Late this summer, "Winter in the Blood," the fictional story of Virgil First Raise, born and bred on the Hi-Line, will premiere in Havre.
The opening will have a special meaning to Box Elder High School freshman Alex Escarcega.
Alex plays the role of Virgil as a 13-year-old, He spent much of last summer performing the role as the film was shot in Havre, Fort Belknap, Chinook and Rocky Boy. Along the way, he rubbed elbows with many film professionals, developed his acting talents and decided that he wants to pursue an acting career.
He found the experience fun, hard work and terrifying.
Alex is looking forward with excitement and a little apprehension to seeing himself on the big screen. But he's already a star in the eyes of friends and family on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation.
"People have already stopped and asked me for my autograph," he said.
The idea of trying out for “Winter in the Blood” came from his mother, Alicia Escarcega, who saw a story about it in the Havre Daily News.
"I thought that just trying out for it would be a great experience," she said.
Alicia tried out for a role, as did her daughter, Rosinda Ramos. Rosinda got a small part and will appear in the movie.
Alicia spent lots of time practicing the script for the tryout, but not Alex.
"He read it once and memorized it," Alicia said.
Lots of people tried out for the role of Virgil as a teenager, but when Alex was called in for the tryout, directors spent a lot of time with him.
"We'll get back to you," one of them told Alicia.
He was called back for a second tryout, and he was selected over two other finalists.
“He has tremendous talent, ” one of the directors told Alicia.
Thus began the experience of a lifetime.
There was some trauma involved, especially for mom.
Virgil as a youngster had short hair. That means Alex's long hair that he had worn proudly since he was a baby, had to come off.
"We tried short-hair wigs, but they just didn't look right," Alicia said. "I cried, but I cut it off."
The hair will be donated to Locks for Love to make wigs for cancer patients, she said.
Alex laughs about some the experiences.
On days that scenes required the actors to wear heavy jackets, it would always be 90 degrees out. And when the actors' attire was T-shirts, it would invariably be cold out.
In one especially meaningful scene, Virgil's older brother, Mose, dies.
The script called for Alex to cry. At first, he had difficulty.
"They put icy-hot up my nose," he said, laughing. Soon, with the benefit of the icy-hot and his ever-improving acting skills, Alex was crying. It must have been a convincing cry.
"He had everybody crying," Alicia said.
Alex had to brush up on his horse-riding skills, a sport he had not taken part in for several years.
And he had to look like he had just been beaten up.
The script called for Virgil to get involved in a fight.
With the help of fake blood and some other cosmetics, Alex looked like he had just been the victim of a few swift punches to his face. His appearance terrified maids at the Town House Motel where the cast was staying. He told them he had just slipped and fell on his face.
Shortly thereafter, he returned with the make-up washed off, shocking the maids.
Up until now, he assumed his career would revolve around his artistic abilities with weld-work, metal artwork that has already made him well-known in the Rocky Boy artistic community. He spends several hours a day at school designing artwork with Native American and other themes.
But the allure of the big screen had him thinking twice.
Directors at the movie are already calling Alicia when they hear of movie roles that might fit Alex.
And he's been invited to attend a three-day symposium starting May 30, as one of 50 Native American potential actors who will direct or act in five mini-films that will be presented at the Seattle international Film Festival in early June.
What if he becomes a film star and is famous?
"I don't care that much about money," he said. "I would just like to be able to help out my family."
But he would use his fame to help out causes he believes in.
"I love animals, so I would like to help out organizations like animal shelters," he said.
"And I would come back to the reservation once a month to talk to kids about what they can do with their lives," he said.
The film will soon be presented to audiences, and there is a sense of anticipation from Alex and his family.
"At first, I'd like to see it by myself," Alex said. "I'd like to see how I did before I see it with anyone else."
Then, he said, he'd like to have it shown on the reservation, perhaps at Stone Child College, where everyone could enjoy it.
Mom is not so reserved in her prediction of her feelings when the movie premieres.
"I'm going to be so proud," she said. "My heart is going to be pumping out of my chest."