JoAnn Dawson and all her jobsJun 02, 2021 12:22PM ● By Tricia Hoadley
In Hollywood, a multihyphenate is a broadly talented person, like a writer-actor-director.
In Cecil County, a great example of a multihyphenate is JoAnn S. Dawson, an author-actress-entrepreneur-speaker-screenwriter. That’s how she describes herself on www.joanndawson.com.
With husband Ted, she runs Fairwinds Farm & Stables. Its home page (www.fairwindsstables.com) adds some more: animal talent-bed & breakfast-hay rides-horse & carriage-parties & events-pony rides-riding lessons-summer camp-trail rides-weddings-youth programs.
A few more commitments are found deeper in those two sites: She teaches equine science and acting at Cecil College. She is a member of the Maryland Horse Council and the Farm Bureau; a board member of the North East Chamber of Commerce, the Cecil County Economic Development Commission and the Cecil County Tourism Committee; and a fellow in the LEAD Maryland program. And in the past, she’s been a model and magician’s assistant.
“We’re both workaholics,” Dawson said of herself and Ted. “We don’t like sitting around. We’re very creative, and diversity is key, especially on a farm. We do a thousand things here.”
“You know that character Wonder Woman?” Ted asked. “She and JoAnn are the ultimate multitaskers.”
Filmmaker Douglas Maddox echoed the comparison. “JoAnn’s the multiverse.”
‘Cream of the Crop’
The Dawsons have some staff, but they often take separate vacations, so one of them is still around to handle all the nitty-gritty of running Fairwinds’ 52 acres in North East – the main house and its B&B guests, a bank barn, a horse barn with 18 stalls, various outbuildings and a partially enclosed 85- by 180-foot facility that functions as riding ring and socially distanced wedding venue.
When asked if she has time to sleep, she said “We sleep very well.”
Dawson’s latest venture is as a screenwriter. “Cream of the Crop,” a feature film inspired by a manure spreader and other aspects their early life together. Her promotional logline: “A feisty young woman dedicated to saving her family farm falls in love with the driven real estate specialist assigned by his company to take all steps necessary to foreclose on the farm and develop the land.”
“He must ultimately decide between his love for her and his career,” she wrote on the first page of the 117-page script. “His decision comes as a shock to everyone.”
The manure spreader was involved in a freak accident when they were dating, and it hurled a piece of concrete into Ted’s face. Another incident involves yew branches, which are poisonous to cows, being tossed over a fence.
Jodi Stafford and Mike Jared are the main characters, and Dawson will play Jodi’s mother, one of ten or so secondary characters.
A funny, dramatic, personal story
“I wrote the screenplay ‘Cream of the Crop’ with a subject in mind that is dear to my heart – the preservation of family farmland for future generations,” she wrote on her personal site. “The relationship that develops between the principal characters personifies the struggle that faces so many farm families today – the desire to keep the farm that they love against all odds.”
“The screenplay is dramatic, action-packed, humorous and uplifting. Through a partnership with Douglas Maddox of DBM Films and his amazing team, I plan to produce and develop it as an independent film,” she concludes. “In short, the production of this screenplay is the realization of a lifelong dream for me!” It’s also partly funded by a Kickstarter campaign.
Dawson wrote the script in 1998, and “life got in the way” from development. In 2019, when a film called “Hope’s Legacy” was filmed at Fairwinds and other Maryland locations (it was first recipient of the new Maryland Small Films Tax Credit program), she connected with Maddox, its director. “Hope’s Legacy” also included former Baltimore Oriole Ken Arnold and Hollywood veteran Dyan Cannon.
Dawson asked Maddox for insight on her screenplay. He delegated it to an analyst, who graded it A.
“Good story. good arc. Good drama,” Maddox said of “Cream of the Crop.” “It’s not your typical romcom. The interplay between the farmgirl and the yuppie will provide plenty of comedy and action.”
The screenplay has been refreshed and updated, with things like cellphones. The film is scheduled to be shot in July at Fairwinds and several other Cecil locations, such as Wesley’s Restaurant in Elkton, The Wellwood in Charlestown and the government building in Elkton, Dawson said. Updates about the film production will be posted on Fairwinds’ Facebook page.
Maddox said he enjoyed filming “Hope’s Legacy,” at Fairwinds, because the wide varieties of features on the property made it all-inclusive. “We used every ounce,” he said.
More life experiences in her books
Dawson has successfully mined her life before, with a memoir called “Bed, Breakfast & Beyond – Twenty Years of Kooky Guests, Gentle Ghosts, and Horses in Between.”
Next on her bucket list is to mine another part of her life: all the animal wrangling. “I have a lot of crazy stories,” she said, noting that she’s worked with horses, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks and dogs.
One anecdote involved the political satire “Veep,” with a turkey to be pardoned by the president (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus), rather than being eaten for Thanksgiving. First, Dawson was asked to match a bird with black feathers and white accents that was used earlier, and a lot of reaching out to farmers in multiple states led to a surprisingly convenient success at Gifford’s Farm in Rising Sun.
She devoted three days to acclimating her two turkeys to people and filming, and everything seemed to going smoothly until Louis-Dreyfus asked for the turkey to “do something funny.” So Dawson told Louis-Dreyfus to pat the bird’s back, and on that signal, Dawson would pull a string attached to a leg, which sent the bird flapping and trying to fly – and that feathery fracas was used in the final cut.
Although there’s a lot of attention to her media work, there will always be work down on the farm. “We don’t plan to retire,” Dawson said, and they have a lot of future to plan. Her mother is 100; her grandmother passed on at age 104; and Ted has longevity in his genes as well.
And farming in his genes. “Her’s more of a farmer than I am,” she said.
“I just enjoy my work so much that it doesn’t feel like work,” Ted said, acknowledging that they don’t plan to retire, although they cut back a few years ago and sold a lot of farm equipment.”
So they’ll continue as is. “The key word is synergy,” Ted said. “We work well together as a team.”