Short Film Shot in Wise County to Screen in Bristol

October 12, 2019 @ Birthplace of Country Music Museum

“Ladies Most Deject,” a short film shot entirely in Wise County, is screening at Bristol’s PUSH Film Festival Oct. 12, at the Birthplace of Country Music.

When local writers Conner Wharton and Mark Salyer sat down to write a screenplay about the impact of the drug epidemic on children, the voices of teachers kept echoing. “We aren’t just teachers, we are social workers,” one local educator told them.

The film stars Wharton, a Wise native and student at UCLA, as Charlie, a 17-year-old girl who struggles to protect her two sisters and baby brother from an addict mother. A trusted teacher (played by local actress Robin Mullins) makes a difference in the lives of the children.

“Ladies Most Deject” is produced by ARAY (Appalachia Right At Ya) Productions, a company dedicated to telling stories from and about the Appalachian mountains. ARAY is working on several documentary projects including “Mysteries of Appalachia,” a film about the mysticism and folklore of the mountains, as well as feature length scripted pieces.

“Appalachians are natural storytellers,” says Salyer. “It’s in our DNA. We want to curate those stories and make media that tells the truth about our area.”

In addition to Mullins, the film features several local actors. Ben Mackel, a musician and actor from Asheville plays Darrel, and three young actors make their debuts — Ellie Williams, Sofia Adams and Josiah Wells. New York based actress Pepper Binkley (The Good Wife, Stone) plays Charlie’s mother.

“Ladies Most Deject” is directed by Martha Elcan whose film résumé includes the feature “Next of Kin” with Octavia Spencer and work with such directors as Steven Spielberg and Bruce Beresford.

Initially drawn to this story because it was set in her home state of Virginia, Elcan quickly learned how true-to-life this drama was.“Charlie finds herself desperate with nowhere to turn. The children’s dire situation forces Charlie into adulthood before her time,” she says.

Much of the film’s music is homegrown as well. Local musicians Thomas Cassell and Molly Slemp contribute songs to the film’s score. Brian Hawlk composed original music for the piece and designed the sound.

The film was shot by LA based cinematographer Helen Cho Anthos (“True Detective”) and edited by Emmy Award winner Nena Erb (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Project Greenlight”). Production design is by Kleev Guessford (HBO’s “Herblock,” “American Music Awards”).

“Ladies Most Deject” was accepted into over 20 festivals including the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville later in October and LA Femme, a festival for women in film at LA Live in downtown Los Angeles. Southern Shorts named the film Best Drama and Wharton was awarded Best Performance in the Brooklyn Women’s Film Festival in August.

Elcan and several of the actors in the film will be attending the Bristol festival. The screening is at 3 p.m. at the Birthplace of Country Music. For tickets, visit the PUSH website,

Category: Film