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Pipestone to be featured in civil war docudrama

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PIPESTONE, Minn. -- A Superior, Wis., moviemaker will use the biennial Civil War reenactment here as a backdrop for a docudrama about the Craig brothers, young men who served during the war.

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Every two years, re-enactment troops filter into Pipestone with their muskets, flags and uniforms of Confederate gray and Union blue, but this coming August, Wes Kruse will be there to capture it on film.

He will use the opportunity to film parts of his movie called "Ryhthm and Courage," which tells the story of James Craig, a member of the 105th Pennsylvania Volunteers.

"He was a conscientious objector. He wanted to stay home and keep his family going," said Kruse, who owns KLP Studios based in Superior. "He refused to pick up a gun, but didn't want to be called a coward."

Craig, along with two brothers and a cousin, joined the same unit and marched out of town the same day.

"Once he got into the ranks he picked up a drum," Kruse said. "He organized the drum corps and became the drum major.

"As they marched through country sides and small towns they brought honor to the troops and built pride in a group of boys who drummed out courage in the face of danger," it states.

While the boys who played the drums which sent signals to their armies generally fell into an age range of 12 to 18, there were some as young as nine, and others in their 40s. Craig was 20 when he marched off to war, Kruse said.

He wanted to write something after hearing a piece of music that featured percussion. The composer of the piece told Kruse he had been thinking about the war when he wrote the music, and the drummer boy angle came to Kruse after reading a letter written by Craig.

For the docudrama, that one piece of music is carried throughout the whole film in different forms, swelling into the full orchestrated piece during the climax.

Using Pipestone for some of filming came about when Kruse was trying to get re-enactors to come to Superior.

"I was thinking people would just drop everything and come up here for a week," he said with a laugh. "It turns out people do this (re-enactment) as a weekend hobby."

Kruse came across a man who is head of the confederate camp in Pipestone and suggested the Minnesota location as an alternative.

"We came down and scoped out the scene, and thought it would be just beautiful," Kruse stated. "Everything just snowballed into a really cool thing."

Kruse and KLP Studios are still in the process of recruiting for the film, and hope to bring with them actors to play about 20 drummer boys between ages 9 to 23.

"We're putting out a call for local people, if they are interested in being drummer boys and have a period uniform and drum," Kruse said.

The studio will also be looking for extras to be the "audience" of a march from the Pipestone County Historical Museum to the courthouse lawn.

"They do a dance, a ball, on the courthouse lawn, so we asked if we could do a march," Kruse explained.

All of the drummer boys and Union soldiers, plus any Confederate soldiers who have Union uniforms and want to participate, will march down the street, while anyone with period dress looks on.

"The soldiers will be marching, the flags waving, the banners blowing," Kruse said. "We're also hoping we can get some teenage girls in period dress to bat there eyes at the drummer boys a little bit."

Kruse said he knows people will attend the dance in modern clothing also, but those pieces of film will end up on the editing room floor.

The studio is hoping to debut the film in Douglas County, Wis., and St. Louis County, then transition it into the independent film circuit and film festivals. The timing of the debut will be in conjunction with the Civil War's April 2011 sesquicentennial.

This will be Kruse's third film. A Christian filmmaker, his first documentary was about an alcoholic who found recovery through his faith. His second, shot in Tanzania, chronicles how small business loans made to women in poverty-stricken countries are enabling them to send their children to school and put food on the table.

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