A version of this column appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman. To read my review of the movie, click here.
Column: The coming-of-age rodeo drama opens in state and regional cinemas Friday.
“I’ve always wanted to be in movies. Always,” Devin Derrick said with grin moments after watching his big-screen debut Sunday at the Cinemark Tinseltown theater.
“I was at the right place at the right time.”
Oklahoma turned out to be just the right place for the coming-of-age rodeo drama “Cowgirls N’ Angels,” which filmed last year in Stillwater, Guthrie, Oklahoma City and Pawnee and opens Friday (today) in state and regional cinemas.
The debut feature from director Timothy Armstrong, who co-wrote the script with “The Omega Code” scribe Stephan Blinn, “Cowgirls N’ Angels” tells the tale of young Ida Clayton (Bailee Madison, “Just Go With It”), a feisty small-town Oklahoma girl who longs to know her father, a rodeo rider she’s never met. While searching for her dad at the local arena, she connects with the Sweethearts of the Rodeo, a female trick riding team led by rodeo legend Terence Parker (Oscar nominee James Cromwell, “Babe”). Recognizing that Ida has a natural affinity for horses and a strong desire to belong somewhere, Terence recruits the girl into the Sweethearts.
“The movie’s got a great message,” said Derrick, an Edmond country singer who has three songs in the film along with a featured cameo.
Several state musicians, actors and other contributors to the film gathered for the Oklahoma City premiere Sunday at Tinseltown. The screening was presented by local radio station KOMA-FM 92.5, which was appropriate since the station’s program director and morning show co-host Kent Jones has a small role as a doctor. in “Cowgirls N’ Angels.”
“I get cast a lot as doctor, dad, dentist, attorney, businessman. Those kinds of roles, and I enjoy those,” said Jones, who in the past nine years has developed a second career as an actor in independent features, commercials and industrial films and has even co-produced and edited a short film.
“Ever since I was a kid I loved movies and I wanted to be an actor. I was an actor in community theater, in school productions, but I wanted to be in movies. That was always my childhood dream. I went into radio as a way to perform, have fun and have a steady job. But the film bug had never left me.”
“Cowgirls N’ Angels” is the biggest and most widely distributed film of his acting and moviemaking career, and he got to see it for the first time Sunday with his wife, Barbara, and his daughter, Melanie.
“Being a good family film, it’s something that I could be really proud to be a part of,” Jones said. “I’ve always been real close to my daughter, who’s 21 now, and it was very touching for me.”
The production used a 35 percent Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate, administered by the state, according to the Oklahoma Film and Music Office. It also was eligible to receive an additional 2 percent offered by the state for including music in the film created by Oklahomans.
“It’s great for Oklahoma,” Jones said. “I love seeing films made here. We have a lot of good talent in the state, both behind the scenes and on camera.”
Singer/songwriter/pianist Maggie McClure, who hails from Norman, doesn’t appear
onscreen during the film, but her uplifting anthem “Good Morning and Good Night” plays in almost its entirety with the opening credits of “Cowgirls N’ Angels.”
After shooting the movie in the Sooner State, the filmmakers contacted the state film and music office for recommendations of Oklahoma musicians whose songs could be featured in the film. McClure’s name was on the list, and they liked the sound of “Good Morning and Good Night.” She said producer Ben Feingold emailed her out of the blue about a year ago about using the song for the opening theme.
“I’m just thrilled that they were even interested in using my music because … a lot of the music in the movie was country. And my music is not country, so I feel really lucky to be in the movie,” said McClure, who recently relocated to Los Angeles with her musician-husband Shane Henry.
She and actress/musician Alicia Witt, who plays Ida’s mother in the “Cowgirls N’ Angels,” performed last month at the after-party for the film’s world premiere at the Dallas International Film Festival. She and Witt will reunite and perform together again June 3 when they share the bill at Oklahoma City’s Blue Door.
McClure also played before Sunday’s Tinseltown screening and then between races at nearby Remington Park. spreading the word about the film to horse lovers there.
“It’s a really awesome, random, exciting opportunity,” she said. “This is the first experience with my music being a movie and the fact that it was filmed in my home state is just really, really special.” So many people involved with movie are from Oklahoma. It just really means a lot to me to be involved in something that represents my home state.”
For fellow singer Derrick, “Cowgirls N’ Angels” marked the start of a budding indie film career as well as an opportunity to relocate to his home state.
The Oklahoma native lived and performed in Las Vegas for two years, and when he heard about “Cowgirls N’ Angels” filming in his home state, he just had to come back and try out at the open audition. He was cast as an extra.
“And then it went to a featured extra and then it went to my music being in the movie,” Derrick said. “We were sitting there in the bleachers in the Lazy E Arena, and the director is down in the arena and he’s walking around and he’s looking at all of us up there. And he walks back and forth and he goes, ‘You, come here,’ out of all the people. So I go down there. … It was just wow, one of those deals.”
The Edmond resident’s still not sure how Armstrong and his crew knew he was a musician, but before he knew it, three of his songs had been tapped for the movie, including “Certifiably Crazy” from his forthcoming album “I Hate Lovin’ It,” due out June 1.
His appearance in “Cowgirls N’ Angels” led to a series of small parts in more Oklahoma-made indie movies, including “Yellow,” “Innocent Revenge, “Hay Days” and “The Unrest.” He was just cast in the lead role in the sci-fi Western “No Rest for the Wicked,” which starts filming in October in Santa Fe, N.M.
“It was just a really good time filming the movie. Everybody was so down-to-earth,” he said of making “Cowgirls N’ Angels.” “It’s been really fast (since then). It’s been really fun.”