Production notes and film clips

It has been some time since I first thought about doing a film about Shalam Colony and John Newbrough. Laura Thompson helped me see the value in this project and shared her interest in the community. At the Renaissance Fair in 2007, I found out more about the colony at the Shalam Mystery Museum booth.  LesLee Alexander and Tom Deuley provided a wealth of information about the strange and mysterious community that left its mark along the banks of the Rio Grande over 100 years ago. I was fascinated by John Newbrough, his revelation and struggle to create a colony of enlightened human beings. I immediately began to make plans to develop resources and explore everything about Shalam and Newbrough. I interviewed everyone I could find that knew something about the community.  It was quite an adventure talking with Jon Hunner, George Lockhart, Pat Becket, Linda Harris and others. In addition nationally recognized scholars Lawrence Foster (Georgia Tech), Peter Rachlef (MaCalester University) and Timothy Miller (University of Kansas) were interviewed to provide the broader historical context.

Clip One gives you a glimpse into the search for land and                         Clip Two looks at life in Mesilla Valley in the late 1800’s.

considerations for making the pilgrimage to New Mexico in 1884

One of my outstanding students at NMSU, Luke Wilbanks, volunteered to help with production and proved to be very effective in setting up and shooting interviews and B-roll. Luke’s work is prominently featured in the film.  He and I shot all kinds of interviews with local history buffs, historians, relatives of orphans, farmers and museum curators. We shot a dozen reenactment scenes where we relied on a group of civil war re-enactors connected with Friends of Fort Selden and local actor/artist Bob Diven. These folks were immensely helpful in recreating events that transpired during the Shalam experiment. John Smith was a huge help with talent, props, locations and costumes. I enjoyed shooting the landscape footage and capturing the beauty and ruggedness of the Mesilla Valley; it has the most animated sky I have ever seen.  It’s always dancing, talking, thundering or calming. It’s the thing I miss most about living in the Southwest.

When I moved to the twin cities, I enlisted the help from local professionals to carry on the work. William Allen worked with me for a summer editing and pulling together the basic story. Most recently Lucas Langworthy has been assisting with editing. Both have added their outstanding insights and professional skill to this story. Two local churches have provided help with the music.  The choirs from Parkview United Church of Christ and Hamline Community Church performed two Faithist hymns that are featured.  Dakota Dave Hull

provides leadership with scoring the music and performs original arrangements of period songs.

I don’t think any project has been this hard or this much fun.  

Robin Riley


Clip Four presents the star of the show, Mikayla Nunez only a few days after her birth.

Clip Three looks into the mysterious mother of Shalam, Francis