LAKE NEBAGAMON — A script about the 1920 lynching of three black circus workers in Duluth won a man from Lake Nebagamon his fourth prize for the project.
Dale R. Botten’s third screenplay revision, currently titled “The Law Lover,” won Best Screenplay of 2022 at the New York Movie Awards competition in New York City.
Botten bought the media rights to Duluth native Michael Fedo’s book, “The Lynchings in Duluth,” in 2007. The first edition of Botten’s screenplay, then titled “Alamo-Duluth: Anatomy of a Lynching,” won the grand prize at the Screenwriting Expo 2010. in Los Angeles, sponsored by Creative Screenwriting Magazine. It was also staged as a reader’s play at the University of Wisconsin-Higher in 2009.
Revised and retitled “Hate Storm,” Botten’s work won the Screenplay of Merit award at the 2015 Catalina Film Festival on Catalina Island, California.
“The first two editions were set pieces, which makes it hard to sell” because no one character can be considered the star, Botten said. “With an estimated budget of $10-20 million for this film, the producers would need to attract major A-list actors to generate enough box office revenue for the film to at least break even.”
In 2016, Botten produced a short film, used to lure producers, titled “Hate Storm: a Prologue.” It was accepted into the 2018 Great Lakes International Film Festival online and the 2019 Tylerman Film Festival in Wheaton, Illinois. The short, which includes a guest appearance from senior teacher-turned-actor Don Scribner, won the Aleathea Ligon Social Awareness Award.
In December, Botten’s screenplay won first place, Best Feature Script, at the Hollywood Script Award competition in Los Angeles.
Botten said he was committed to bringing the story to the big screen, despite the hefty price tag.
“A common thing that almost everyone has said to me or my team is ‘this is a story that needs to be told,'” Botten said. “There seems to be little discussion about it. People not only in the country, but all over the world should know about it. »
While a simplified version might have an impact, it wouldn’t get the attention the story deserves, he said. The goal is not just to tell the facts, he says, but to make viewers feel.
The film’s budget would not be drastically reduced if the script was turned into a small-screen version, Botten said, because the significant costs are due to it being a period piece, requiring costumes. , vintage automobiles and sets, and the need for a large cast. He compared it to filming “Iron Will” in Duluth, which involved hundreds of extras. The crowd that gathered for the lynching numbered around 10,000 people.
“This horrific event was so huge in scope, I think it must effectively represent the presence of a huge crowd,” Botten said. “Obviously, a cast of thousands is out of the question, but using even a few hundred, enhanced by today’s incredible CGI capabilities, might do the trick.”
The latest script revision, “The Law Lover,” explores the events of 1920 primarily from the perspective of Duluth Police Sergeant Oscar Olson, who led the effort to rescue the three young black men.
Botten’s goal in the adaptation is to stay true to the common thread of the story in Fedo’s 224-page book.
“In this thread, six innocent young black men are suspected of a crime. Three of them have never had the right to their trial, as provided for in the Constitution. A huge crowd forms to lynch them. A relatively small number of police, firefighters and civilians tried in vain to stop them. That’s the plot thread,” he said. “The poetic license used to describe this plot thread does not alter it.”
Botten is currently working with local, regional and West Coast film staff to find a producer or studio to secure financing for the film.