Day of the Gun

Wayne Shipley, former director of the Chesapeake Arts Center and now the writer and director of the film, ¿Day of the Gun,¿ with current Chesapeake director Belinda Fraley Huesman. The two attended the March 2 screening of the film. Photo by Bud Johnson for The Baltimore Sun (Bud Johnson for The Baltimore Sun / September 30, 2009)

Wayne Shipley returned to Chesapeake Arts Center last weekend to host the premiere of his second independent Western film, "Day of the Gun."

Before his filmmaking career, Shipley taught English and theater arts for 30 years at Andover and North County high schools.

Then, in retirement, Shipley brought his extensive background to Chesapeake Arts Center in 1998 as the center's first executive director, establishing Chesapeake's firm base as a regional arts venue before leaving in spring 2004.

Since then, he pursued film and released his first independent Western, "One-Eyed Horse," in 2008. He said he learned a lot about the business in that first venture and that he's now better organized and more adept at using digital enhancement.

For "Day of the Gun," Shipley, of Jessup, filmed much of the action on his family farm and hired a freelancer to shoot scenes in Montana. He also cast Academy Award nominee Eric Roberts in a leading role.

An artist and educator at his core, Shipley is a writer and director of Westerns who has a Shakespearean flair — he describes "Day of Gun" lead character Maggie as "launched from Lady Macbeth."

Told in flashbacks by 80-year-old former newspaper editor Simon Doubleday (Brian St. August), "Day of the Gun" is set in the 1890s mining and cattle town of Singletree, Mont. widow Maggie Carter (LaDon Hart Hall) demands that cattle baron Cyrus McCall (Jim Osborn) remove the barbed wire he erected to deter rustlers, which Maggie contends threatens her survival as a rancher.

She promises that "there will be hell to pay" if the barbed wire doesn't come down and summons a dark stranger from her past, played by Roberts, to even the score.

At last Sunday's showing, the audience was in a festive mood; many were wearing Western costumes. From the beginning of the movie, Shipley's love of Westerns was made evidenct in his artistically authentic scenes.

His choice of a lead — a strong, pragmatic, ambitious woman who is protective of her family and her land — is unusual for Westerns. Maggie battles her enemy fiercely, fighting as courageously as any male hero.

Shipley said additional "Day of the Gun" screenings are being scheduled for April at the Alamo Drafthouse in Ashburn, Va., as well as at theaters in West Virginia and Delaware. For details and dates, go to one-eyedhorse.com after March 12.