On August 21, 2017, thousands of people from around the world gathered in Scotts Bluff County to witness one of nature’s most breathtaking sights: a total solar eclipse. South of the monument, local landowners Lisa Betz-Marquez and her husband Frank Marquez have prepared to welcome eclipse lovers to their farm in Gering for a weekend to remember. Little did Betz-Marquez know it, he was about to get even more memorable.
“We were busy getting ready to receive campers from all over the world, not really knowing what to expect,” Betz-Marquez said. “I was thinking about every conceivable security issue I could and scoping out tent locations, when two unexpected opportunities presented themselves,” she said.
The first of these opportunities was to host South Dakota-based Lakota tribesman Rick Gray Grass for drumming, storytelling and communal meals. The second was to host a feature film cast and crew for on-farm filming.
“Frank had National Guard duties in Wyoming this weekend, so my friend Rae Ann Schmitz offered to co-host,” Betz-Marquez said. “It was Rae Ann who reached out to the Lakota.”
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Together, Schmitz and Betz-Marquez worked hard to cook meals that would be shared among the many visitors to the farm that weekend.
“We were crazy dealing with all these details, and then I got a call from local filmmaker Becky McMillen, who was looking for locations for an eclipse film,” Betz-Marquez said.
McMillen was working with producers Debra Lord Cooke and Elissa Piszel, also the film’s lead actresses, to find the ideal location for the film’s main characters in the pinnacle scene, the Great American Eclipse viewing.
“How could I say no?” said Betz-Marquez.
With Dome Rock and South Bluff as a backdrop, Valley View Farm provided the perfect site. With just two days to prepare, Betz-Marquez also agreed to include the cast and crew in communal meals.
An actress herself, Betz-Marquez was offered the role of a Nebraska farmer offering directions to the main characters when they get lost on back roads. Chief Gray Sage and his companions were also added to the film. The scene featuring Betz-Marquez fell to the cutting room floor after the Maine Film Festival requested the film be shortened, but she was thrilled to win a list of actors on the database IMDB for film professionals.
“In the Moon’s Shadow” (ITMS) is a comedy drama about two estranged sisters, Lisa and Karen. Older sister Lisa is a workaholic from New York and Karen is a recent widow hiding out at the family’s summer cabin in Maine. In response to Karen’s call, Lisa joins her at the cabin, where the two decide to go to Nebraska to witness the upcoming rarity of a total solar eclipse in the northern hemisphere. Karen’s deceased husband, Tom, had been an eclipse hunter, and their estranged daughter Emily joins the two women in Nebraska to distribute her father’s ashes.
“It’s a beautiful film, full of heart and authenticity,” Betz-Marquez said. “It’s a huge thrill to see the local landscape so well highlighted and beautifully in the film. My favorite scene is the eclipse scene. It’s like being there and reliving the eclipse once again, with goosebumps.
The film is now available for free to Amazon Prime members. Betz-Marquez highly recommends it.
“It’s the story of sisters separated, of healing and the joy that comes after, told in a meaningful and human way,” she said.
The film is ably directed by Alvin Case, who also co-wrote the screenplay with his brother, Edward Case. Scottsbluff resident Becky McMillen of Insight Creative Independent Productions served as unit production manager and Scottsbluff resident James Patrick Maag served as production assistant. Local couple Jake and Sharon Santero hosted the cast and crew during their stay in the area.
The film was nominated for Best Feature at the LA Femme International Film Festival.