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My husband, the FARM movie star

July 25, 2011

Husband and I are busy people. Sometimes we don’t communicate all that well. Last Tuesday, I was preparing to head out to the Farm And Ranch Museum to do interviews for a story about a director who was in town to film some of the museum’s vintage farm equipment. (Jay Kriss is making the documentary “Harvesting the High Plains” to tell the story of wheat harvesting in the 1930s and 40s, based on his grandfather’s rags-to-riches story.)

I had mentioned the filmmaker’s visit at dinner the week before, and that I would be doing a story on it. I had also on Monday read the book the movie is based on. I had even quoted a few passages out of the book to husband about the enormity of a million-bushel harvest.

Husband piped up that Tuesday morning and said oh by the way, Jack Preston (one of the FARM movers and shakers) had called him Monday to ask him to make an appearance as a “supervisor” in a film they were making at the museum. They needed a tall, thin guy. He was to wear khaki pants, a white button-down shirt and a hat.

“Uh. Yeah. That’s the movie based on this book that I’m headed out shortly to do a story on.”

I showed him the photo of his character, John Kriss, the filmmaker’s grandfather, in the book. I’m still trying to figure this out: if I’m married to the guy who played the filmmaker’s grandpa, does that make me Jay Kriss’ “film grandma” or something?

The real star of the show last week was the farm equipment, and another actor will appear in most of the scenes of John Kriss, but husband’s silhouette and hands may show up in the film (if they survive the cutting room) during some moving-farm-equipment scenes.

Still, it was a fun experience, and husband will become eligible for the Screen Actors Guild if he keeps this up. I’m going to post a gazillion pictures of my hottie movie star husband now, just because I can. If you want more of the story on the filming, read about it here. If you want to see the film, keep an eye on PBS, or come to western Nebraska when they have a screening (in the fall?).

Preparation

After getting a period-appropriate hat from a prop bag imprinted with the text “keep Colby clean” (as in Colby, Kansas, where John Kriss began farming), husband spoke with director Jay Kriss and producer Sydney Duvall about details for the day.

Signing the contract

Lots of volunteer background work went into getting the equipment ready for the filming. There was plenty of scurrying around during filming, too. Here’s Jack Preston, calling for backup on his cell phone.

Volunteer Dwight Vance, also on a cell phone atop a vintage tractor. What’s up with this trend?

The guys try to figure out how to take the fairy lady hood ornament off a truck. Guess a fancy hood ornament doesn’t really say “1930s farm truck.” The filmmaker made a hilarious PG-13-rated comment about this dilemma, but I will spare him embarrassment and not quote him here.

“Hm . . . what’s caught in there?” I like how in this photo, the face of the guy on the ground is reflected in the truck window.

Meanwhile, husband chats with Nancy Haney, another FARM mover and shaker, and Susan Miner, the spouse of the guy (now deceased) who wrote the book the film is based on. It was 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and quite hot out there in the sun.

Husband talking wheat with FARM board president Bill Booker, left, and his “film son,” the filmmaker’s dad, also named Jay Kriss. “Film son” Jay said husband did look quite a bit like his dad, John.

Hey! Get into character! John Kriss would not have been using a cell phone!

 Scene 1: the wheat harvest

Look at that cool, old combine and that cool, old truck! What a combo! I watched some FARM volunteers working on the combine the week before. It’s great they have the know-how to get that beast up and running again!

Director Jay Kriss, filming the real star of the show (sorry, honey): the combine.

Husband gets some direction from the director. “OK, what’s my motivation here? Look supervisory? Got it!”

“OK. Cue combine.”

The first pass.

Got turned around, got the truck in place. Ready for the second pass.

“Hang on. Something’s not working. John, er, Jeff . . . can you check to see if the combine’s plugged up?”

“Just hang out for a bit up there, until we get this figured out.”

“Why don’t you practice looking supervisory for awhile, John, er, Jeff?”

“What the sam hill’s wrong with this combine?”

Aha. Broken belt.

“Auuugh! OK, break. We’ll try filming another scene.”

Scene 2: Working the soil

“Now, what’s the equipment’s motivation?” “To dig furrows into the soil?”

A walk in the clods.

Seated on an old weeding implement, producer Sydney Duvall takes notes about the scenes being filmed.

Huh-oh. A little rain cloud’s coming.

No worries. Just a sprinkle.

Scene 3: Wheat planting

“Here’s a sack of wheat. There’s the planter. What do you want me to do?”

“I want you to look in at the wheat, then close the catch. Like this.”

Looking at the wheat in the planter

Closing the catch

After the planter got rolling, something broke. A vise grip helped keep the planter attached to the tractor for the rest of the scene.

The End

“Nice job today, gramps. Here. Take my card. Have your people call my people, and we’ll do lunch.”

Husband’s movie career may have been brief, but he’s a star in my eyes.

Raowr!

Truly, he is a man outstanding in his field.

A note: this is not a newspaper article. The words in quotes above are not direct quotes. They are fictional representations of a day in the life of a Farm And Ranch Museum movie star.

UPDATE: Farm And Ranch Museum joined forces with the former North Platte Valley Museum to become Legacy of the Plains Museum at 2930 Old Oregon Trail in Gering. See the Legacy of the Plains Museum website for the most recent updates.

Copyright 2011 by Katie Bradshaw

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 26, 2011 10:23 am

    Very entertaining!
    BIG GRINS!

  2. Marci Shalz permalink
    September 9, 2013 6:15 am

    John Kriss was my great grandfather. He was an amazing man and I’m proud of his “rags to riches” story. He was known in the town as a loving and gentle man. He LOVED to chat with people….everyone was a friend, even strangers.
    Thank you for sharing his story!
    ***Special shout out to Jay

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