SCREEN TIME — Akron resident Helen Yocum, 86, never expected to be a movie star. However, she found herself in front of a camera recently when a documentary maker visited her home to interview her.
Yocum's mother, Lillian Sweetser (1885-1974), was a pioneer screenwriter who penned a dozen or so photoplays for movie studios from 1910 to 1915.
A 2007 Beacon Journal article about Yocum's scrapbook of her mother's mementos caught the attention of director David Lindblom of Santa Fe, N.M. Since 2004, Lindblom has been working on a documentary, No Star for Romaine, about filmmaker Romaine Fielding (1868-1927).
Fielding, a Kentucky native, made more than 130 films, including several in the Southwest, but only a few are known to exist today. Sweetser wrote the scenario for Romaine's 1915 movie A Desert Honeymoon.
Lindblom interviewed Yocum as she looked through pages of rare photos and studio papers. As the camera rolled, Yocum gave a poignant reading to the scenario that her mother wrote.
''It felt like Helen's mother was speaking through her at that moment and it was exciting,'' Lindblom said. ''It will be great in the documentary.
''Helen seemed to know how to perform the scenario, or maybe it was just great writing. Fielding obviously responded to the writing, too, because he made it into a movie.''
Yocum said she had never been on camera before, but she enjoyed the experience.
''They seemed to be most interested in that letter that I kept reading over and over,'' she said.
How would Sweetser react to her daughter being interviewed?
''She'd think, 'Oh, my goodness. What is she doing?' '' Yocum said with a laugh.
Lindblom was impressed with Yocum's photos — many of which he had never seen before.
''Everything that Helen presented to me will be part of the documentary,'' he said.
Lindblom hopes to release the film by 2013, the centennial anniversary of Fielding's movie peak, and continues to raise funds and conduct interviews. ''There are other people like Helen around the country that I would love to interview,'' he said.
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