• Chris Allen

Article in Western Wayne News

Published by Western Wayne News, by Millicent Martin Emery. July 27, 2022



Western Wayne County could eventually be a small version of Hollywood, becoming a filming location for a story about Chris Allen Abraham Lincoln's legacy and the people who saw his funeral train pass through.


Area residents are invited to gather at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 30, outside Cambridge City Christian Church for a brief introduction to the director and the purpose of the "Of Tears and Iron" independent film.


Director Chris Allen said he asked church leaders for permission to officially publicly announce the film's launch in the shadow of the former railroad path because of the significance of rail travel in Lincoln’s final journey.


The Madison, Indiana, native said Cambridge City was a strategic choice for the event, because more than half of the story "Of Tears and Iron" takes -place in Cambridge City, where main characters gathered.


The story features Ben, a fugitive slave, who risks his life to meet up with the funeral train, and Ben's lifelong friend Samuel. Their journey is filled with tragedies and triumphs. Ben wants to escape to Canada after paying his respects, but he's conflicted because he knows that his people's plight is likely to worsen after Lincoln's death. Allen calls it a poignant story of redemption amidst a nation's shared grief.


The story also has a big part for Centerville native Oliver P. Morton, who served as Indiana's governor during the Civil War, Allen said.


Cambridge City still treasures its link to Lincoln's funeral train that traveled from Washington, D.C., to Springfield, Illinois. It is featured in a mural on the Matthias and Kline building on U.S. 40 by Pamela Bliss and Carly Mattingly Dee.


Allen, who works as a wealth advisor for a financial firm in central Indiana, is beginning a campaign to raise $6.5 million to create the film, bringing professional crews from Los Angeles and New York to Indiana. He expects crews would stay in Richmond and be bussed to Cambridge City for filming, with some of the story being recorded in Greensburg as well to be faithful to the story.


"Lincoln deserves better" than to make the film cheaply, Allen said, noting he doesn't plan to seek A-list actors because he believes they could dilute the message.


Allen has created an IRS-approved 50lc3 non-profit organization called The Lincoln Special for the project and recently recruited former Indianapolis. TV journalist Tina Cosby to join the board.


Allen previously worked in public television and says he has taught himself the finer points of production and direction.


Allen said he will speak briefly about the film using a loudspeaker and then get acquainted with those attending through casual chats, saying the event will have the vibe of an ice cream social and last less than an hour. He recommends bringing lawn chairs for comfort.


Although there won't be ice cream, food is being served. Knowing that Wayne County does not have a Chick-fil-A, Allen plans to bring free sandwiches in hopes of attracting residents to stop by. He said he will not ask for donations at the event, but wants to raise awareness of the project.


One of his goals is making Lincoln’s story accessible to those who might not be able to travel to the Lincoln Memorial or the historic sites in Springfield.


Allen said he was inspired to write the script after meeting late civil rights leader John Lewis in Indianapolis in 2018 when Lewis marked the 50th anniversary of Robert Kennedy's speech the night of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.


Allen aims for the film to promote Lincoln's efforts toward racial and social justice. He compared the funeral train to a zipper that brought the two sides of the country together at a special juncture in time.


In addition, he said everyone can relate to the grief Lincoln and his wife experienced through their lives, and hopes the film will help connect viewers with mental health resources.


"This is an American story that everyone has a part in," Allen said.


Allen now plans a fundraiser on Oct. 14 in Carmel featuring Lincoln reenactor Richard "Fritz" Klein of Springfield, who performs at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in addition to TV movies and documentaries. Another is to take place in Madison on Oct. 15 at the Lanier Mansion.


He hopes to get the money raised within the next 8 to 12 months so filming can begin, but said he wants to "under promise and over deliver" on any timeline.


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