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Man's book inspires Western film
film WEB 1
Forsyth County resident Thomas Kelly wrote and directed the movie “When the Storm God Rides.” The film was inspired by his novel of the same title. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Scenes from the Wild West surround Thomas Kelly as he types his imagination into novels.

One of those Western-inspired books, “When the Storm God Rides,” recently turned into scenes on the silver screen, as the Cumming writer completed a pilot movie version of the same title.

Kelly said he got to make a film out of his story simply because he “decided to do it.”

“Being able to write something and bring that to life is real rewarding,” he said.

The fictional 1880s story follows James Walker, a former soldier in the Civil War, whom Kelly described as “the next big gunslinger.”

He settles down after the war, gets married and has a daughter, but as the story opens, he comes home to find that they’ve been murdered.

“So he hunts [the killers] down one by one until the final showdown,” Kelly said, saving the ending. “And I won’t tell you that.”

Unlike a typical “bang-bang” Western, Kelly said the film combines a story full of twists and turns in addition to being action-packed.

Earlier this month, he showed the 40-minute first version of the film in Carrollton and received an overwhelmingly positive response.

The movie was shot over three days near Carrollton in Bremen, primarily among the Western backdrops at Rocky Branch Railroad.

Kelly said the support of his wife, Sujatha, helped him achieve his plan for the film.

“I came in one day and told her, ‘I’m going to make a movie,’” he said.

Added his wife: “And I said, ‘I’ll look for a location.’”

Sujatha Kelly, who co-produced the movie, said creating the film became a family project.

The couple bounced ideas off of each other throughout the process.

Their 9-year-old daughter, Caitlin, took an acting role and impressed everyone on set.

“She knew everybody’s lines. My actors didn’t, but she knew the whole script,” Kelly said. “I’m pretty proud of her.”

The script was mostly her father’s creation, as was the directing and the song writing.

He got some help from friends and connections and found actors through casting calls.

Ron Becks, a friend and executive producer of a studio in Beverly Hills, helped by co-directing and acting.

Georgia country musicians helped write and perform the songs for the film.

Kelly plans to screen the movie in Cumming in March, hoping to coincide with the book’s planned released by Tate Publishing.

For the movie, he plans to seek out investors and opportunities with Anthony Nixon Productions, which assisted in the film, in hopes of producing a full-length version.

“I’ve got faith in it,” he said. “The movie will be made one way or another.”

Kelly also has plans to continue pursuing his love for writing.

“I’ve been writing all my life,” he said, “and my wife pushed me to get published about a couple years ago.”

He wrote “When the Storm God Rides” in about eight weeks.

Except for the characters he created, the people and places in the book are historically accurate.

Kelly said he grew up enjoying the Western theme and studying history, which led him to write the 500-page book.

He’s working on nine others, which include a variety of themes such as horror, drama and adventure.

The characters created in “When the Storm God Rides” will be featured in two more novels, Kelly said, since he enjoyed writing about them so much.

He hopes to produce more movies from his stories as well.

“Did I ever plan on [making a movie]? No,” Kelly said.

“Will I do another? Yes,” he said. “It’s pretty fun.”