Lights, Camera, Sacto!

Posted on January 8, 2012 – 8:25 PM | by Admin
  • Share

Sacramento Amateur Movie Makers

When Hollywood’s flirtation with the capital city turned cold in the mid-1930s, the spirit of movie-making in Sacramento was kept alive by a talented group of 8mm and 16mm cineastes called the Sacramento Amateur
Movie Makers Club, better known as SAMM. The group formed in 1937, and over the next forty years their members produced literally hundreds of films. Many offer glimpses of Sacramento landmarks that no longer exist, such as The Alhambra.

One of SAMM’s key members was Jewel Dawson, who got the shutter bug when her husband bought her a movie camera. She made dozens of comedies, dramas, westerns, ghost stories, even science fiction. They were clever, unique, and very sophisticated given the resources with which she had to work. After winning several awards, she was asked by the Department of Defense to direct a docudrama depicting the agency’s response plan for a disaster that might occur in Sacramento.

But her most important work was a documentary made for SARA: Save the American River Association. She was given only three weeks to script, cast, shoot, and edit the film, which contains some of the only known footage of Effie Yeaw. Jewel was still splicing when the City Council convened to vote on a funding proposal. She arrived late but literally begged them to screen the film. After a nail-biting half-hour closed door viewing session, the council voted unanimously to preserve the American River Parkway.

Jewel’s daughter Wendy generously donated the entire collection of her family’s movies to the Sacramento Room at the Central Public Library. Now transferred to DVD, they’re available to entertain – and inspire – the next generation of Sacramento filmmakers.

Pages: 1 2 3

  1. 2 Responses to “Lights, Camera, Sacto!”

  2. avatar

    By Jennifer on Jan 14, 2012 | Reply

    What an interesting look at the film history of Sacramento. I had no idea there was so much taking place back then. Well done.

  3. avatar

    By joe on Feb 23, 2012 | Reply

    You forgot “The Art of Travel” and “The Ugly Truth”

Post a Comment