Murray State University Graduate Prepares to Make "A Coalfield Christmas"
Murray State University graduate Julia Maddox is currently a film student at City College of New York. Her thesis project, "A Coalfield Christmas," is a short film inspired by her childhood in Madisonville, Kentucky. Maddox speaks to Tracy Ross about the project and its crowdfunding campaign.
Maddox explains that she's always enjoyed writing around holiday themes. When the time came to decide on her thesis project, she tried remembering her best Christmas memory.
"I was with my Mamaw Maddox," she says. "My Mamaw Maddox was a great woman. Just an incredibly strong woman. She always prioritized people over things."
Maddox and her grandmother were visiting their deceased family in the cemetery near her Mamaw's house. "As we get closer to the family plot, she sees this widow and her adult daughter standing at a fresh grave just crying. You could tell it was a week old. She yanks on the brank and hops out of the truck."
Maddox's grandmother walks over to the grieving women and starts to talk to them. "By the time those two women left," Maddox says, "they were laughing and happy. She had totally turned around their Christmas."
"After they leave, I look at her and say, 'Mamaw, how did you know to do that?' She says, 'honey, don't ever let anybody sit alone in their pain.' The hair on my arms stands up still when I think about it. And off we went."
"That's the story of "A Coalfield Christmas," Maddox says. "But I tack on at the end after we all leave, we have the ghost of the man who passed away, Gary, and the ghost of my grandfather, who was played by my father."
"I wanted to have both sides of my family involved if possible," she continues. Maddox was inspired by "Gasman" by Scottish director Lynne Ramsay. "She cast all family. None of them are professional actors."
Another benefit to casting local is a familiarity with the dialect, Maddox found. When Maddox first wrote the script and shared it with her screenwriting class, "we give out the parts, and I ask this guy to be my narrator. One of my wonderful classmates."
"He starts to read it, and he keeps saying Mamah, Mamah. And I'm like, it's Ma-maw. He's like, what? It's not French. One of my biggest struggles is trying to get people to say Ma-maw. They just can't do it. God bless these Yankee people that can't say Mamaw for nothing," Maddox laughs.
Maddox says the film honors her relatives and her home state. Murray and Madisonville natives make up the cast and crew. She is also calling on public support via a Seed & Spark crowdfunding campaign to ensure all individuals working on the film can be paid.
Maddox hopes to raise $20,000 for the short film. The funds will go toward film production, post-production, and film festival submissions and attendance.
You can find more information and donate by visiting the "A Coalfield Christmas" Seed & Spark page.