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Driven to tell the tale

BY DEBORAH GEERING

Fledgling screenwriter Mauriel Joslyn was sitting on the sidelines of a movie set at Indian Springs in Jackson in July 2005 watching her Jeep make it to the Big Time with her husband, Richard, at the wheel, when she had an epiphany.

"I thought, 'Wait a minute. I write screenplays -- what am I doing, sitting here watching them?'" she says.

Joslyn told the director she had some stories to pitch, and within just a few weeks, her writing career took a big leap forward.

The Sparta historian and writer, who had won awards for previous screenplays but had never seen one put to film, sold Atlanta director Owen Smith on the concept of "My Christmas Soldier" -- a fictional tale set in a real time, when thousands of German prisoners of war (POWs) were held in Georgia during World War II.

"Almost everybody in that generation in Georgia at least knew somebody who knew about the German soldiers," Joslyn says. "When I started talking to people, even my own mother said, 'Oh yeah, I remember the German soldiers.'"

Smith and Jeff Rose -- an Atlanta actor and writer who had collaborated with Smith on the Sugar Creek Gang feature film series and on "Battaglia," the film with Joslyn's Jeep -- loved the script. The three history buffs partnered up to co-produce the film.

As a World War II re-enactor, Joslyn had no trouble rounding up enthusiastic extras and authentic clothing. Smith was glad to have the experts on hand.

"I said, 'You guys are it; you're in charge. If anything is not authentic, speak up and we'll pull it off the screen,'" Smith says.

The re-enactors were able to ferret out a few historical inaccuracies, and some German speakers on the set kept the language true. With the exception of a few native German actors, most of the other actors -- English-speaking and German-speaking -- came from the Atlanta area.

The 36-minute film was shot last June at the restored train depot in Gordon and at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth. The result, Joslyn says, is an uplifting, family story with a lesson for modern times.

"The message is that there are good people everywhere," she says. "Sometimes the enemy is not always the bad guy when you get on common ground."

Deborah Geering is a freelance writer based in Decatur.

(See "Bringing home the enemy" for more on "My Christmas Soldier")

 

December 2006

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