By David Esteppe
When Mary Jane Arnott Smith’s husband died from a wound received in the Battle of New Market, VA, during the Civil War, she took a pair of mules and a wagon 120 miles over Peter’s Mountain and through enemy lines to Virginia in the winter of 1865 to recover her husband’s remains and bring them home to Monroe County for burial.
It is an intriguing story about the character and courage of a woman in the midst of tragedy and political upheaval and a detailed account of the unique history and culture of small town southern West Virginia in the 19th century. It is a story which is now being made into an inspirational film for women, fathers, grandfathers, brothers, husbands and others who love them.
Joe B. Roles spoke to Lewisburg Rotary on Monday. He is the author of “Mary Jane’s War,” a historical novel based on the story. Roles is also president of the nonprofit Mary Jane’s War Film, Inc., which is fundraising to produce a one hour docu-drama about the state heroine. This will lead to a full-length motion picture.
Roles explained that both productions will be based and filmed in southern West Virginia. The docu-drama will air on PBS. He said he expects that being exposed on a nationally televised program will attract a broad range of investors in order to produce a first-class feature-length film here.
Roles is also interested in prodding the state of West Virginia to more aggressively attract Hollywood to the state. He said that there are three films in production right now in West Virginia, but Virginia completed 26 films last year. He thinks we could do the same or better.
“Hawaii spends over $100 million a year on its tourism budget. You wouldn’t think a worldwide destination spot like Hawaii would need to spend that kind of money on tourism, but they do,” says Roles. But, for a state like West Virginia, film-induced tourism creates publicity without cost to the state; for instance look at what the film “We Are Marshall” did for attracting tourists to the state. The American public has proven it will come to see where movies are made, Roles added.
The average movie employs about 55 people from a local area, not including extras, says Roles. Films also require local skills and the purchasing of local materials. Retail sales in food service, the hotel industry and many other related businesses all get a boost when a film is produced in the area.
“How can you help us help the State of West Virginia?” asks Roles. Sponsors for this film are needed, for one thing. For information about sponsoring the nonprofit, visit the website www.maryjaneswarfilm.org.
Another way you can help is by inviting Roles to come and speak to your organizations throughout West Virginia. He is sincerely passionate and knowledgeable about driving this state towards a major haul in tourism dollars by way of film production in the state. He can be reached by phone at 703-304-6100.