Descendent writes screenplay about Chief William McIntosh
by W. Winston Skinner
Billie Jane McIntosh, who has written two books about her family, has now penned a screenplay that chronicles the final days of Chief William McIntosh.
Coweta County is named in honor of William McIntosh as chief of the Cowetas, part of the Creek Indian nation. Billie Jane McIntosh, who lives in Arizona, is the chief’s great-great-great-granddaughter.
Matt Collins, who grew up in Newnan, is marketing the screenplay through his company, Brit Nicholas Entertainment.
“I had thought in the past about writing a book about Chief William McIntosh,” Billie Jane McIntosh said. She and Collins connected via the Internet, and he convinced her to write the screenplay.
“I had never really thought about writing a screenplay,” she said. Though she was initially unsure of whether she should tackle the project, ultimately she did. “I got some books and read up on screenplay writing and educated myself.”
McIntosh has been researching her family’s history for decades. She visited Coweta County after the publication of her two previous books, “Ah-Ko-Kee, American Sovereign” and “From Georgia Tragedy to Oklahoma Frontier – A Biography of Scots Creek Indian Chief Chilly McIntosh.”
Each of those books told the story of one of the chief’s children.
When she sat down to start work on the screenplay, she had folders and folders of information for reference. “I didn’t really have to look up a lot more,” she said.
The main lack she found was her personal knowledge about military battles. “I had to research on that some,” she said.
McIntosh produced a draft in about six months, discussed it with Collins and spent three more months making changes. The screenplay is set in the days when the white and Creek cultures were meeting – and clashing – in west central Georgia. Before the story comes to a close, William McIntosh has been murdered and some of the murderers come to regret their actions.
Chief McIntosh concluded the United States would take the Creek lands eventually and negotiated what he – and many other Creeks – thought was a good treaty with cash and land in Oklahoma. Creeks and scholars remain divided on whether he was a hero or a traitor.
Like Billie Jane McIntosh, Collins has long been fascinated by the trajectory of Chief McIntosh’s life. “I’ve always been fascinated by him. I’m a history buff. I only live 13 miles from where he was murdered,” Collins said.
“I wanted to write it, but – at the end of the day – I couldn’t feel like I could do it justice,” he said of the screenplay.
“Billie Jane brought two things to the table – credibility and source materials,” Collins said. He talked about her wealth of knowledge and well researched information – as well as her deep understanding of Creek culture and daily life.
McIntosh reflected on what she has learned over the years about the Creek world. “It’s fascinating. I found that out. I had no idea that there were all these cultural differences,” McIntosh said.
Collins said even the parts of the story that demand dramatic license are better handled by someone with McIntosh’s background. “You need a Native American to imagine what some of the connections might have been,” Collins said.
This is the first time for Collins to market a movie script, but he has made some connections. Internet technology, which initially connected him to Billie Jane McIntosh, is also playing a part in getting word about the screenplay to people in the movie business.
Billie Jane McIntosh grew up in a family where her Indian roots were rarely mentioned.
“I knew I had these native people for my relatives because I went to see them every summer,” she remembered. “My dad wasn’t really into his background.”
His response to queries about the family’s lineage was, “We’re Americans.”
When she discovered the story of her famous ancestor, she read more and more – and found herself wanting to know the “why” behind what happened.
She said she would like to see more emphasis on Native American history in schools. “They were the people who were here to begin with,” she said. “There’s a whole lot of story to be told.”
With the passage of time, her family is now proud of their Indian roots, and McIntosh has gotten positive feedback from relatives as she has researched and written. “That’s been the greatest thing – to have been able to contribute this to my family,” she said.
McIntosh is counting on Collins to make the Hollywood connection that could bring her ancestor’s story to the screen. “It’s up to him really to sell it,” she said.
Billie Jane McIntosh herself may have another writing project in her future – that biography of the chief. “Maybe,” she reflected, “I should go ahead and write the book I planned to write to begin with.”