Independent filmmaker uses Niles as backdrop

Published 7:01 am Monday, March 1, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Independent filmmaker Nick Jones' current film has taken him to shooting locations all across the Michiana area with his latest stop being at Niles City Hall.
His film, "The Exodusters," is based on the book he wrote in 2003. Not only did he write the script, he is also directing, producing and starring in the made-for-television Western.
Jones, a 59-year-old South Bend, Ind., native, said his project will mark the first Western to ever be filmed in our area.
Like his book, the film is historical fiction and centers on "a middle-aged, college-educated, African American gunman" named Walter Jackson.
After talking with Fort St. Joseph Museum director Carol Bainbridge about possible historical filming sites, Jones thought the historic aspect of the Niles City Hall would provide an ideal place to film a scene for his movie.
On Sunday Feb. 22, he and his crew spent more than three hours at the city hall filming a scene that involved Jackson and his love interest.
The film has also taken him to such shooting locales as Potato Creek State Park in Indiana and private farms in both St. Joseph County and Benton Harbor.
Westerns have always been an interest for Jones. He has done extensive research on the American West and the involvement of African Americans during that period of our history.
He noticed a void of African Americans in Hollywood Westerns and wanted to do something about it.
Jones thinks Hollywood has created a false sense of realty of what the American West was really like.
He started filming the movie last year and hopes to be done by June.
Jones is paying for the film out of his own pocket and would not say how much money it has cost him so far.
He plans to start out by showing the film on network television in both Chicago and Los Angeles.
Prior to filming, Jones flew to Los Angeles to meet with the local WB network affiliates to pitch the idea for his film. He also went to Chicago to talk with a local network affiliate.
Jones was aiming for the large television markets and with Chicago and Los Angeles stations on board, he has got the second and third largest markets in the country.
The money he receives from the film will come from advertisers who choose to run commercials during the presentation of his film.
His first film, "Bass Reeves," was shot in 1994 and centers on the first black U.S. Deputy Marshal in America.
The film saw some limited television air time, but Jones hopes to air it again on the same stations that pick up "The Exodusters."
Jones said the hat, gun and gunbelt used during the filming of "Bass Reeves" are now on display at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.
Jones, who resides in South Bend, currently works for the Residential Services of Southwest Michigan in Niles as as a case manager for their Path Program, which works with our area's homeless. He holds degrees in psychology and sociology and is working on finishing doctorate in sociology from Hamilton University.