FILM PRODUCER AIMS TO SET RECORD STRAIGHT
(CENTRALIA, Wash.) Ursula Richards-Coppola, founder of U Vision Film Productions LLC and producer of an upcoming feature/documentary films exploring what’s been called “The Centralia Massacre of 1919,” reached her present movie project through hard work and a dozen years of historic research plus 28 as a researcher of missing persons.
When she first visited her family in Washington, she learned that her grandmother had been born in Centralia, an hour north of the Oregon border. While visiting a local library, Timberland, looking for information about her relatives, a 1919 newspaper headline caught her eye: “Bert Bland Captured.” Her curiosity peaked, and a search was on. Who was Bert Bland and why was he captured? As she began trying to talk with Centralians, doors slammed!
Slammed, that is, until Ursula read an article about a 97-year-old woman in the summer of 2005, Lucille, who’d been alive in Centralia at the time. Ursula contacted the woman’s family asking to interview the elderly lady, but was refused. “She’s not feeling well,” Ursula was told, “and there’s no way we could write down her whole story.” Richards-Coppola suggested the family videotape the woman, which was completed and given to the producer just a few months before Lucille passed away.
In 2006 Ursula returned to Centralia intending to videotape more people who knew of the 1919 event, and photograph individuals and buildings still existent from those days. While strolling the center of town one day, camera in hand, Ursula was spotted by a local woman demanding to know what she was doing. “I was startled,” Ursula recalls, “and a bit scared. I handed her my film producer card showing ‘The Ghost of Hangman’s Bridge’ as my next movie project,” Hangman’s Bridge having been the site of much of the carnage those years ago. The two spoke at length about those days and the often violent labor/union battles in the lumber industry then.
A few days later Ms. Richards-Coppola received a call from a local newspaper reporter, Aaron Vantuyl, who’d gotten wind of her interest and research, and wanted to interview her for a feature article. They met at a nearby pub, The Oly Club, and the interview began. Later that week the story about her labors and her challenge made the front page, resulting in a wealth of phone calls, emails and letters from locals with incredible stories to tell.
Ursula plans to bring to light the true story of what happened 90 years ago, and now doors are beginning to swing wide for her, though some of the elderly still just peek through curtains when she comes knocking, and others write their recollections, but without including a name or return address.