Tilly McCray is the hero every woke woman wishes she had growing up, says Colorado-based creator and screenwriter Lindsay Sparks.
“Film’s been such a male-dominated medium for so long that I think our perception of who women are and what they can be and everything about them is through this lens of a male’s perspective,” Sparks says. “I feel like the narrative is so different when you take it from a female’s perspective.”
So Sparks wrote The Great Divide, a full-length independent film that follows Colorado outlaw Tilly McCray and her gang in 1879, from Golden down to Manitou Springs and old Colorado City. They reach Cripple Creek right before gold is discovered on Pikes Peak. Billed as a gothic Western, the female-driven story will be gritty and dark, set to the tune of the Centennial State’s modern music scene.
Sparks began writing the script last year while on vacation in the Turks and Caicos Islands north of the Dominican Republic.
“I had this really strong imagery come into my head, and it ended up becoming the very first scene in the screenplay,” Sparks says. “I’m like, I’m just going to write this one thing; I have to get it out. And then my husband’s going back and forth on the kayak in the bay, back and forth, back and forth — and there I am on the wi-fi.”
Sparks remembers falling in love with Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park in her family's living room, with the first Dolby surround sound system.
“We had the subwoofers, and you could feel the dinosaurs, the rumbling of the dinosaurs stomping around,” Spark remembers. “Those kinds of things are so visceral and make such an impact.
“I feel like this is what happened to the most recent Jurassic World,” she continues, adding that she remains a fan. “I feel like they had all the money in the world, and it shows. It’s like they over-spent. Some of the earlier films, you know, it’s like they’re scrappy, and they have more life to them because they had to work with certain limits, and that feeds their creativity.”
Sparks remembers being as amazed at the behind-the-scenes footage as she was at the film itself. From watching the crew waterproof an enormous animatronic T-Rex head to figuring out how to make Jeff Goldblum's cup of water ripple, she admired how every problem on the Jurassic Park set forced the crew to come up with an innovative solution.
“When you have so much money, you end up throwing money at problems instead of creativity around problems; then it can really show,” Sparks says.
Back home in Colorado over the summer, Sparks and her team shot some preliminary footage at Deer Creek Canyon Park, where they ran into that sort of unique limitation: stage-two fire bans.
“There’s this night scene, and Tilly and the misfits, they’re sitting around this campfire, and my director comes to me, and she’s like, 'We really want a campfire,' and I had to tell her: Jefferson County is in a very, very strict fire ban right now,” Sparks says. “There will be no fires."
“I swear you would never know,” Sparks confesses. “That was this magic that happened because all these creatives came together.”
As they continue filming, Sparks hopes to highlight more of the state’s forgotten history, including a cabin built in 1888 and nearly forgotten in the mountains.
“The Molly Brown House is awesome — don’t get me wrong," Sparks says. "But what’s equally cool or even more so is being able to find these hidden gems that people don’t normally get to see every day and being able to share those on film."
The Great Divide film crew is crowdfunding its budget through Tuesday, November 13, and will begin shooting next fall.