Union Bound: Diary of a Civil War Prisoner - GigSpotting.Net

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Union Bound: Diary of a Civil War Prisoner

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You can't always get what you want, but sometimes, you might get what you need. That could be the case for Joseph Hoover who fought in the Civil War and was in many of the locations ithe war encompassed, both north and south.

You see Joseph fought for the Union but, was captured and held prisoner in the south. That is the story that the movie Union Bound tells.

His story was learned when producer Michael Davis met with one of the descendants of Joseph and they showed him the diaries that Joseph kept during the war.

There were two diaries. One from 1863 and one from 1864. The movie is based on the one from 1864. After seeing the diaries and realizing that it would make a great movie Michael contacted John Errington to write the screenplay. Having worked with John before and knowing that he loved history and studied it at Harvard, he knew that John would deliver a great story for the film.

John indeed had studied a lot of history but most of it was in medieval studies. So he had to do his homework. Besides writing the screenplay, John is also a cinematographer. So, I'm sure this helped him visualize what the scenes of the movie would look like as he was writing. He told me that he tried to keep the story as close as possible to what he got from the diary but Joseph Hoover was a man of few words. So his diary contained a little what, where, and when, but not a lot of detail. So he had to use his  research into the period to fill in the gaps in order to tell the story.

Durham, North Carolina was the principal location for shooting the film and a number of actors and crew members from the southeast were used. Also starring Hollywood types such as Sean Stone and Tank Jones.

Tank described his role in the movie to me. "I play Jim Young.  Jim was a slave. Joseph and his friend "stumble" on to the plantation that I happen to be a slave at.  I have to make a life changing decision in the film, do what's right and risk my life in the process or keep the life that I have and let two men fighting for my freedom be put back into chains..."

When I asked him about working with Michael, John, and the director, Harvey Lowry he said "Harvey, John and Michael were all GREAT to work with.  I've known Harvey for a long time and he's like family.  I love the way that he directs.  He gives a lot of latitude to the actor and sets up scenes well.  He knows how to visually tell the story

John was awesome.  He wrote the film and was really open to listening to what the actors had to say about their characters.  We also were able to get his insight on what he was thinking when he wrote the project.  He was always in great spirits and a real joy to be around.

Michael did everything he could to keep the project going, production running smoothly and take care of everyone's needs while we were on site. I happen to know of some personal sacrifices that he made to make sure that people were taken care of, when certain things were delayed. I would definitely work with Mike again."

I also heard from Kathy Butler Sandvoss, an actor here in the southeast that we've interviewed before. She has a part in the movie. Here's what she had to say. "I have a small supporting role as Elise, the daughter of a southern plantation owner. The cast and crew were wonderful.  Although I was only on set a few days, I was made to feel like a part of the Union Bound family by everyone from the day I arrived.

 I didn't get to see much of Mike Davis most of the day as he was running around handling the business side of things on the days I was shooting.  He would  peek in on us in the morning in the makeup and hair trailer to wish us "good morning."  Then he would pop back in later on set for our scenes.

Although we exchanged pleasantries, John Errington was very focused on what was happening, so I didn't have too much interaction with him.

I can't say enough nice things about our wonderful director, Harvey Lowry.  He is easy going and so fun to work with.  He had excellent rapport with me as well as the other actors. He and Duane [Journey] made a balanced directing team.

What I loved most about working with Harvey was his collaborative approach with me..  He valued my perspective on my character. He was,of course, this responsive with all the actors. He even allowed and encouraged Sean Stone and I to create some ideas and dialogue for a scene we had together.  The process was super fun.  Unfortunately, due to scheduling challenges, that scene was cut."

I think we need to have more productions like this here in the Carolinas. What do you think?


What was the seed that got Union Bound started. What came first?

Michael  The seed was a call from Pam Jay (decendent of Joseph Hooover)  and she invited me to meet her and her husband Bill for coffee.   When I met with them they pulled out the diary of 1864 and  started to tell me the story ... then came photos, medals, and other documentation. I was hooked.

From there we got the script going and started to raise funds

Were you looking for something like this to produce or was it a good idea that came to you? What was involved in getting a screenwriter?

Michael  I was not looking to produce a historical piece but I was looking for my next project  and as a lover of History when I saw this I said ... we got to make this into a film.

The screen play was written by John Errington  who I had worked with before on several projects    So I reach out to him because I knew of his historical studies degree with Harvard.   So I approached him to write the screen play and he did.  He did a great job!

John Errington.jpg
John  To add to Mike's response, I was just returning from color correction on Mike's previous film, Destiny Road (for which I was Cinematographer), when he called to set up the meeting to talk about the story for Union Bound. I agree with him wholeheartedly that it was an amazing story that needed to be told.

I spent about the next six weeks with the transcripts of the diaries, hoping to get a sense of both the story and the character of Joseph Hoover, as well as doing some additional research into the period (the basis of my degree in history and literature is in medieval studies, so Civil War was both a little new and exciting). Then I got to writing; the whole process for me to create the first draft of the script took about six months.

Michael  I will add that after the first draft we made very minor changes to the script from what John wrote  I feel he nailed it

So this was a diary kept by Josedph Hoover? What sort of things did it contain?

Michael  There are two diaries 1863 and 1864. The film came from the 1864 one. His writing was consistent but very much to the point. I believe he did it to a) keep track of  the days   b) keep track of events.

What is the nature of Joseph Hoover's character in the movie?

Michael  He was a very practical and straight forward and we made his character to be that way.  John could talk more about that.

John I think "seeing through his eyes" is appropriate for Hoover's role in the film. He is reserved, he is quiet, he is straightforward, and resolute. And while he feels his duty is to fight, it is not until he has a direct experience of both his own captivity and the broader institution of slavery that the real meaning of the war hits home. In a way Hoover is seeing this world for the first time, and he provides the vehicle for the audience to experience it as well.

Who is Joseph Hoover and what role did he play in the Civil War?

Michael  Joseph Hoover was a Sargent in the Union Army. He was from upstate New York and a member of the 121st New York Volunteer Infantry. He shows up everywhere in the Civil War.

He writes about Gettysburg (his unit was in reserve).  He fought the Battle of the Wilderness. Was caught  and taken to  Andersonville in Georgia. Later taken to the Florence stockade in South Carolina where he escaped.

He went back to his unit once he reached freedom in New Bern North Carolina. He was shot,  found the guy that shot him and while still wounded took that guy prisoner. He would then be taken to the hospital in DC.  He was in the hospital when Lincoln Was shot  and writes of the funeral procession passing the hospital.

How did you go about casting for Joseph's role. What were you looking for?

Michael  We cast him with Sean Stone because first, Joseph was very young, when he went to war. Second his appearance is similar and of course Sean is great actor!


Was Sean your first choice for Joseph? Had you worked with him before?

Michael  Yes Sean was our first choice for the role of Joseph Hoover. Sean and I worked on project called Don't Pass Me By. So I already knew him and had a way to connect

John, after writing the script, did you also work on location?

John  Yes, I was also the Director of Photography.

Michael  Tank Jones did an amazing job as Jim young ... He is the hero of the story

What was the principal location for the shoot?

Michael  Durham, North Carolina. We also shot in Spotsylvania, Virginia and Edenton, North Carolina.

Did you enlist any Civil War re-enactors?

John  Yes, we certainly worked with a great number of re-enactors! Interestingly, the entirety of the opening credits sequence was actually filmed at the "Battle of the Wilderness" re-enactment event in Spotsylvania, Virginia (which incredibly is THE SAME BATTLE where Hoover was initially captured). 

Additionally most of our extras were re-enactors. In my opinion we would not have been able to make the film without their heroic involvement.

John, once you had your findings from the Hoover family, how much research did you have to do?  

John  Great question, Dan. After looking at a short primer which discussed the key political issues surrounding the start and progression of the war (which gave me a sense for the reasons why men on each side felt the war was necessary), I focused on a few key cultural/historical aspects. First, since Sgt. Hoover was held in Andersonville stockade, I read quite a bit about the experience of Union prisoners there. It is well-documented and horrific, and I think Hoover's experience during the war was largely shaped by his exposure to his captivity.

I then looked at the variety of experiences of slaves. The institution of slavery was a complex system that included many different types of treatment and relationships. From layers of abuse, both physical and psychological, to positions of relative authority and respect, slaves had a variety of experiences. There is an excellent book which recounts interviews taken in the early 20th century with former slaves where they describe, in their own words, some of these fascinating and sometimes contradictory experiences. And this is a part of the inspiration behind including a black slave-overseer, played menacingly by Isaac Singleton, as well as showing how slaves were lied to by their masters, who played on their superstitions by characterizing Yankees as "demons", the word "yankee" being similar to a word for demon in certain African dialects.

Finally I looked through a number of primary documents which gave a sense for the language and speech patterns for both Northern and Southern people of the time. This played a significant role in the dialogue of our characters, who were set apart, and even found out because of their accents and ways of speaking.


How true to the story as described to you did the movie turn out?

John  As to the truth of the story, Joseph Hoover, as we have said before, is a man of few words. His entries are very short, primarily single sentence descriptions of the major event of each day. This is naturally not a lot to go on, but it provided a framework for our timeline, which we did adhere to rigidly.

And any "filling-in-the-gaps" was taken directly from my research, placing actual historical experiences which we cannot know that Hoover did or did not have. To return to the "Yankee-demon" issue, for example, Hoover never wrote of such an encounter; but Hoover most certainly talked to slaves, we just have no record of the content of any of these conversations. So for the sake of our story, I used these other episodes to build his world as one that was accurate to the period if not specifically his experience.


Very interesting indeed. It takes a lot of work to honor history in a production like this doesn't it? I'm glad you did your due diligence and look forward to seeing the movie. When will it be released to the general public?

Michael  In theaters nationwide on April 22nd.

Release April 22nd Nationwide

Book release May 2nd

Music and movie tour begins May 11th in Nashville

Photo Credit for On Set Photography: Lauren Byers