Elaine McMillion Sheldon to Direct Narrative Feature Film on Mother Jones
Elaine McMillion Sheldon, assistant professor of Cinema Studies at University of Tennessee’s School of Art. and filmmaker has been tapped as director for a narrative feature film on the life of Mary Harris Jones — the indomitable labor figure known to history as Mother Jones. Sheldon’s most recent film, diverged from the documentary format in which Sheldon has had much success. That film, “King Coal,” took a hybrid approach that allowed Sheldon to explore the act of storytelling in a magical style designed to take viewers on a journey through the past, present, and future of Appalachia. “King Coal” was selected as a 2023 Sundance film.
Now, Sheldon will delve further into dramatic storytelling with the tale of an Irish-born American working at various points as a dressmaker and schoolteacher, Mother Jones pivoted her focus to union and community organizing and activism after experiencing two major, personal tragedies: the death of her husband and four children from yellow fever in 1867 Memphis, and the destruction of her dress shop in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The passionate Mother Jones would come to be known as “the most dangerous woman in America” while working to secure rights for mine workers and ban child labor.
Sheldon’s previous successes in documentary work that have included nominations for an Academy Award and six Emmys, as well as receiving a Peabody award, a Telly Award, and many others, make her a stellar choice for this endeavor.
Jerry Bowles and David O’Malley penned the script for the project, with Lisa Saltzman set to produce.
In the announcement of this new project by Deadline, an entertainment industry news site, Elaine Sheldon stated, “Even though she passed away in 1930, Mother Jones’ story still resonates today. It’s a historical story of resilience, gender, and influence; and a contemporary story about how public personalities are formed and maintained, as well as the role of performance and spectacle in politics.”