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Fri, Dec. 06

Be part of the Lights! Camera! Action!
Slack and Smith, with help from old-time Chloride, can make you a star in your own western

Kirk Slack (left) and Jim "Pistol Packin' Jim" Smith are the co-founders of Out West Family Films. They are shown posing in front of the "Wild West town" set in Chloride Friday morning.
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Kirk Slack (left) and Jim "Pistol Packin' Jim" Smith are the co-founders of Out West Family Films. They are shown posing in front of the "Wild West town" set in Chloride Friday morning. <b><a href="Formlayout.asp?formcall=userform&form=20"target="_blank">Click here to purchase this image as a print or photo gift</a></b>

CHLORIDE - A documentary film maker and his gun-slinging compadre are hoping to turn the historic mining town of Chloride into the set for countless short Western films, casting tourists in the starring roles.

Kirk Slack and Jim Smith are the co-founders of Out West Family Films, a business that combines Slack's filmmaking experience with Smith's gunfighting connections, giving tourists the chance to star in their own celluloid shootouts in the middle of downtown Chloride.

Slack said he first got the idea late last year in Oatman, where he went to document Smith's gunfighting troupe, Longcoats and Lace, as they put on a show for the tourists there. As he filmed, Slack said his eyes were drawn to the looks on tourists' faces as they watched the action.

"We thought it'd be neat if the tourists could do it with some of the actors," Slack said. "We figured we'd be doing something for tourists and for the town. Every tourist I talked to about it said 'Wow, that's a really good idea!'"

For months afterward, the two men wondered whether they could really pull such a business off. "We thought about this, and thought about it, and figured, if we don't try it, we'll never know," Smith said.

So the duo sought and received the go-ahead from the Chloride Historical Society to film in a portion of town designed to resemble the main thoroughfare of an old Western mining camp, complete with saloon and livery.

"The locals built this about 10 years ago, and every Saturday at high noon, they'd put on some gunfights," Slack said. "Now, we can use it anytime except Saturdays from noon to 1."

For weeks, Slack and Smith spent their days repairing the building facades, and even setting up new "buildings" in order to block the view of any cars that might ruin the sense of immersion. Then in May, on a return trip to Oatman, they found their first chance at a test run in Martin and Carol Frost, a British couple who jumped at the chance to shoot some desperados.

That first film was short and very tongue-in-cheek, with frequent anachronistic ad-libs, such as when Martin throws in an Elton John reference right before he guns down a saloon piano player. But Smith said that kind of camp is part of the fun of old West reenactments, and something his own gunfighting troupe frequently employs in its skits.

"The seriousness, you can stay home and watch TV for that," he said. "(Martin) was just a natural at it."

Even after the successful test video, Slack admitted the business is still very much in its infancy. He and Smith are continuing to work on several different skits they hope to eventually upload to their Web site, www.outwestfamilyfilms.com. As the business takes off, Slack said he wants to add more sound and musical options to the video post-production process and continue increasing his supply of props and costumes. Eventually, he said, he wants to start pre-shooting footage with local actors so that all he has to do is film the tourists, then drop the new footage in to complete the film.

"What we want to do is to start showing some of our films in the theater here," Slack said. "And we're open to options if somebody has some ideas they want to try out. None of the scripts will be set in stone, so if they want to ad-lib something, that's fine, so long as they say the key words."

Slack and Smith hope to have their business open by the weekend of Sept. 5 and 6. Slack said he plans to film from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, though he will also agree to film during the week by appointment only.

For more information on Out West Family Films, visit their Web site or call Slack at (928) 565-9755 or Smith at (928) 565-9742.

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