June 14, 2003 - City Paper: Estonia RPCV Douglas Wells: The Bell—Going Hollywood

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Estonia: The Peace Corps in Estonia: June 14, 2003 - City Paper: Estonia RPCV Douglas Wells: The Bell—Going Hollywood

By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, June 14, 2003 - 12:44 pm: Edit Post

Estonia RPCV Douglas Wells: The Bell—Going Hollywood

Estonia RPCV Douglas Wells: The Bell—Going Hollywood

The Bell—Going Hollywood

The saga of the bell of Emmaste (see here) is a story that is still little known out side Estonia. So far, anyway. But one Hollywood production company believes that with its mixture of history and personal drama, it is a story that is uniquely suited to capture the imagination of the world. Critical Mass Films announced recently that it intends to produce a movie about the bell; the working title for the film is: Freedom's Ring. Douglas

Wells (photo), who helped find the bell when he was with the U.S. Peace Corps in Estonia, has been working closely with the Hollywood group to develop a script. CITY PAPER recently asked Wells-now a Hong Kong-based U.S. diplomat-about the project.

CITY PAPER: There have been a number of attempts to make movies based in the Baltic states. By most accounts, they've all been pretty bad. The history is usually off and the acting has been mediocre at best. Are you confident the movie about this bell will be better?

It couldn't be any worse. But seriously, this film would be different because it really happened and it's based on a story by someone who knows this country. It'd be better because it's a true story, and true stories are always more compelling.

CITY PAPER: Can you talk about actors being sought?

I've been asked not to.

CITY PAPER: What are some of the difficulties of trying to produce a movie about Estonia?

People always want to change the story to fit their world view. One guy wanted to have the story be about some African-American from Mississippi going to the Czech Republic.

Another felt there had to be a "Jewish angle," that the villagers should be sheltering a Jewish family from the Nazis.

CITY PAPER: Would most of the movie be filmed on location in Hiiumaa or in Hollywood studios?

At first I was adamant that it be filmed in Hiiumaa. But now, I'm not so sure. I have a hard time imagining a whole production crew suddenly, along with hordes of media, showing up in Hiiumaa. It would be like dropping an atom bomb on the island.

CITY PAPER: Is it your hope that this movie helps promote Estonia?


CITY PAPER: Whether it does promote Estonia presumably depends on whether it actually turns out to be a good movie, right?

Well, I'll tell you straight out: if it doesn't look like it's going to be a good movie and if it doesn't help promote Estonia and the Peace Corps, then it's not going to get made. I could have put a five-figure sum in my pocket last year if I would have been willing to just sell the rights to this story and walk away. But that's not the way this thing is going to work. I have some conditions-and that's often turned out to be a stumbling block. I want the film to take place in Estonia and I want it to present Estonians and the Peace Corps in a positive light. Those demands don't sound unreasonable to me, but you'd be surprised. People in Hollywood just want to slap the money on the table and then have their way with the story.

CITY PAPER: There was talk that the film could be at theaters all around the world by Christmas.

Not by Christmas this year, that's for sure. It's impossible to say how long this will take. Films can take years from the time the script is written to the time they hit the screen. If the right person hears about the story and decides it will work as a movie, then the thing will take off. It's in God's hands, and I have faith that the film will eventually be

made-just like the bell was eventually found.

See The Christmas Bell of Emmaste.

Dougals Wells recently published an anthology of true-life stories from his years in Estonia. The book, In Search of the Elusive Peace Corps Moment-Destination: Estonia, is published by Xlibris; to order the book, go to www2.xlibris.com.

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Story Source: City Paper

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Estonia; Writers - Estonia



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