Meet The Artist of “Bounty Momma”

This week in Meet The Artist, we’re featuring the producer and actors from a brand new web series, Bounty Momma.

Wendy Keeling, Director and Producer, kindly agreed to a blog post in which I could highlight the series. In researching the production, I was simply amazed at the depth and breadth of the talent involved. I knew one of them from another website, so I thought I would just introduce you to the amazing cast and show you the YouTube trailer.  This is good stuff.

“A hot redneck momma pursues criminals with her dimwitted family to bring home the bounty,” is how one would describe the show. Twyla Sue Dollarhide, aka “Bounty Momma”, is a no-nonsense southern firecracker with a reality show who, despite the incompetence of her gun-toting lamebrain family and film crew, proudly boasts that she “always gets her man”! 

The rest of the Dollarhide family is played by Isaiah Stratton (Daryl Dollarhide), William Ryan Watson (Grady Dollarhide), Levi Montgomery (Diesel Dollarhide), and Gillian Fitzgerald (Jerilyn Dollarhide).

Wendy Keeling is quite a prolific actor, artist, director, and producer out of Nashville, Tennessee. Her skills also reach to Casting, Set Design, and Production Management.

The short played the Nashville Film Festival in April, and is a selection at the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival in Wilmington, North Carolina in June. You still have time to catch it there.

Head on over to the Bounty Momma site here to find out about their fund-raising efforts to bring the complete Season 1 to the web.  In addition, Wendy’s adding some pretty fun stuff, T-shirts and the like, that will be available on the site soon.  So keep this production in mind and visit often.

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18 Comments

  1. Pam

    Yes, there is abuse within the poor community. It’s terrible and we all know about it. What is hidden and not so obvious is the middle and upper class. I had a friend, upper middle class, that was abused. Nobody knew. When she finally started talking about it people did not believe her. When she went into the court system, he had more money to fight her with. This film is great because it brings the less obvious to our attention. I don’t see the redneck, hillbilly stuff you speak of. This is a great film!

  2. Sandra

    Caught this at the Nashville Film Fest in April. Much of the audience was appalled, especially those of us who call The South home. The show smacks of classism and redneck stereotypes that are full of contempt. It’s tone-deaf and offensive, lacking the sincerity and complexity of hillbilly and “redneck” representations from JUSTIFIED and O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU? to lighter fare like SNUFFY SMITH and HEE HAW. I was embarrassed this is what out-of-town filmmakers saw as an example of Tennessee film.

    I’m not really surprised as Ms. Keeling’s last effort, a short about domestic violence alled “Self-Offense” suffers from many of the same simplicities–ignoring the role of poverty and education in hostile domestic situations while positing a self-defense class targeted to white, upper-middle class women as a serious solution to a problem that largely affects the working poor and minorities. Nashville is a burgeoning town of strong male AND FEMALE filmmakers. No good can come from endorsing these types of projects as indicative of what we have to offer.

    • Sandra,

      I can’t speak to the content of Bounty Momma, but I can speak to the content of ‘Self Offense’ as one of the writers. Perhaps you didn’t catch the character that was poverty-stricken after losing her husband? Either way, when Wendy and I sat down to write this film we thought of situations that people might not have seen on the screen before. We tried to think of under-represented groups of people who haven’t had their abuses publicly displayed (adult daughter abused by senior mother, continued victimization, LGBT abuse situations, recently impoverished abuse situations, etc) and tried to combine them in a way that didn’t demean or detract from their situations, but empower them.

      Wendy, always a pleasure working with you and I cannot wait to see Bounty Momma. Knowing you (and having worked with you for many years now), I am certain it’s hilarious, fun, and tells a great message through a good story.

      -R

      • Kelly

        I wasn’t sure where to post. I wish Wendy well, but this all seems out of hand. I’ve never seen a director go on social media pages and invite her followers to pile on someone who made a negative comment that was pretty polite.

        I’ve seen the movie and have worked with women’s shelters for years. I didn’t hate “SO” when I saw it and just found it like any other movie that stretches reality. However after seeing Robert’s comments and other comments about “the poor community,” the movie is bothering me. A huge majority of women who are abused are from lower class backgrounds and don’t have the means to escape their abuser. They are not just poor when they leave and suddenly are able to afford an expensive group class. They can’t afford food daily. These women’s stories aren’t told because stories of poor people don’t make money at the box office. The story of middle class women who are abused has been told so many times: The Burning Bed, Sleeping with the Enemy, Law and Order, CSI, Enough, Boyhood, The Slap, and the Tina Turner movie. Anyone can tell any story they want, but Wendy has marketed this as a serious statement about domestic abuse meant to raise awareness. But the film doesn’t represent those who are most abused. It would be like if a director made a movie about how hard it is when cops stop white stock brokers in Baltimore or Ferguson. I’m sure it happens, but it’s offensive to people who struggle with it daily. The fact that Wendy can’t seem to take criticism and calls it “hate mail” has lowered my opinion of the movie even more.

        I didn’t see Bounty Momma, but friends did. They said it was more a parody of low class Southerners than reality TV. I’ve corrected impressions of Tennessee one too many times when traveling for this to be funny. I’m fine with a little Jeff Foxworthy or Beverly Hillbillies, but those redneck characters are in on the joke and telling it themselves. It’s not fun or parody if it’s mean-spirited and filled with stereotypes.

    • I haven’t seen Bounty Momma which is the original topic of this blog post, but it sounds really fun in that junkfood reality tv satire kind of way. Maybe it’s the This is Spinal Tap answer to Dog the Bounty Hunter!

      As to this being a good representation of Southern filmmaking, that’s your opinion which you are of course justified in having. Wendy Keeling is not the first filmmaker to make fun of reality tv, of Dog the Bounty Hunter and his wife, or of the south. Not everyone sees it as a noble place to live. I myself see it as a historically noble place to live that was taking advantage of exploiting half of its population; then after the Civil War ended slavery, everyone was just poverty-stricken. Today the film industry using the beautiful locations can add another industry to the older farming and mining staples and in cooperation with the music scene in Nashville could be turning the economy around! Not all films have to be documentaries or glorify Southern history. They can just be for fun and fantasy while still creating new companies and jobs in this region.

      I *have* seen Self Offense, which is NOT the topic of this blog post. Sandra and others who have worked with victims have a good cause and I am sure they feel they are fighting for the victims when they attack Wendy’s films. What they don’t know about Wendy that I learned when I met her at the Alhambra Theatre Film Festival in Indiana is that she’s very cause driven and wants to be a force for good in this world. She’s very energetic as a sculptor when she’s not making films and she’s driven to see her visions through to reality. I’m sure she wanted to excite the audience but offending people was not the point of making this film.

      While I don’t agree with bringing up an off-topic film in an unrelated thread, those who have worked with victims of abuse have valid points about Self Offense being unrealistic. There is a larger discussion on the internet about whether self defense classes are a solution to domestic violence, and I personally do not believe they are as good of a solution as getting out of the relationship and living with someone who is not abusive, but you will find lots of information here, including a book that suggests self defense classes help survivors avoid being re-victimized because the physicality of martial arts helps with depression and connecting the training to increased safety helps with self esteem. ( Scholar search “self defense for victims of abuse” with results since 2011: https://scholar.google.com/scholar?as_ylo=2011&q=self+defense+victims+of+abuse&hl=en&as_sdt=0,18 )

      So maybe self defense is part of the solution, but I can also see how someone watching the film would see it as an oversimplification of the issue which is a complicated social discussion and very important cause. I do not believe that a self defense class works as a complete solution to domestic violence, only as prevention of further violence. Only leaving the relationship and being with someone who is not abusive can end domestic violence, as retaliation generally leads to more retaliation. And it’s not a solution for trauma victims who can’t be exposed to violent situations without flashing back to a feeling of helplessness in an abusive situation. Victims need a grounding source of stability and support, I believe from what I have read and heard about abuse. Disclaimer: I have never worked with victims. I just read books and online discussions, and much of the literature on this subject needs to be updated with info from those with recent research and experience. What is said in the 2000s on the internet is night and day different from the 70s books at my public library, particularly on the topic of whether victims should be encouraged to talk about or confront their abusers. It can’t be forced and it is not your decision if it didn’t happen to you.

      I contrarywise applaud the film for showing less common situations of abuse, particularly the parental abuse of adult children, and for its Sin City-like color correction to show emotions of the characters and personalize them in a desensitized, depressing situation. Someone should be looking at these situations that don’t make sense and trying to make sense of them. I think what the film did best was to express the utter hopelessness of these situations and the frustration that builds to a point of wanting to fight back. This works for aggressive alpha personalities maybe but is not to be encouraged for those suffering from depression or PTSD.

      Having said that, the answer to this film is to educate, not criticize Wendy. I’m not the person to do that, but I hope those who have worked with victims of abuse can calm their tempers and quietly give answers, not just label the filmmaker. You’ll find people are more willing to hear reason when you bring answers and not problems. I’m sure Wendy will make more movies that may even answer the criticism. And in the meanwhile, you can write longform articles analyzing Self Offense and connecting it to points in your training and personal experience (allowing for the privacy of people involved to protect them). The answer to artistic expression you don’t like is not to suppress it but to spell out what you think its larger social effect is and to answer it with your own art or analysis.

      • Sandra

        I hadn’t planned on commenting again, Teresa, but I appreciate you giving Ms. Keeling the benefit of the doubt.

        It seems you met Ms. Keeling in Indiana, so I hope it’s safe to assume you aren’t from the South (if not, your assessment of our economy leads me to believe so). The South in general hosts the most film and TV productions in the world. Nashville is the nation’s most stable and fastest growing economy. We have Harmony Korine, Nicole Kidman, Callie Khouri, and numerous prominent music video and commercial directors. Ms. Keeling’s films are not going to make Nashville a Mecca for film production. It’s as big as we want it right now and our goal is to foster unique visions and voices with our modest yet appealing tax credits and keep artists in the state. We don’t want every film to be a documentary about Southern roots. We want them all to be unique, Southern-tinged stories like those told by the great network of filmmakers currently working in Austin and gaining international acclaim–not just films achieving random shotgun success at lower-level festivals outside the state.

        This is why I feel Ms. Keeling’s films may do more harm than good. Imagine if PARKS AND RECREATION lacked heart and sincerity and just presented Indianians as obese, uncultured lovers of your governor’s original religious freedom law. That’s what BOUNTY MOMMA does for Tennessee every time Ms. Keeling shows it at a festival, especially outside our region. When I saw the pilot at the Nashville Film Festival, I heard a couple refer to it as the equivalent of blackface for white Southerners. I think that is a fair assessment. It’s not clean fun. It’s not a parody because its humor comes from mocking its characters, not DOG and similar entries in the reality TV genre. It’s not a satire because it makes light of social issues instead of pointing out their hypocrisies. It’s a mean-spirited assault on Southerners from a Key West transplant who is very vocal about how closed-minded people in her adoptive hometown are.

        Ms. Keeling’s work on SELF OFFENSE is not the subject of the original entry, but its simplistic representation of a marginalized group is relevant to what is clearly an issue in all of Keeling’s projects. I’ve not had direct experience with domestic abuse victims. Still, it doesn’t take someone with first-hand experience to see the film is problematic. Ms. Keeling may be cause-driven and desire to be a force for good, but if so, what good could it possibly do to simplify an issue to the point that the people most affected according to every set of statistics are completely excluded and then pass off the resulting film off as a genuine attempt to raise awareness? The writer and Ms. Keeling may claim that they are telling stories that haven’t been previously told because they threw in token references to te elderly and LGBT community. The fact remains that the film is a largely white, heteronormative film in which even these stabs at diversity are clearly coming from that privileged perspective. Worse still, elder abuse is a widespread epidemic that, unlike the narratives of upper-middle class women escaping domestic abuse, is ignored. The film is literally a black and white take on the issue that plays on cheap emotion.

        What’s most sad about this issue is that it seems Ms. Keeling doesn’t want to become better at her craft. When met with legitimate criticisms such as mine, her response is to rally her social media fans to attack me rather than think about potential blind spots in her work. I don’t want to silence her or stop her from making films. I just want her to think about the way she represents people who don’t have the agency or means to represent themselves on screen.

        Or maybe I just “didn’t get” what she was trying to do.

        • There are a lot of good points here and then an attack of craft that is personal.

          If a film isn’t the right message, others may be found. Your insinuation that a creative person should stop trying to say the right message without continuing to practice saying it better is a poisonous line of commentary which stifles creativity. I wish you would focus on promoting culture you want to see instead of censoring someone else’s creative development, because as important as the topic of Self Offense is, I think it’s more important to generate discussions and drive others to make a better film than it is to refrain from engaging it as a subject. Really, the worst that can happen to any of these films is that they will be ignored.

          Ms. Keeling didn’t send me though I did read a rant on her Facebook. I commented due to personal philosophy on art critiques which stresses having an equal number of positive and negative comments to say and a point of growth from the negatives such that an artist is less likely to take the critique as a critique of their person and more likely to give the critic’s perspective a chance.

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