CASPER, Wyo. — Katie Mae Peters has been all over Casper and in front of audiences for years. Her life has since taken her all over the country and the globe, and her latest work has been released online, as an entertainment offering during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the opening moments of The Bee, a short film directed by USC student Sam Rocco (the full short film is posted below), we see a bustling and neon lit four-color world of street vendors, comic books, and superheros. Among the throng is a face that Casper might find familiar.
What follows is a fun and funny superhero action yarn, with a dark twist and emotional pathos that audiences might find surprising.
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Historically, Peters appeared on statewide cable access during her high school years, under the tutelage of Lance Madzey in the NCTV program, at Natrona County High School in Casper. Peters produced a monthly live multi-camera television show that was broadcast around Wyoming. Something she says would impress her peers later.
Peters tells Oil City that, after high school, she attended Casper College’s Department of Theatre and Dance, where she felt she was more seen as a member of the crew, than as potential cast member. Wanting to be an actress, she did manage to make it on stage occasionally, Peter’s remembering one role at the college had her in-character as Doctor Seuss, greeting audiences before they attended a CC performance of Fahrenheit 451.
Ultimately Peters would tread the boards at Stage III Community Theater, in a production of Dancing Lughnasa in 2008, landing a featured role. She would go on to perform several more times in the small theater, as well as volunteer in other aspects.
“I think I was on the Board of Directors, for a couple years,” Peters remembered. “I found a pretty good theatre home at Stage III.”
Otherwise Peters could be found working a job at a Casper bank. But after college, and behind the teller wall, she was a very busy woman, living, working, and travelling abroad while still maintaining a residence in Casper.
“I was manager for Team USA Roller Derby,” Peters says modestly. “I spent five years coaching everywhere from South Africa, to England, to Germany, Belgium, Canada, everywhere.”
After touring the world, Peters spent some time in Atlanta, where she was cast as a zombie in an episode of the hit AMC series The Walking Dead, and found other acting and casting opportunities. After Atlanta, Peters landed in Austin, Texas where she began to build a business pattern and figure out the ins-and-outs of making films.
“Being a filmmaker you have to be proactive,” Peters says, describing that in Austin she had to be a producer as well as an performer. “I used Austin as kind of a testing ground. Figured out how I was going to present myself to industry people and figure out what I was passionate about.”
Peters then left Austin and found a home in Los Angeles, working with some of the leading sunt performing organizations in the industry.
In a nutshell, that brings Peters’ story to The Bee.
The short film, which was released by the filmmakers online last week, features Peters in the lead role as Sydney, the heir to a superhero title that she has not found the courage to step into yet. After a tragic accident, Sydney wanders her city seeing wrong being done, and must confront her destiny once and for all.
“She has this inner turmoil of if she should step into her family legacy, and try to help fix her town, or if her past is going to keep her from being able to step into those shoes,” Peters said of the character.
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BEE-hind the scenes 6: Our incomparable costumer, @go_y_y, makes sure super-lady @ibethekatiemae fits snugly in her BEE suit. Meanwhile, @lcc_cam makes the lighting BEE-autiful. 📸 @nicoledoesstuff #BeeFever #TheBee #ShortFilm #usc #calarts #topochico #superhero #costums #masks #pink #Beeautiful
Peters met the short’s director, Rocco, in a class at The Groundlings, a famous Los Angeles improv theater. She says that the pair had good improvisational chemistry but that Rocco had to drop the class due to an internship. The two, however, stayed in touch and eventually began working together.
The pair had made several shorts when Rocco, a University of Southern California grad student, applied for and was selected as one of ten directors to pitch for an exclusive USC program. The school selected a pool of submitted scripts for short films and the selected the ten directors. Each of the directors pitched from the pool of scripts, and only three director’s films were selected for production.
At the conclusion, Rocco pitched the superhero short, The Bee, by Michael J. Karr; and was selected for the program.
“It was based on Phoenix Jones,” Peters says of the scipt. “It’s this whole actual society of people who exist. People who dress up as superheroes and fight crime.”
Jones was the leader of the Rain City Superhero Movement, a Seattle, Washington-based citizen patrol group that described itself as a “crime prevention brigade.” The group disbanded in 2014.
“For the past three years I’ve been training at 87eleven,” Peters said, explaining that her experience at a professional Los Angeles stunt gym was a perfect fit for The Bee. The stunt gym is known for its involvement in several high profile Hollywood productions; including John Wick, The Hunger Games, Jurassic World, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. “I had a lot of connections through there to other stunt people. I thought we could make a really great action film for very little money.”
The film has been making festival rounds, including the LA Shorts International Film Festival and New Filmmakers Los Angeles, and Peters says that discussions were being had over future festival screenings and distribution were underway, when coronavirus began to shut down businesses and industries- including the film industry.
“It was just a point where it was ‘what else are we doing?'” Peters said. “People are around, they want to watch it, they have time to sit down and watch it, and it’s a fun light hearted story.”
Peters adds that while the overall tone of the film was meant to be fairly light, there is one true-to-form “dark” moment in the comic book story of The Bee. But Oil City editors want to avoid spoilers for potential audiences, and won’t expand further. (Cont’d.)
A couple of other projects are in the hopper for Peters, but are currently on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime she says that she’s been spending time having long-distance game nights with friends, doing as much work as she can, and conducting script read-throughs via online video conferencing.
When asked what from her life in Casper helped prepare her for a life in the movies, Peters gave credit to the NCTV program of Natrona County High School as making her familiar with several aspects of the industry and offering her experience that other people haven’t had.
“Going through NCTV and learning every aspect of filmmaking, of guerilla filmmaking, I feel like I’m way ahead of the curve,” Peters said. “They have programs where you can learn multi-camera sitcoms, and I was a producer and a kind-of on-air director for a live multi-cam show every month in high school.”
“Even people who are older than me, or have been in the industry longer, a lot of times they’re surprised by the insight I have. I credit a lot of that to NCTV,” she explains. “Even if I didn’t learn it there, it changed my trajectory to using film for creation, rather than just being an actor.”
Starring Katie Mae Peters, Dir. Sam Rocco, written by Michael J. Karr
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BEE-hind the scenes 24: Director, @squarebones, points into the distance in a desperate attempt to find the perfect IMDb photo. #BeeFever #TheBee #ShortFilm #usc #topochico #comedy #cbs #superhero #action #filmmaker #director #egomaniac #egowaffles #bnw #notemoenoughincolor
An earlier version of this story reported that Katie Mae Peters managed Team USA Roller Derby for one year. It was actually five years, according to Peters. The story has been changed to reflect this and Oil City regrets the error.
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If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.
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