ERIC STEELE (PRODUCER) is a Writer/ Director/Producer from Dallas. His short film Topeka was a finalist at the USA Film Festival in 2009 and won “Best Debut” at Route 66 Film Fest. Steele’s play Midwest Trilogywas a nominee for DFAP One Act Play of 2009 and received a national debut at the Kitchen Dog Theatre’s new Works Fest the same year. Steele recently produced Clay Liford’s new feature film WUSS with Tony Hale (Arrested Development). Steele, along with partners Barak Epstein and Adam Donaghey, formed Aviation Cinemas in 2010 and currently own and operate the historic Texas Theatre in Dallas, TX.

ADAM DONAGHEY (PRODUCER), President and founder of Zero Trans Fat Productions, is an award-winning independent film producer from Texas. His work has been seen at festivals and special screenings all over the world. Adam’s latest projects are Independent Spirit nominee Bryan Poyser’s Lovers of Hate, picked up by IFC Films, and Clay Liford’s My Mom Smokes Weed, both of which screened at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival; Frank v. Ross’ award-winning Audrey the Trainwreck and Clay Liford’s award-winning Earthling, both premiered at the 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival. He recently wrapped principle photography on Clay Liford’s WUSS, Eric Steele’s Uncertain, TX and Michelle Mower’s Preacher’s Daughter. His first feature film, St. Nick, premiered at the 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival and subsequently won the grand Jury Prize for Texas Filmmaking at AFI Dallas. Since then, it has appeared at festivals worldwide and was picked up by Watchmaker/Benten Films. Adam is also vice-President & CMO of Aviation Cinemas, Inc., a movie theater company currently operating the historic Texas Theatre. Adam regularly speaks at universities, film festivals, and industry related workshops and conferences; and judges for competitions and film festivals all over the country. Adam is a film and food columnist for Houston Bay Area’s Scene Magazine and produces the Houston and Austin 24 Hour Film Races. Adam is a graduate of the University of North Texas with a BA in Philosophy and is a member of the Kemah volunteer Fire Department.

JONATHAN FOWLER (CO-PRODUCER) Born and raised in Norman, Oklahoma, Jonathan grew up on automobiles and OU athletics. He began his career in the auto industry at age six by delivering mail in his grandfather’s Toyota store. Jonathan continued working in the family business every summer until he enrolled at the University of Oklahoma. After college and a year working at Keystone Ski Resort in Colorado, Jonathan again joined his grandfather and father in working for the family business. Fowler Volkswagen marks an exciting chapter in the Fowler Auto group story, as Jonathan represents the third generation to run a dealership. Jonathan and his wife Natalie live near the OU campus and enjoy spending time with friends, family, and their three dogs. When they aren’t working or at home you can usually spot them in historic downtown Norman catching some live music or on Campus Corner celebrating an OU athletics victory.

JAROD EVANS AND CHAD COPELIN / BLACKWATCH STUDIOS (ALBUM RECORDING) While many artists are flocking to New York, LA and Nashville a gem is emerging in the most unexpected of places. Tucked away in the heart of Norman, Oklahoma lies Blackwatch Studios. Founded by producers/engineers Chad Copelin and Jarod Evans, Blackwatch is not just another pristine recording studio, but an inviting and artistic space fostering creativity, innovation and inspiration.