Filmmaker Q&A: Irving Franco

Irving Franco, at right, pictured with Adam the First star Oakes Fegley on set in 2020.

Adam the First is a feature filmed entirely in Mississippi with a largely local crew in 2020. It tells the story of a 14-year-old boy (played by Oakes Fegley), who travels across the country in search of his father after being given a list of names and addresses. The film also stars David Duchovny and T.R. Knight.

The film will be shown at a free preview screening hosted by the Flowood Chamber of Commerce and the Mississippi Film Society at the Legacy Theaters Flowood at 7 p.m. April 15. You can RSVP for tickets here.

The film was written and directed by New York-based filmmaker Irving Franco. It’s his second feature film following 2016’s award-winning Cheerleader. We recently spoke with Franco about his experiences making Adam the First in Mississippi.

What initially drew you to Mississippi for this project?

The location scouting for this went through quite a bit of ups and downs. We were originally set to film in Utah and did a lot of location scouting with the folks there, who are wonderful. And then, as is the case with so many indie films, our financing got pulled by surprise last minute from us. And so, we had to kind of close down the tent and it was unclear if we would get this thing back up and running again. 

And then from there, we actually pivoted to the possibility of filming in South America with friends of ours who had helped us make our first film. We were going to shoot in and around the Bogota area and try to make something magical out there.

Once we replaced all the financing, we were set to launch in March of 2020. So, we were served another curveball with the pandemic, of course. We were three days into our trip down in Bogota, about to begin location scouting, and we had to pick up and go home. Much of the financing pulled out at that point.

And then there was a long pause as we pushed to get our financing back. We weren’t clear about what states could check all the boxes for us. We needed a place that was friendly to film, was open for filming during the pandemic, had great crews, but most importantly, had the magic of these different landscapes.

We needed a great range of terrain: swamps, farmland, a canyon, urban areas and we weren’t quite sure where we could find all of this in one place.

And so, that was one of the few good things about the pandemic, we were just sitting home, able to Google a lot. (laughs) We found ourselves looking at the map and just literally trying each state and getting in touch with film offices, and asking them if they could share their thoughts about crew and locations.

Eventually we got in touch with a location scout in Mississippi who was excited about the script. And he said he’d be happy to run around and take photos for us to prove we could do it in Mississippi. And so, for a few weeks, we were going back and forth remotely, getting these amazing pictures of the wide range of landscapes in Mississippi. And we fell in love. A couple weeks later we were on a plane to Jackson—well, actually, I drove. I was stuck in Florida at the time because of logistics. I drove up 13 hours to Jackson and it was fantastic.

It was a roundabout way to Mississippi but in retrospect, I’d say it was definitely our first choice. 

How did filming here help you to tell your story?

Certainly the timelessness of the locations, but also the warm welcome of the people in Mississippi. I mean, from day one, we felt at home. Southern hospitality is not just something you hear about in the movies. It’s a real thing.

What was the most surprising thing for you about filming here?

Easily the weather. I mean, you could have toe warmers in your boots before the sun came up filming a scene and by the end of the day, you change locations just an hour away, and you’re passing around sunscreen! (laughs) You know, many places have multiple seasons coming in and out of about a month or maybe even a week, this was within the same day sometimes! It would be flurries like winter, then like fall weather and then it would be pretty warm. Wardrobe made jokes about it. Like let’s start shooting with a winter coat on, and then you’ll have just your sweatshirt on, then you’re in a t-shirt by the end of the day.

Did you have a favorite location that you used it the film?

Red bluff, the canyon. It’s easily my favorite. It’s magic. And then there’s even different parts of that location that are just as wonderful. There are train tracks. There’s a stream there. And of course, the canyon itself. It’s fantastic. 

My location scout—John Read, now one of my favorite people in the world—didn’t know about it. We found it remotely. He said the only thing we can’t give you is a canyon. And we said, no, we Googled it, and there’s this place called Red Bluff. And he was like, I never heard of that location, I’ve been here forever. And we sent him to it, and he sent us back a video saying, “Guys, I’m at Red Bluff. And it is most definitely a canyon.”  We knew at that point we had landed on what we needed. 

Do you have a most memorable moment working on the film?

Torching the car. Filming that sequence was something we had spoken about for a while. So seeing that come together was certainly a highlight. Once we were on set with the whole team seeing it there on fire, blazing, it was just one of the moments when you say, “We’re finally here, we spoke about doing this for years, and we’re here, we’re doing it.” One of the great joys of production is when you’re out there filming a specific thing that you had envisioned and spoken about and anticipated for quite some time.

Adam the First was a completely independent production. Do you think there’s more opportunities for indie filmmakers today, particularly regarding streaming and digital distribution?

I think it’s kind of a double-edged sword.  It’s extremely exciting that suddenly you can make a film or album for an amount of money that decades ago you couldn’t get to the corner with—and that has been a dream come true for so many storytellers and artists. But I think the negative side of that is now there’s so much more out there in the sea, and we’re now competing for the same space on the distribution side and getting lost in the noise. But the overall positive is more indie films are getting made than ever.

Julie Toche, Production Designer

Julie Toche

Julie Toche of Biloxi has worked on films in the art department as a production designer (From Black, The Getback), art director (Joe Baby, Hallowed Ground), and set dresser (The Card Counter, Adam the First) as well as on numerous commercial and film projects as a makeup artist. She is a member of the Art Director’s Guild and currently serves as a delegate for IATSE Local 478.

Where did you grow up and go to school?

I grew up for the most part here in Biloxi and attended Biloxi High. I did a little bit of college at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, and then continued on to cosmetology school in Gulfport.

At what moment did you discover an interest in working in Film/ TV?

I was on the path of film when I was in cosmetology school to do hair and makeup. That’s kind of where I started. And then life got in the way, I got married and had kids, and everything got put on the backburner, and then I later just kind of fell into it again. I started doing makeup at the Terror on the Coast haunted house in Gulfport. And one day somebody came in and said, hey, we need some people for a movie in Mobile. So, that’s when I decided to be one of those people full time, and I haven’t stopped since.

How did you transition to production design?

It’s a funny story, actually. I applied to be the makeup artist on a movie and the director-writer said, hey, I don’t have a production designer, are you interested in doing that? And I said, I have no idea what I’m doing. And he said, that’s okay, you’ll learn. So, I took on the role, and quickly realized that hair and makeup was not where I wanted to be. That was my turning point of not pursuing hair and makeup full time.

At this point, you’ve done way more production design and art department stuff than hair and makeup, right?

Yes, as far as film is concerned. I’ve done a ton of commercials for hair and makeup, but the majority of my film work has been in art department or set decoration.

At what point did you realize you could take steps to pursue your dream from Mississippi?

That came about in the very beginning of my career. I didn’t want to move to Atlanta or New Orleans and uproot my family. So, I just kind of took on the mindset that I could either find the work, or if I was good enough at my job, they would seek me out.

Once you figured out what you wanted to do, did you pursue any formal training?

Once I figured out that I wanted to move into more of the art department and production design world, I started looking into joining the Art Directors Guild and seeing what they had to offer, which really helped me out. They offered tons of classes and I’ve really been able to expand my world that way. As far as I know, I am currently the only ADG member in the state of Mississippi. I’m dual union, I’m Local 478 as well as an on-set dresser, which I still love to do.

What was your very first film job?

My first movie was called Blunt Force (AKA Breakout), and it filmed here on the coast. And I was the art director’s intern. That was the very first film I ever worked on, before I pursued film full-time.

I came to the game kind of late. I’ve only been doing this full-time since 2017. I’ve been able to move up the ladder fairly quickly. I’ve had a lot of people in the industry say that they would take somebody with a great attitude who is willing to learn over somebody that has all the knowledge and a bad attitude.

Are you working on any current/recent projects?

We just wrapped up The Ritual in Natchez recently. I love Natchez. I’ve filmed there almost every year for the last five or six years. It’s very a very welcoming film town. I also worked on Armored on the coast recently in a couple of different capacities. I think that’s pretty much all I’ve done this year. The strikes put a lot of stuff on hold and pushed things back.

One I did that was just released and screened at the Oxford Film Festival was Adam the First. That was filmed in Mississippi a little over three years ago. I was the on-set dresser for that. I had a handful of friends, and my son worked on that. We’re a film family in this house. Three of the five of us work in film. My husband Perry and I are both art department. My son has worked in the art department, but he’s more interested in the production side. Now I’ve just got to get the other two interested in film so we can be the traveling Toches. (laughs)

What has been the most surprising thing about working in the film industry?

Realizing the amount of real-life crafts that it takes to get a movie done. When you’re on the outside looking in, you don’t realize that you need electricians or people that can cook, you know? And then once you start working on a crew or once you’re on a film set, you realize there’s all of these different cogs in the machine to make things work. And it’s everyday tasks, not just specialized tasks. So, for example, if you’re an electrician and looking to get into the film industry, then there’s probably a job for you.

Who has been an influence on your career and why?

There have been people that have definitely helped me along the way. Mary Goodson and John Read and my husband Perry and Dayton Douglass. Mary took a chance on me when I was younger and starting out in the art department. I love that. And Dayton and my husband are my two best kept secrets in the art department. (laughs)

And any project that I have the chance to work with John Read is great. I’ll sing it from the rooftop: any movie that John Read is a location manager, I know that’s it’s going to be okay. If the art department doesn’t get along with the locations manager, it can make or break a film for your department and definitely make things way harder than they should be. And like I said, when John’s on a film, I don’t have to worry about that.

It really is everybody that I’ve worked with. There have been producers, directors, actors, multiple crew members. I’ve worked under some designers that were just absolutely fabulous and I learned so much. Gabor Norman, who I worked with on Joe Baby, is one that I can call out as being that way.

If you could create a scene built around one location in Mississippi, where would that be and why?

That’s a hard question because there’s a lot of really good locations to build a scene around in Mississippi. John brought us to a location on Adam the First called Red Bluff. It looked otherworldly, so out of place to be here in Mississippi. It looked like we were in the middle of a desert, so it was really cool to see that here in the middle of Mississippi. Being from here you think of things like woods, we have lots of woods. But I also live on the coast, so we have the water. There’s so many options. Of course, because horror is my favorite genre, I would pick a place to make a horror movie, but, any of those locations would work perfectly.

Well, we like to say one of the best things about filming in Mississippi are the authentic locations. I might go as far to say they make your job easier, as there might be less work to decorate a set to make it look real. Do you ever find that?

I do find that Mississippi has a lot of on location surprises that lend more authenticity to the design, for sure.  When we filmed From Black, which was also in Natchez, there is a whole sequence at a trailer. And I can honestly say that that was not all production design. (laughs) And people here are very excited about and amicable to film, which is always a plus, especially when it comes to using assets at locations.

Do you have a favorite moment working on a project?

Wow, there’s a ton of memorable moments from each one. I think my favorite thing of all about film, period, is watching something come to fruition. You literally start with words on a paper. And then by the end of the project, you have this living, breathing thing that is never going to go away. And it’s kind of cool to see the world you built and put together between everybody on the crew. That is always the most memorable thing for me working in film. To see how it all finally comes together.

What would you say to convince/encourage a producer to bring their project to Mississippi?

Locations, locations, locations. (laughs) We also have one of the best art departments. I know that that’s biased, but we really do. And I don’t know, I haven’t tried to sell a producer on coming to Mississippi. That’s a tough question for me. By the time I get the phone call, they’re already coming.

What are your hopes for the film industry in the state?

My ultimate wish is that all our film crew here in the state would join the union so that we have stronger backing and a foundation of working professionals. It’s almost kind of like a graduation in this industry. It’s like taking that next step to say, okay, this is what I do. This is my career now. And that is really my hope so that we can just continue to work and build the crew base here. That’s the one thing that Mississippi is lacking, other than an actual studio. If we had one on the coast and one in Jackson and one in Natchez, it’d be awesome, we’d be able to house all sorts of different projects, not just on-location movies. And then work on getting the incentive cap raised to attract bigger studio projects.

You’re never going to come across a more hardworking close-knit family of crew than you are in Mississippi. We all know each other. We all work well together. We all support each other. So, it’s very much like a family. And that’s one of the reasons why I continue to choose living and working in Mississippi over many other places.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to get into the industry?

Start wherever you can. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’ll quickly figure out if that’s the department for you or not. And if you don’t know, start as a production assistant. Being a PA will show you all of the different departments in little bits.

And also: it’s never too late. I started the thought of wanting to get into the industry right after high school. And like I said, life in general got in the way. And then it came back around. So it’s never too late to start something.

That’s also 100% my husband’s story. He had the same job for 22 years and realized that he was never going to be able to progress more than where he was. He couldn’t climb the ladder anymore. So he said, I’m tired of it. And I said, okay, what do you want to do? And he said, well, maybe I’ll join the circus with you. And I supported it. And in a little over two years he has worked on around ten films, and he has joined the union.

Honestly, I’m so fortunate as a production designer to be able to have the art crew that I have here in the state. But unfortunately, we don’t all live in the same area. I would love to figure out some way to boost our crew members here. So that we have a coast-based crew and we have a Jackson-based crew and we have a Natchez-based crew, and so on. I would ultimately love to do that.

21st annual Oxford Film Festival offers an expansive four-day celebration of indie film

The Oxford Film Festival, Mississippi’s largest film event, returns for its 21st installment on March 21-24. This year’s fest celebrates its first two decades of growth while also looking forward to its future.

“This year we’ve really focused on enhancing our audience experience,” said OFF Executive Director Matt Wymer. “We want the festival to be a transformative experience for all of our guests and visiting filmmakers. This year we’ll have close to 80 filmmakers in attendance. It’s a great opportunity for anyone to come out to talk about and learn about film.”

For the full festival experience, VIP access tickets that allow entry to all events are available.

 “VIP tickets also come with a one-year membership to OxFilm so that the fun doesn’t end when the festival does,” Wymer said. “It also includes access to our green room where we’ll have food from local restaurants.”

The OFF has grown from a labor of love by its founders into an expansive, multi-day event encompassing screenings, workshops, multimedia presentations, parties, educational events and more.

“All the educational workshops and classes are free,” Wymer said. “We have a session on mobile phone filmmaking geared to kids, a stunt action workshop, a set safety workshop, a copyright and fair use panel discussion and a technology and animation panel, too.”

Over the years, the OFF has become a nationally recognized event of the vibrant indie film scene, having been named a Top 50 Festival Worth the Entry Fee by Moviemaker magazine.

“I’ve attended the festival many times before as a filmmaker,” said Brian Ratigan, who has joined the OFF staff this year as Programming Director. “I’ve been a programmer with other festivals like the Atlanta Film Festival and Slamdance. As for Oxford, I’ve always really been impressed with the camaraderie it inspires between filmmakers and how well they treat their visitors. Like all great film festivals, it really is all about celebrating cinema and supporting the community.”

An event of OFF’s size requires a team of programmers, jurors and above all numerous volunteers to make it happen (and to provide that signature Mississippi hospitality).

“We definitely could not do this without all the people who volunteer their time,” Ratigan said. “I think it’s important that we’ve built a really diverse programming team of not just local artists but also out-of-state filmmakers like myself who are familiar with the festival, because that’s what keeps it fresh year after year. We strive to connect local artists with filmmakers from the around the world to embrace Southern hospitality at its finest.”

To pay tribute to the many people who have kept the festival going as well as growing since its inception in 2003, the documentary The First 20 Years will be shown Sunday afternoon.

“We interviewed around 16 people who have been involved with the festival over the years, from some of the early founders, to current and former board members and staff,” said director Damon Burks, who has been a part of the festival’s documentary team since 2016.

The festival grew out of the indie film community that was centered around Oxford’s Hoka Theatre, which the OFF’s awards are named after, as well as inspired by Mississippi’s oldest film event, The Magnolia Independent Film Festival, which began in West Point in 1997 before moving to Starkville. Not to mention being inspired by some good old Ole Miss-MSU rivalry.

“They really enjoyed the MAG and thought, ‘We can do this in Oxford, but better!’’” Burks said. “That very first festival was all volunteer-driven, without any of the staff and funding it has today.”

Today, the films shown at the festival run the gamut of genres from narrative to documentary to animation to experimental and beyond and originate from all over the world. The festival has also maintained a strong focus on both films made in Mississippi and films by Mississippi filmmakers.

One such highlight is the opening night film, Adam the First, which was filmed entirely in central Mississippi with a largely Mississippi crew. The screening will be the film’s Mississippi premiere.

“It’s a beautiful thing to be able to screen it for a local audience,” said Adam the First writer-director Irving Franco, who will be in attendance. “We really worked hard with some absolutely amazing people in Mississippi. We filmed it through the pandemic, which made things even more complicated. So to be able to circle back a couple years later with a finished film for the whole world to see is a great feeling.”

The film, starring David Duchovny and Oakes Fegley, tells the story of a 14-year-old boy searching for his real father. The film in many ways embodies the spirit of the film festival as its was produced 100 percent independently.

“It’s not easy making indie films,” Franco said. “We need events and institutions like this very badly that celebrate and provide exposure to films that tell real human stories and touch the soul, no matter the budget.”

Another Mississippi-made offering is Little Brother of War, a feature documentary about the Native American game of stickball produced and co-directed by Bryan Carpenter. Carpenter is also a Mississippi-based armorer who will present the set safety workshop on Saturday.

Filmmaker Antonio Tarrell has four films he worked on showing at the festival, all of which also tell Mississippi stories.

“I was born and raised in Mississippi, I’m from the little town of Bruce in Calhoun County,” Tarrell said. “Mississippi is rich with history and stories. There is so much history that should be told, so many stories that haven’t been tapped into. With my films, it’s important to me to tell these stories through my perspective, through my eyes.”

Tarrell was producer, director, cinematographer and editor for the documentary short (I’m Not) Your Negroni, which addresses the controversy surrounding bartender Joseph Stinchcomb when he created a craft cocktail menu in honor of Black History Month at the James Beard Award-winning Oxford restaurant Saint Leo. It’s a project that’s had a long road to the screen.

“We started filming it right before Covid hit,” Tarrell said. “I couldn’t get all the interviews done, and I ended up having to walk away from it for a while. I eventually revisited the project and pieced it together and it turned out well.”

Tarrell was also the cinematographer and editor for the aforementioned The First 20 Years documentary, producer and cinematographer for the documentary short Sites of Resistance and Healing, and producer and cinematographer for the documentary short I Believe I’ll Go Back Home: Robert Johnson’s Copiah County Roots & Living Legacy, a film about the living descendants of blues legend Robert Johnson from director Samantha Davidson Green (writer-director of the 2018 made-in-Mississippi feature Thrasher Road).

Friday night’s after party at The Powerhouse is inspired by two of Tarrell’s projects: Steven Johnson, the grandson of Robert Johnson featured in I Believe I’ll Go Back Home, is providing live music entertainment, and at the bar you can sample some of the drinks that caused the controversy in (I’m Not) Your Negroni.

Parties notwithstanding, the draw of the festival is the chance to see films before they’re widely available. Some even—such as in the case of the narrative feature Hello Dankness showing on Saturday—that you won’t ever be able to see at all outside of a festival.

“It’s a clip show movie, that takes parts from hundreds of films and weaves it together to tell a story about the 2016 presidential election,” Wymer said. “It’s a 100 percent arthouse kind of experience you won’t be able to see anywhere else due to copyright laws.”

For those that can’t make it this year for the whole festival experience, OFF has got them covered too.

“New this year on Sunday is we’re doing a ‘rewind,’ where we’re showing our award winners in blocks throughout the afternoon,” Wymer said.

The winners will be announced at Saturday’s Awards Party at The Powerhouse, where the best of the best will be celebrated with live music provided by Afrissippi.

“As someone who has done festivals year after year, it’s always great to see the new crop of talented filmmakers that emerges each time,” Ratigan said. “The throughline for all we do is celebrating independent cinema. That’s why we put features and documentaries alongside student films and the nontraditional storytelling in our FestForward offerings of animation, projections and experimental films. The real goal is to connect filmmakers and show that there’s no real blueprint to making independent cinema. We all just have to work together to celebrate it.”

The festival kicks off with a special installment of the Thacker Mountain Radio Hour Thursday at 5 p.m. featuring actor and author Andrew McCarthy. For more information, visit thackermountain.com.

For more information on the Oxford Film Festival, visit ox-film.com for a full schedule and ticket information.

27th Annual Magnolia Independent Film Festival celebrates ‘the art of filmmaking’

 The Magnolia Independent Film Festival has built a strong reputation as being an intimate and interactive event for filmmakers and film fans alike.

“It’s not like other events where you might feel like the filmmakers are put under glass and you only get to tap on the glass,” said festival director Chris Misun. “We encourage the filmmakers to interact with the people that come to the film festival.”

For its 27th annual installment to be held in Starkville Feb. 22-24 at the UEC Starkville Hollywood Premiere Cinemas, the festival will host more visiting filmmakers than ever. Sixteen will be in attendance to discuss their work from the over 30 films from around the world that are screening.

“Filmmakers love talking about films and they love watching everybody else’s films,” Misun said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to connect with the other filmmakers in attendance. I think it’s just as enjoyable for the filmmakers to get out and meet people and watch other people’s projects as it is be put up on a pedestal for a little while when their work is screening.”

In the interest of maintaining that spirit of connectivity, the festival has stayed true to its roots by limiting its scope.

“We don’t do multiple screens at multiple locations,” Misun said. “Our focus is on making sure that our audience can experience all the films that we screen at the festival. That can be a challenge on our end because we must be more selective because we’re not trying to fill 100 slots. We’re showing 36 films, and we want to make sure each is of the highest quality.”

Ashley Heathcock

The festival also features a workshop and a panel discussion, both free and open to the public.

“The theme of the festival this year is ‘The Art of Filmmaking,’” said MAG Board President Michael Williams. “The panel discussion’s guests include a writer, actor, director, producer and editor, so we can have a conversation about how the art of filmmaking is present in all those different parts of it and how it all works together.”

Williams himself is moderating the panel on Saturday afternoon and providing the director’s perspective, and he’s joined by Waynesboro native actor Artrial Clark, Birmingham producer Colby Leopard, Hattiesburg-based editor Jared Hollingsworth and Raymond-based writer Michele Mathis.

Also on Saturday is the workshop, “Costume Design: The Process from Script to Production.” It will be presented by Natchez-based costume designer Ashley Heathcock, whose credits include TV’s Magnum P.I. reboot, American Horror Story and Venom.

And for those that want to experience all the festival has to offer, a VIP pass includes more than ever this year.

“We’ve really expanded our VIP experience,” said Williams. “So if you get a VIP pass, we have an opening reception and a VIP refreshment room all weekend. In the past, we’d give the festival awards in the theater right after the last film. This year, we’re having an official awards party that’s got live music, catered food, drinks and all of that. It’s going to be our biggest closing night party ever.”

Don’t Die

Speaking of closing night, one of the highlights of the festival is the closing night film Don’t Die, a thriller having its Mississippi premiere. Shot mainly in Tennessee, several Mississippians worked on its crew, including Williams, who served as cinematographer.

“Michael and I kind of knew each other in college and kept up with each other since we both made our first feature films around the same time,” said Alabama-based filmmaker Benjamin Stark, director and co-writer of Don’t Die. “When I had a short film called Dead Saturday that I wanted to produce in 2014, I knew Michael had been doing a lot of cinematography in addition to writing and directing his own films, so I got him on board and we had a great experience working together. And so, whenever it came time to put together Don’t Die, he was high on the list of people to talk to about coming on.”

The film tells the story of a man who robs a pharmacy to get life-saving medicine but things go horribly wrong.

“It’s designed to entertain an audience, to take them on a ride, but then also leave them with a little bit of something to talk about in terms of where we are with health care and the high costs associated with it,” Stark said.

Carys Glynne in Io’s Lament

Also having its premiere is the narrative short Io’s Lament, a project that was supported by the Mississippi Film Alliance’s Emerging Filmmakers Grant, which is funded by the Mississippi Film Office.

“It’s always a treat to hear when films the grant has supported are selected for festivals,” said Film Office Director Nina Parikh. “It’s doubly rewarding to know that they’re getting to be seen by the people involved with making them in the communities where they were made.”

Grant recipient Carys Glynne, who wrote, produced and stars in Io’s Lament, is a native of Starkville where it was filmed.

“I think the Golden Triangle Region and my hometown Starkville in particular are underutilized by the film industry compared to the rest of the state, despite having lots of young creatives and good infrastructure, so we were really happy to be able to bring a film there to shoot,” Glynne said. “It feels very fitting that we get to premiere the film where it was made and hopefully encourage other Starkvillians to participate in film and other films to come to Starkville.”

Our Rebellious Hearts

Another Mississippi-centric highlight of the festival is the short documentary Our Rebellious Hearts, which provides a behind-the-scenes look at the work of Jackson singer-songwriter Teneia Sanders. The film is directed by Jackson filmmaker Talamieka Brice, who made her feature directing debut in 2021 with the introspective documentary Five: A Mother’s Journey. The journey to making that film in many ways started with the MAG for Brice, an artist, graphic designer and photographer with her own media company.

“She was a judge in 2019 for us,” Williams said. “She got to meet filmmakers who encouraged her to make her own films. So, if it wasn’t for her coming to the MAG, she may not have had that kickstart to be the talented and prolific documentary filmmaker she is today.”

These films are just a sampling of the MAG’s diverse lineup.

“We’ve got 10 countries and 12 different states represented between our films,” Misun said. “We have eight Mississippi films that are eligible for our Best Homegrown award.”

The films run the gamut from serious documentaries to music videos to queer cinema to animation and everything in-between. It’s that dedication to bring audiences films they might not be able to see anywhere else that Misun attributes much of the festival’s success.

“We’re in our 27th year and still going strong, and I think that’s a testament to the community that shows up and supports us every year,” Misun said. “The MAG is always an exciting way for film lovers to see something different. The films can get a little crazy at times and even be experimental. I think that’s just the kind of option audiences are looking for—a real filmgoing adventure.”

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit magnoliafilmfestival.com.

Orian Williams, Producer

Orian Williams

Orian Williams is a Jackson native that has produced a wide variety of projects since garnering international acclaim as associate producer of 2000’s Oscar-nominated Shadow of the Vampire. Other highlights of his career include 2007’s BAFTA Award-winning Control, the film about British band Joy Division, and more recent projects like the 2022 Dustin Hoffman-Sissy Spacek dramedy Sam & Kate and the 2023 rock documentary Have You Got It Yet?: The Story of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd.

Where did you grow up and where did you go to school?

I was born in Jackson, Mississippi, at the Old Baptist Hospital. Then my mother and I moved down to the McComb/Summit area for what was about three years, and then we moved to Houston, Texas, when I was three years old. That is where I grew up.  But I returned to Mississippi my entire life, specifically the McComb, Brookhaven and Summit area, for Christmas, for every holiday, for summers. Most of my cousins and extended family live in that area.  I went to college at Baylor University and then moved to Los Angeles. And now I’m back in Mississippi with my mom. She relocated to Jackson probably 25 years ago to move her company here, and she still runs this company. For me it was a little bit of a homecoming. Mississippi has always been a part of my life and it’s the place that I call home, where my roots are.

How did you get into working in film?

I think I fell into film by its proximity to all of the things that I loved in my life. And that was music and photography. I also love telling stories and I loved reading stories back when I was a kid. College and certainly high school didn’t prepare me for the film business. At Baylor, I did have some film classes, and that introduced me to the idea that there were jobs in different sectors of the film business, whether it be the business side, the technical side, acting, writing, directing, producing. But it wasn’t ever really a direction for me that felt like “This is going to be my job.” It was going to be a hobby, an interest, because I didn’t think you could actually get paid at it. And for the most part, you don’t. (laughs) Producing is such a weird animal.

The beginning for me as a producer happened when I worked at this commercial production company in Los Angeles. It was the mid-‘90s, and the Coen brothers were repped at this firm and they were making commercials. And I would always talk to those guys. And Ridley and Tony Scott’s company was also connected to the same building. I was in close proximity to these A-list filmmakers making huge movies that I loved, but I was making commercials, and I thought, this is not really what I want to be doing.

It felt like I was so close and yet so far from really what my passions were aligned with. But I asked questions and I listened to a lot of people and I got a lot of advice, specifically from the Coens. Their advice was to find a young filmmaker that you believe in. Like a director who has started out, another producer, a writer who wants to direct or has a script, or option a book. And I thought, wow, okay, this is pretty cool. They’re kind of giving me a secret. But who’s that person that I would align with?

By coincidence, that evening a friend of mine invited me to a screening in West Hollywood to see this very avant-garde movie called Begotten. Really different, pretty dark, not anything on my radar at all. It was a midnight screening. And because of the recent conversation with the Coen brothers, I thought, well, maybe this is the guy? I went up and talked to him after. His name was E. Elias Merhige. Elias had made this film that was truly unhinged and quite different than anything I’d seen. So I knew maybe this is the guy because no one else is after him. We had lunch the next day. One thing led to the next, and we started working together.

I found out that Nicolas Cage was a fan of Begotten, and I thought, Well, that’s cool. An actor like Nic already had a lot of entry with the arts and different types of filmmakers, but I didn’t know him. But I reached out. I went on a path to find Nicolas Cage, and through a series of many long stories, I basically just called his production company, and that led me to getting in touch with someone who was with the company. And we met. He brought Nic and we talked about film and cinema. I brought the director who was like, “Why are we meeting this actor?” I said, “Elias, this guy makes $20 million a picture, you make nothing. This guy loves your film. Let’s talk to him. Maybe he has an idea.” And sure enough, he had a script called Shadow of the Vampire. And that film was the one that put me on the map. And I thought, well, great. So that’s the formula. You find someone you believe in. And it wasn’t that easy. That doesn’t happen all the time.

I have another story—and I could go into in more detail—but I had a wonderful early run-in with Robert Evans, the producer for The Godfather and Chinatown and many other great films. And he gave me advice: “Own the material. If you don’t love it, don’t do it. Be weird and take risks because that’s what producers need to do. Change the industry. Find yourself in the industry, don’t try to put the industry in you.” It was a really interesting concept that I had not heard. Don’t wait for someone to knock on the door, go knock on their door. You be the creator. And then later when someone knocks on your door, that means that, well, now you’re a real producer. They’re coming to you to activate a project that they have. So, all these things were swirling around at the same time. And that film put me on the map for me to pursue my passions.

You did a Q&A with fellow Jackson native filmmaker Al Warren at our Film Summit last August about his feature film Dogleg. It’s funny, although you’ve never worked with Al, did you realize there’s one degree of separation between you two thanks to Nicolas Cage, as Al is in his latest film Dream Scenario?

Right! I love that, by the way. It’s funny, with Nicolas Cage, he was the first actor I saw in person in Hollywood. I was driving on Beverly, and I just looked over and saw him.  I always kept a camera with me. I took this photo and you can just see like his hair and his hand.

Who would have thought within ten years I’d be sitting there with him and a film that we produced together that is at the Oscars. I would just never have imagined that. But yeah, six degrees turn into one degree pretty quickly when you’re in L.A. You realize it’s a small town and once you’re welcomed into the club, so to speak, of having made your first film, good or bad, you’re in a network.

When did you realize you could come back to Mississippi to produce?

I always envisioned that at some point I would come back here to retire. And, you know, producers don’t really retire. (laughs) They just slow down to making one or two films every five years.

But I think the pandemic is what made me realize I could move back. My mother’s getting to be of an age where I want to be able to spend more time with her. I’m an only child. Plus, films are not shooting in L.A. They’re shooting everywhere else. Also, once you’ve built a network of connections and collaborators, that makes the process of getting a film made, I wouldn’t say easier, but slightly more accessible. You have access to agents who represent talent. You already know a lot of actors. That’s a big reason why people live in L.A., to meet people.

So, during the pandemic I sat there and thought, do I really need to be here? Today, a lot of the films I make are in England. I’m not going to live in England right now but I go there all the time. But I’ve been all over. Sam and Kate, one of my recent films with Dustin Hoffman, that shot in Thomasville, Georgia. Yes, a lot of the financing comes from L.A. Yes, a lot of the distribution, the sales, different people like that are based there. Sometimes you cross their paths or you’re in the same room. But it’s no longer necessary to be there to connect and do business. It’s a different landscape now. And people know that.

Just this morning, I’ve had Zoom meetings with people that were in Ireland, L.A., France, Manchester, London and Paris. And then later I have one in Japan after they wake up over there. COVID accelerated the acceptance of a new kind of communication with things like Zoom that was eventually going to happen. So all of those reasons, as well as being single with no kids, I thought, you know what, I’m not going to overthink it. I’m going to go back to Mississippi. I’m going to see what I can do here. I’ve seen Tate Taylor and those guys do big time things from here. Well, I’m who I am. I make independent films. They’re in Natchez doing their thing. And that’s great. And that’s good for Natchez and it’s good for Mississippi. I thought, well, maybe I can bring a little something back to Mississippi too and shoot a film here. I’ve got some in the pipeline that I want to get going.

Once you have a little bit of credibility, once you have a film that people go, “Ah! I know that film,” it’s not about meeting the person or having a coffee. It’s about, “Is the material good?” I think all of that made the move much more accessible and truly a path that I wanted to be on. It’s definitely different here. The network is small, but I still love everyone that I know that’s here and my family’s here and that’s important. With producing, it’s about the network that I’ve built and the respect that I have for those people and vice versa. Now I just send a script, I send a project, it’s an email, it’s a phone call, it’s an attachment. It’s not a lunch meeting. So much happens via text messages now that it’s hard to believe how I’ve cast movies just asking by text. (laughs)

Have you had any formal training other than film classes at Baylor?

I always say for producing to just do it. Just make your first movie so you can make your first movie. And that can be a short, it can be a full-length feature. No one can see it on the planet, or it can be seen by a million people. It can go to festivals and win. But the thing that’s so amazing is just making that film and learning the process. You learn by doing, that was what I was always told. Just make one. Just go make a film. It could be a short made on your iPhone. But you learn the process of submitting to a festival, post-production, sound, color—all of that.

I didn’t have any proper schooling (for filmmaking). Baylor was the place that taught me to network with people. My mom taught me to pursue my dreams. My mom truly is a big inspiration for me. She came from a family in Mississippi that didn’t have a lot and then has now done very well without a college education. I don’t think it’s necessary to have a Master’s in film degree. It’s not necessary to have all film classes. I took business classes in case I needed to know a little bit more about what happens behind the scenes, not necessarily for film, but just in general. That has helped. The whole film business is a business first. Sure, the creative element is essential. But so many people that I know in the film world, they all have a little bit of a knowledge of how things work on the back side.

But it’s like I said earlier, you’re in the club when you make your first movie. Submit it to festivals. You may get an award. Go meet people while you’re there. I’ve met more people at festivals than I’ve met anywhere. Not everyone is in L.A.

What was your first on-set job?

I was told when I moved to L.A. in 1990 to get a job in the industry you want to be with, don’t work in retail if you can help it. Try to just be on set, be around people. If you want to be a cameraman or work at a studio, work at a camera shop. Or work at Paramount sweeping the floor just to get your foot in the door. I had all that advice. So yeah, my first on-set experience in L.A. was as an extra on a film with Drew Barrymore, Martin Landau, Kris Kristofferson and OJ Simpson. And it was this weird film called No Place to Hide.

But I also got a job as an assistant to an agent at a boutique agency. The biggest client there was an actor named David Morse. Karen Black was also repped there. I learned a little bit about the back side of how things work while being on set as an extra and working for the agent. And then I worked as a PA for a couple of music videos too.

But my very first real on set experience was in Waco, Texas, when I was at Baylor University. There was a film that came through and shot in Waco, and I, by miracle, found myself on set and meeting the director and being hired as his assistant. And that kind of first put the idea in my head that, wow, okay, these guys are all from Hollywood. Maybe I should move to Hollywood. So, in a way, that first on set experience led me to where I am now.

What are you some of your current and recent projects?

It’s interesting, COVID brought about a lot of documentaries for me. I have a big connection to the world of music. I don’t play any music, but through Control, the Joy Division film, I was able to meet a lot of musicians who all loved that film. So that kind of turned me on to a group of people that were all looking to have a film made about themselves or their band.

Have You Got It Yet?: The Story of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd is set to release online soon. It’s been in theaters for the past several months. The film has been reviewed wonderfully, which has been great for us. I’m also working on a Billy Idol documentary, it’s been in the works for a few years. But we’re in post now and we’re hoping that it comes together pretty quickly and releases this year. There’s Eno, a documentary that I was a small part of about Brian Eno that’s played at Sundance. And there is another documentary about a band called Mogwai, a Scottish shoegaze band. I also have a Jeff Buckley film in the works.

One I’m super excited about is a film about a photographer from Japan. Now this is something where my career has taken an interesting path. I’m making this film about a photographer in Japan and almost fully Japanese. There’s about 10% of it that’s in English. It’s called Ravens.

And it’s about this guy named Masahisa Fukase. It’s directed by an Englishman. It’s produced by a Frenchman and myself. And we shot it all in Japan. I’m telling you, it’s the coolest film. I mean, I’m just blown away by it and excited. This is a movie where we had very little money. We had a window of opportunity to shoot it, so we went and made it. That was it. We weren’t going to stand around and wait for the right money or more money.

You know, there’s so many films that don’t happen because people think, well, this is the budget! You’ve got to make up for that or else that’s it. And we just took what we got, which was mostly from the Japanese government, and just made it. And thank God we did, because I tell you, this film is, for me, one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had in my life.

And then, you know, I have even more things on the slate, which is longer than most and probably too long, to be honest with you. (laughs) But there’s so many cool things that it’s hard to say no.

I also have a book of my photography on the way titled ­B-Sides. It’s an honor to have something that was initially a hobby get recognized. Hat and Beard, my publisher, reached out and wanted to put together a book on my photography of musicians, actors, behind the scenes on film sets. I take a lot of stills on film sets and that’s been a lot of fun. I’m just a fly on the wall, really. But producers sometimes have that access others may not since they’re there the entire time. Mine are more black and white and not really publicity shots. They’re more atmospheric shots. So that’s been very different than producing a film.

And then funnily enough, there is a movie that my mother turned me on to through a friend of hers here in Jackson. There’s an unpublished manuscript that our friend Barbara Hamilton wrote called Mahogany. It’s a true story about a Mississippian, a lawyer here in Jackson, who has to go to Honduras to retrieve this girl who is being held there because of her visa, and he unravels this incredible history of secrets in Honduras. It’s an interesting story. I’m set to direct it. Financing is the next step. It kind of came from nowhere. It was unexpected. At first, I was like, yeah, mom, whatever. (laughs) And then I was like, wait, hold on a second. This is actually pretty good. So that’s another project that I want to do in Mississippi.

What has been the most surprising thing for you about working in the film industry?

It’s not like a regular job. You don’t get paid that often. At least in independent films, which sounds slightly depressing. (laughs)

I’m surprised that it takes so long to make a movie. I always thought it was like, here’s the script, here’s the director, and let’s get the actors tomorrow. Obviously, that’s not the case. The process is not formulaic in any way, even though people say it is.

The other thing that I’m surprised about is me doing what I do. I never really thought, as an only child, kind of a shy kid, growing up in Houston and Mississippi, I could ever have a connection to this industry. That I could power through the Hollywood tough guys and the jerks, whatever you want to call it, to be a PRODUCER! with a cigar in my hand and yelling at people. (laughs) I’m not that guy. It’s an industry that sort of has that stereotypical persona. It’s not really me. For me to sustain and continue and make these films in an industry where some think attitude is the only way to get ahead, to eat your way and fight your way to the top, is a pleasant surprise. I’ve just been trying to be a nice guy and be someone who just does things for the love of it. I get super excited when someone pitches me a story that connects with me personally.

It’s like seeing all your thoughts and your dreams come true. Like growing up in Houston, going to a club, listening to New Order and Joy Division and thinking, wow, I wonder who made that video? And then having that guy that made that video direct the film about that band that I produced, it’s like, how did that happen? It’s all surprising. I don’t ever want to become complacent in this. I like to feel that it’s a miracle every time. It takes a miracle to even make a bad movie. To make a good one is ten miracles.

You mentioned the Coen brothers and Robert Evans giving you advice. Is there anybody else that’s been a particular influence on your career?

My mom, as I mentioned earlier, she’s been a real big inspiration for me, not because she understands the film business, but she understands life and she understands me.

Fred Roos is an inspiration. Fred is the producer of The Godfather and The Conversation, he’s been (Francis Ford) Coppola’s guy since day one. He’s been a mentor to me. Also, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who is a wonderful director that worked on the Peter Jackson Beatles documentary Get Back. He inspires me all the time. He’s just this amazing guy.

Another person that inspired me was my stepfather. It’s talked about in my photo book. He took photos on the weekend just as a hobby and had a darkroom. And I was always like, what’s going on in that darkroom?

Blade Runner, my favorite film, has always been a big inspiration. I ended up meeting Ridley Scott and he was a massive fan of Control. I was blown away by that. I didn’t even tell him I love Blade Runner. I just happened to meet him. And he was like, “Man, I love your film! I was just talking about it.” Those are the kind of things that are pretty amazing.

And Walton Goggins, the actor, he’s a very close friend. I just saw him a few weeks ago. That guy, I mean, you sit in front of him and you just feel his personality, his presence, his ambition, his drive to just be real and do things that he loves. He’s a great family man, a great father. And that inspires me. He left me a message when I moved to Mississippi that pretty much substantiated my conviction to come back here, to continue moving forward with what I’m doing. He’s like, “Let’s be long haulers, man. Let’s just do it. We both went to L.A. and made it better.” I love that, you know?

Does being from Mississippi help you stand out in any way?

Without question. People are like, wait, where are you from? I’ll usually say I was raised in Texas, but I was born in Mississippi and I live there now. And people like, wait, hold on a second. You made the Joy Division film and you live in Mississippi? They’re kind of just blown away by that.

If you could make a movie at any location in Mississippi, where would that be and why?

It would be a treat to make something in Summit or McComb or Brookhaven. I’ve scouted those locations for other films and didn’t end up shooting here. But that’s my turf, we have a country home on about 600 acres down south. That’s where my mom grew up and where my grandmother raised her four kids. It’s beautiful. Just anything in Mississippi would be a dream, you know? And also to work with Mississippians, people that are from here that are striving to make movies, that want to make content that resonates here and abroad. I have so many friends and musicians and people that live in England that have never been here. But they’re like, That’s my favorite place ever! They’re all intrigued with Mississippi. It’s mysterious. I’m always wanting to do movies that bring together a community of filmmakers, good people that are from here. And I’d like to bring some great actors here that haven’t been here. So many have. Willem Dafoe, who was in Shadow of the Vampire, loves it here. My dream would be to just continue making films all over the world, but also bring people back here.

Do you have an all-time favorite moment on set or with a project?

I’ll tell you one. Henry Thomas, who was in E.T., Gangs of New York, Legends of the Fall—he’s my best pal. A great, dear friend. He invited me to the set of Gangs of New York in Italy. And Henry was like, do you want to meet Bill the Butcher? And I’m like, “No!” That of course was Daniel Day-Lewis. I was intimidated! He’s in character. He introduced me to him and I couldn’t have felt more separated from this human being with a handshake than anyone on the planet. I mean, he looked at me as if Henry had brought the scum of the earth to set. Henry was kind of winking a bit, like, don’t worry, he’s just doing his thing. But Henry respected him a lot, and he respected me and wanted us to meet. It was a handshake, a hello, and that was it. So, I thought, well, that was my one time to meet Daniel Day-Lewis, and I really screwed it up and I’ll never see him again.

Cut to many years later. I’m at the BAFTAs in London, and I brought my mom. We’ve been nominated for five awards, including Best Picture. It’s a pretty big honor. There’s a bunch of actors and actresses there. And my mom says, I only want to meet one celebrity: Daniel Day-Lewis! Agh! (laughs)

We end up at the after party. We’re standing there, and he was standing there with his wife, almost as if inviting someone to come and say hi, but no one would say hello. I go, come on mom, this is the chance. I walk over and I go, “Daniel, I would love for you to meet my mother. She’s a big fan, and her name is Martha.” And he looks at her and goes, “Martha, I’m going to do something before I talk to you. I want to congratulate your son on a wonderful film. Orian, I loved Control.” And I went, “Wow! Okay, this is big.” And he said, “It’s a beautiful film and congratulations! Martha, lovely to meet you. Your son’s very nice and I’m glad he brought you over.” Neither of us expected him to even know the film or have seen it, right? And he loved it. And it made me feel like, hey mom, look at me! It was great.

What would you say to convince a producer to bring a project to Mississippi?

Well, it’s not even really about me being here. I don’t have to sell them if the money makes sense, if there’s an aesthetic that fits the script and the tone, and there’s accessibility to crew and resources. It’s a no brainer. I mean, yes, the incentive is certainly important. But the real test is that you can shoot anything here. I mean, you really can. There are so many movies made here that are set in other places. The other thing that draws them in is the fact that they’ve never been here. It’s a mystery to them. They know New Orleans and Louisiana and we’re seeing it hundreds of times in movies now. You’ve seen Mississippi a hundred times in movies, but you probably don’t know it. think that’s just part of the new frontier of getting people to come here is to show what can be done, and to also build infrastructure, whether it’s stages being built, those kinds of things. Clearly, you’ve already got people coming here all the time. But for me, you know, I’m a patron of Mississippi. When I go to L.A. or New York or London, they’re like, wait, hold on a second! You do what you do living where you do? They can’t believe it. So, I talk fondly of the atmosphere, the landscape, the uniqueness of it, and how people here are really kind. So come down and make a movie here and see what you think! I’m championing Mississippi all the time.

What are your hopes for the future of the film industry in Mississippi?

I would love to see more people move here and live here. I’d love to see them incentivized to move here to work in film. And I’ve met a few people that I really respect in the world, both from here and not, who have also left L.A. I think more and more people like me are coming back to Mississippi. They come back because they love the state and they’re good people and they want to bring back a little bit of what they’ve learned along the way. (At the Film Office’s Misssissippi Film Summit last August), I was blown away by the talent and the interest in film in that room. I was like, wow, this is really, really cool. I want to see more of that. I saw the sort of unity that needs to come together a little bit more, so that that brings some interesting filmmakers to town, not just to make movies, but to speak to and talk to the people working in the industry.

Blues on film: Clarksdale Film and Music Festival celebrates artistry of native Mississippians

Whether you’re a blues fan or a film fan, you owe it to yourself to go to this year’s Clarksdale Film and Music Festival.

Now in its fourteenth year, the festival boasts an eclectic lineup of music documentaries, music videos, concert films, student films and even a short film featuring handmade marionettes at a pop-up theater in the Stone Pony Tack Room on Delta Avenue. Filmmakers from as far as Canada and Brazil will be in attendance to discuss their work. And it’s all paired with live performances from Mississippi blues artists.

“We try to have films where we can either get musicians who were involved with it or the directors or producers in attendance,” said Roger Stolle, artistic director of the festival. “And this year, I think everything but one film has representation.”

The closing film for Friday is the world premiere of A Life in Blues: James “Super Chikan” Johnson, a feature-length documentary about the Clarksdale-based blues performer. Johnson will perform live at a reception before the screening, and Canadian filmmakers Mark Rankin and Brian Wilson will be in attendance.

“We’ve been working on this film for several years now, and we’re excited to premiere it in James’ hometown,” Rankin said. “Those who attended last year’s festival may have seen the trailer we screened while we were still editing the final version.”

Rankin is a producer and director of several short films, and a blues performer in his own right with the popular Vancouver act The Mojo Stars. When Johnson performed in Vancouver in 2018, Rankin performed as part of Johnson’s pick-up backing band and was blown away by his music.

“The blues is quite popular in Canada,” Rankin said. “We booked him here for a series of sold-out shows, and that’s when we knew we wanted to make the film. We actually started filming in Vancouver when he was here.”

The film has been in the works for some time, as most filming and conducting interviews in Clarksdale were delayed until 2022 due to the pandemic.

“What fascinated us about Super Chikan, besides being a real Delta blues artist born in Clarksdale, is that he makes his own guitars and diddley bows,” Wilson said. “That not only reinforces his individuality as an artist, but it defines his particular, unique sound.”

Another of Friday’s offerings is the Mississippi premiere of the feature documentary African Reasons by Brazilian filmmaker Jefferson Mello. The film explores how the blues and other genres have their roots in tribal African rhythms. Pontotoc bluesman Terry “Hamonica” Bean is one of three international performers whose stories are told in the film. Bean will perform live at the festival’s opening reception, and Mello will be in attendance.

A highlight of Saturday’s screenings is a short film by Oxford native musician Jimbo Mathus, who is known both for his prolific solo career and as part of the platinum-selling North Carolina retro swing band Squirrel Nut Zippers. The film, The Secret Life of Charley Patton, was made using marionettes Mathus crafted while serving as artist-in-residence at Clarksdale’s Shared Experiences USA.

“Throughout his life, Jimbo has made marionettes as a hobby,” Stolle said. “In fact, they show up in the liner note photos of the Squirrel Nut Zippers’ 1996 album Hot. He made those, so he’s been crafting them for at least 20 years.”

The film portrays seminal Delta bluesman Charley Patton, a figure Mathus not only connected with through his explorations of roots music, but one he also shared a special connection with. Rosetta Brown, who worked for Mathus’ family when he was growing up in Corinth, was the daughter of the famed bluesman. It’s a fact Mathus did not learn until much later, and the film is as much a tribute to her as it is to her father. Mathus will be in attendance and perform live before the screening.

Nolan Dean

On Saturday afternoon attendees can learn more about Film Delta, a new film production initiative founded by Helena, Ark.-based filmmaker Nolan Dean and hosted by Clarksdale’s arts education and workforce development nonprofit Grio Arts. The presentation will feature a short film created by students of a recent filmmaking workshop.

“It’s an initiative to grow the film industry in the Mississippi-Arkansas Delta,” said Dean. “We’re forming a production company to create original content, as well as grow and train local workforce through our partnership with Grio Arts. We know the Delta has a ton of assets that work for filmmaking—low cost of production, great locations, amazing culture. What’s needed is infrastructure and a labor pool.

“We recently did a basic production workshop as an experiment to gauge interest in the program, and what we came away with from that one day was a really well-done short film. It confirmed that we have talented people interested in pursuing film opportunities here that can flourish pretty fast with on-the-job training and mentorship.”

The next step for Film Delta is to produce a feature film Dean wrote the screenplay for titled Bluestown. It is planned to be filmed in Clarksdale to give on-the-job training to students of the initiative. A teaser will be shown at the festival. For more information, visit filmdelta.org.

The closing night film on Saturday is The Blues Society, a feature documentary about the legacy of the Memphis Country Blues Festival. The festival ran from 1966-69 and spotlighted blues performers whose stars had somewhat faded after achieving fame in previous decades, like Mississippi Fred McDowell and the Rev. Robert Wilkins. The film is directed by Augusta Palmer, who will be in attendance. She is the daughter of Robert Palmer, noted music critic and author of the influential blues book Deep Blues, which was the basis for the 1992 blues documentary of the same name that was filmed mostly in Mississippi.

Other offerings on Saturday include a concert film featuring Clarksdale native Charlie Musselwhite and Elvin Bishop that was recorded live at (and presented courtesy of) the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco, Calif.; Born in Chicago, a feature documentary about the Windy City’s connection to the Delta blues; and King Bee: The Slim Harpo Story, a feature documentary about the Louisiana blues legend.

Finally, the festival closes out on Sunday with more live blues performances by Sean “Bad” Apple, Miss Australia “Honey Bee” Jones and Watermelon Slim.

“Basically we do a mini blues festival at Bluesberry Cafe in the afternoon,” Stolle said. “It’s always a really nice weekend and the slowest time of the year for tourism before we get geared up for the Juke Joint Festival in April, which is why we do it now to help sustain and support local businesses.”

For more information about the 14th Annual Clarksdale Film and Music Festival, visit clarksdalefilmfestival.com.

CASTING CALL: feature film

NOW CASTING PAID FEMALE AND MALE EXTRAS IN CLARKSDALE, MS for a new movie. 

THEY ARE ASKING FOR LOCALS AT THIS TIME, HOWEVER IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO WORK AND DON’T RESIDE THERE , YOU WILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN TRAVEL AND LODGING. THEY DO NOT PAY FOR TRAVEL AND LODGING.

They are casting for the following specific extras for this scene:

Filming: MONDAY, JANUARY 22, 2024 
Clarksdale, MS
-Soul Food Restaurant Customers (African-American ONLY, ages 18 to 60)
-Grungy Bar (Biker/Trucker Types, Caucasian ONLY , ages 21 to 50)
-Rate: $100/8 

PLEASE PASS THIS ON TO YOUR FAMILY, FRIENDS ETC IN THESE CITIES

*** Prelim Call Time: TBD (Please have open availability on day of interest)
***THEY ASK THAT WHEN BOOKED AS A PAID EXTRA, YOU BE PREPARED TO WORK AT LEAST A 8 to 12HR WORK DAY AS THEY DON’T KNOW HOW LONG YOU WILL BE ON SET… SO PLEASE HAVE OPEN AVAILABILITY FOR THE DAY YOU SUBMIT FOR.

The rate for extras on this production is $100 for 8 hours of work (Paid time in a half each hour after 8 hours), which you will receive in the form of a check in the mail 2 to 3 weeks after filming.

If available, please email the information below to: UJMovieExtra@gmail.com
w/Subject Line: MS Soul Food 1/22
OR
w/ Subject Line: MS Grungy Bar 1/22

PLEASE INCLUDE ALL INFO BELOW:
– Name
– Number
– Age/ Age Range
– Height
– Weight
– Sizes (Shirt, Pants, Jacket, etc.)
– Race

Do you have visible tattoos? If so, where?
– 3 RECENT PICTURES (1 Head shot and 2 Full body)

*PLEASE INCLUDE ALL INFORMATION ABOVE IN YOUR EMAIL FOR PROPER BOOKING!!!

A member from CAB CASTINGS, LLC. will call and/or email you to book your attendance in a scene and confirm availability if interested in booking you.

Bryan W. Carpenter, Armorer and Producer

Bryan W. Carpenter

Bryan W. Carpenter is a Carthage native who has worked as an armorer on a number of projects, and also provides armorer and stunt services and consultation through his company Dark Thirty Film. He is also a producer with several upcoming Mississippi-made projects through his production company 13 South Productions.

Where did you grow up and go to school?

I grew up in Carthage and graduated from Carthage High School. I went to college briefly but went straight into my first career.

What was your first career?

I worked in the security contracting world. I did private security contracting, intelligence work, etc. I spent around 20 years doing that, and worked on several tactical law enforcement groups, including New Orleans SWAT during Katrina. And I was a professional trainer for around 11 of those years. I trained military and federal and state law enforcement units, mostly on firearm tactics.

How did you find an interest in working in film?

A friend of mine from one of the units I was working on had got an offer for a job to work for an actor as a bodyguard. You see, most of the time, bodyguards are big guys that can stop around 99 percent of any problem, but there’s that 1 percent of people that aren’t intimidated by big guys, and they’re the ones that can be really dangerous. High-level celebrities sometimes need a trained professional that can blend in and really help to affect an outcome against those types of people. So, I got offered a job too.

At first, I turned it down and I said, I don’t want to work with any actors. (laughs) I remember specifically saying that. But then my buddy just kept saying you need to go talk to them. And I said, you’ve put your foot in your mouth, you promised them somebody, didn’t you? And he goes, yeah, just go talk to him. So, I had the interview, and the job ended up being a bodyguard for Denzel Washington. He’s an awesome guy, just an outstanding person. I ended up working on his crew for a while. He was filming the movie Déjà Vu at the time. I had never even really thought about film before that.

After that I got a very, very nice recommendation letter from him and his crew and that opened new doors for me. It got me thinking about using the skill set that I had to train actors and stunt performers on proper firearm usage and how to convincingly play roles like military special forces and spy intelligence officers in film.

Where did you get your training from?

I was very, very fortunate to have some of the best mentors and trainers that are just legends in that industry. Like Colonel Jeff Cooper, the man who wrote the four safety rules and author of the modern technique of the pistol. I was trained by his personnel and people that were very, very proficient in the art of handgun tactics and operations. I was also able to go to lots of military schools. I took the advice of some of my mentors back then to take every class that was offered. I’ve got pretty much of a laundry list of training schools, but I always enjoyed that. I love learning. I love anything that allows me to learn a new skill or better an existing skill.

What was your first on-set job?

Well, as a bodyguard I got to be on set a lot. I was also part of the personal security detail for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie when their daughter Shiloh was an infant. That was during the time of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I started seeing more and more of how the whole world of film worked and how a crew worked.

The first official job I had working as an armorer was a Lifetime TV movie called I Killed My BFF, which was made in Mississippi in 2014. And my first job as a lead armorer was a low budget horror feature also made in Mississippi called The Neighbor in 2015.

What does an armorer do on set?

What we do, first and foremost, is to ensure the safety of the cast and crew while firearms are being used on set. That’s the number one thing that you’re there for. And that doesn’t just mean making sure they’re loaded or not loaded, that means the entire environment is safe: no one is doing anything unsafe or, say, have brought any firearms-related foreign object onto the set that is unsafe. You ensure that the weapons are under a constant scrutiny and control.

And then the second part is the actual application of those firearms to affect whatever outcome the director wants, and to make sure that we give them suggestions and/or directions on how they should be used safely on set and, lastly, to make sure that they work and that it looks good on-screen.

I believe in a soft handed approach to things. But at the same time, you need to be stern enough that when there is something being done that’s unsafe or there is something that you should speak up about, you can do so in a professional manner where people will listen to you.

Besides Colonel Cooper, has anyone else been an influence on your career?

Nigel Thomas was one of my mentors, he’s a very well-known British SAS member out of Wales. Nigel is still a very trusted friend and mentor.

What has been the most surprising thing for you about working with movies?

A surprising thing for me, and it’s why I brought our companies into producing, were the similarities between working an intelligence operation and producing a movie. It’s amazingly similar, because in the intelligence world, you’ve got an operation and you’re tasked to do a thing, let’s say, upgrade some helicopters in the middle of Syria on a black operation. And your job is to get those aviation techs in there to that location, upgrade the helicopter’s components, and then get them out safely. That exact same thing, you can roll that right over into producing a movie because what you’re doing is you’re taking assets that you discover, find and/or cultivate and using those assets to affect an outcome. And that’s exactly what you do in film. You decide you’re making a movie, say, the movie we’re about to film next year, Tempest. Your producers come in and say, we would like you to do our movie. The producers would be the government, you’re the line producer, which is like an independent contractor. You then take your knowledge of people that you know and your know-how for producing a movie or, likewise, safely conduct an operation, and you find the right people for the right jobs. You put those people in place and manage them until the job is complete. And when you’re done with that job, you start back over whenever the next one comes around. The similarities between those two things were, in my opinion, very shocking. And that’s why I knew that with enough experience and learning everything I can about every department and making the right connections in the film industry, I could take Dark Thirty Film Services and our other companies and we could be successful in producing movies.

What are some of your current or recent projects?

I’m very happy to say that we produced and I directed a project called Little Brother of War. It’s a Native American documentary about the game of stickball that they have played for thousands of years. The Choctaw tribe would use it to prevent full scale war with other tribes. Whenever there was a dispute, instead of going to war, they would play the game of stickball and try to settle the matter that way. And they henceforth called the game “little brother of war” as a nickname. We went up to the Choctaw Reservation in Mississippi and shot a beautiful documentary following one season. We also co-produced The Minute You Wake Up Dead with Morgan Freeman and Cole Hauser in Canton. Then we produced The Last American House Party. It’s a music and visually-driven documentary that we did about the Neshoba County Fair. And we currently have in the works a documentary series called The Devil’s Backbone, about the history and culture of The Natchez Trace Parkway. And then lastly, we are set to produce the movie Tempest, which is a sci-fi drama. And we’re going to be going into pre-production in January and shooting in February.

The tragedy on the set of Rust has brought into focus the vital role of armorers in the film industry. Has it affected your work in any way?

There are very few people in the entire world that did what I did in their past career that work as armorers in the film industry. We’re talking about two handfuls of people in the whole world. When that tragedy occurred, I was called upon and hired as an expert investigator and witness to be able to help them navigate what happened. And we’ve been working on that now for some time. I’ve been intimately involved in that case from the start, and I have been trying to navigate the waters of what’s normal and what’s not normal when it comes to the making of a film and the safety therein, and the rules of the roles and responsibilities of everyone including the producer, line producer, director and assistant directors, and, of course, armorers.

I’ve been trying to give the most objective, factual information possible to help them understand what’s right and what’s wrong. And for me, the importance of this, regardless of the outcome, is to hopefully prevent this kind of tragedy again by getting movie companies to be very conscious and aware that you can’t just hire anybody for a job. When you take on the responsibility of bringing a live firearm onto a movie set, you take on a fiduciary responsibility for the protection of your cast and crew. And cutting corners and not spending the money to ensure safety is just not acceptable.

Has being from Mississippi help you stand out in the industry in any way?

I’m Mississippi born and raised and I do believe that our southern hospitality and my attitude and professionalism make me stand me out very much. We put this on our website: come down to the South and you get filmmaking with a side of Southern hospitality. And that makes a difference. It really does. This is entertainment. It should be fun. If you’re fighting and screaming and everybody’s unhappy, then you’re not doing it right.

If you could make a movie or a scene built around a location in Mississippi, where would that be and why?

Number one, I love the Natchez Trace Parkway. I love the sunken trace and I love a lot of the visuals that you get driving up and down the parkway. That’s one of my favorite areas in the state. Like I said, we’re doing our documentary The Devil’s Backbone, but also an upcoming horror Western and I’d like to film a lot of that around the parkway.

Also, recently I discovered an abandoned park up in northeastern Mississippi that you could easily film as the foothills of Virginia. It’s mountainous, it’s got caves, it’s got waterfalls, and the whole place had been abandoned since the ‘60s, with log cabins and lodges. It would be an outstanding place to film a multitude of movies there. The fact that it’s been abandoned for so long, it’s just got this creepy, eerie visual quality. The place is just begging for somebody to film any type of movie there, some type of post-apocalyptic movie or horror movie would be outstanding.

Do you have a favorite moment working on a project?

Yes, every once in a while, you really get to experience something unique in film. While filming Benjamin Button, there was a part where the troops were coming home from World War I and they were celebrating. They were shooting down in the warehouse district down in New Orleans, and they had rented an entire two or three blocks of street there that had buildings that were era-correct. They blocked the entire street off and had a parade, burning pitch and shooting fireworks. Even the fireworks they were setting off were authentic to the period. Everybody was dressed exactly as they would have been. They were shooting a long take and I needed to be close to Brad. So, what I did was I dug myself back into a little alcove while they were shooting up and down the street so they couldn’t see me. Every time they said action, it was like going back in a time machine to the end of World War I. It was amazing. That was a really cool moment.

Another story I’ve got is probably one of the best wrap parties that I ever went to in my entire life was 22 Jump Street. We had a huge wrap party in Puerto Rico at the beach with Channing Tatum, who was already a fun guy to be around anyway. I got Channing a bottle of Puerto Rican moonshine. I had been messing with him, telling him that I could copy his moves in Magic Mike when he danced to Ginuwine’s “Pony.” And he called me out in the middle of the wrap party to have a dance off with him. (laughs)

What would you say to convince a producer to bring a project to Mississippi?

Well, it’s exactly the same spiel I gave to bring Tempest to the state. I told them, you know, you can go anywhere in the country. But number one, our state incentive program, in my opinion, is better than any other, because you can tell somebody they’re getting tax credits or this or that, but a check in hand at the end after the audit is something that’s hard to turn down. Number two, I tell them that we’re a nicely hidden secret here in Mississippi because we’re a very eclectic state. We’re a very friendly state when it comes to business. People want to engage in film. They want to be nice to you and you’re not going to get that elsewhere. I tell them that logistically, in the center of the state of Mississippi, we have everything you could possibly want right here, from housing to entertainment to airports, etc. They don’t have to travel out of a 60-mile radius. And lastly, and most importantly, they’re going to have fun filming down here. They’re not going to be dealing with people that are burnt out on film. They’re going to be dealing with people that are kind and will give you the shirt off their back. The thing that I say about Southern hospitality is real. And I say, don’t let us tell you. Let us show you.

What are your hopes for the film industry in Mississippi?

I think we need to build our crew base and get more people working in the industry. I’d like to see them increase the incentive by maybe by 10 or 20 million more dollars. I would also very much like to see the legislature write in enforceable rules on safety as well as crew quotas to ensure they’re hiring and protecting Mississippians. I’d like to see us build a major production studio again. I’m actively in negotiation with several builders and film investors, both from and outside of Mississippi, to build a new soundstage in the state. I recently took a group on a tour of Starlight Stages down in New Orleans so they could see what it would take to build one.

I’m doing what I can to help build the industry. I have a lot of ancillary companies. I have Dark Thirty Film Services, which focuses on specialty stunt and armorer services. Then we have 13 South Productions, which produces, and underneath that we have several companies that do different things for film. We have Shadowbrook Road Construction, a construction crew that can build artifices for film. We have Red Shift FX, a special effects company that can do mechanical special effects. We may eventually move into more in-depth special effects. We did the special effects on The Minute You Wake Up Dead with all the car wrecks and whatnot. We have Lost Boys LLC, we rent picture cars and have a great network of people that we can get just about any picture car, vintage, current or antique. And then we have Wolfman Studios, it’s a full studio camera and lighting rental company. We have about an $8 million inventory, everything from robotic arms and mechanisms to the best modern cameras out there.

What advice would you give to somebody that wants to work in film?

I would say find the right person and the right company to work with that’s reputable and that does it the right way. You want to learn all you can. I’ve worked with some people that did it the wrong way, but I learned a great deal from them too, so I know now what to look out for. But I was fortunate enough to also work with good people that were filming and making movies the right way and respectful way. Work hard to learn the industry and never turn down a moment to train or a moment to listen to somebody who has experience because you can certainly apply that to down the road to whatever craft you want to get into. I’d also say to stick with the state of Mississippi. We’re growing quick here, and I think that all we need is more good people for our crew base and we can be the next mecca for film right here where we’re standing.

What do you do when you’re not working? What are your hobbies and interests?

You mean a day off? I don’t know what you’re talking about right now. (laughs) I don’t do well with boredom. I must have something going almost always to the detriment of my wife. She’s like, “Don’t you just need a break?”

I very much like traveling and going to different places and seeing things I’ve never seen before. That’s probably one of my favorite things to do. And then I enjoy antique cars and motorcycles. I’m always messing with some car that needs work or some motorcycle that needs rebuilding.

How can people find or reach you?

I tell people to just Google me as “Bryan W. Carpenter,” you can find out everything you want to know, including some interviews where I get more in-depth about safety concerns and the Rust tragedy. And our websites are darkthirtyfilm.com and 13southproductions.com.

Casting Call: Tourism commercial

PROJECT CENTRAL MISSISSIPPI TOURISM

OPEN TO PRO ACTORS AND ALSO NON-PROS / “REAL PEOPLE”

SEEKING 2 COUPLES IN THEIR 60S + A MULTIGENERATIONAL FAMILY (OF WOMEN) – Grandmother, adult daughters, and granddaughters!

A chance for you and possibly your family member/s to participate in a fun tourism shoot for a city in Central Mississippi!

We are open to real couples and real familial sets OR to creating them, so single submissions are indeed welcomed!

Please note for our Multigenerational Family, your submission does not have to be the “perfect set” (of grandma, her two daughters and their granddaughter). We’ll take any combo, e.g., Mom/Grandma, Mom and (kid) daughter/s, etc.   

Our couples are dining, checking into their hotel, etc. Our family is shopping together and enjoying the best the city has to offer for the holidays.

Shooting in Central Mississippi (in Madison County) on November 29 or 30, 2023. This project is both print and video (non-union) with no lines on camera.

Pays $1000 per adult and $650 per child + production is open to offering a travel stipend of “up to $250” as needed and on a case-by-case basis.  Images and videos will be part of a stock library for possible future tourism advertising for this one city.

To suggest yourself, please email a few photos to: CastingMSTourism@gmail.com

We would appreciate multiple photos: Head and shoulders with a nice smile + full length shots to see your build. Plus, we certainly welcome any group photos of you and your family member/s. If selected for the audition process, you will be asked to prepare a self-tape at home (simply answering a series of fun questions on camera).  

Time is of the essence. Deadline to suggest is Monday, November 13 at 5 p.m., with self tapes due a few days after this date.

Use the subject line: [your name] for PROJECT CENTRAL MS TOURISM

Include the following info in the body of your message for you and any family member you are also suggesting for consideration.

1. Name/s

2. Age/s

3. Best contact number/s:

4. City/State in which you (all) live:

5. Agency, if represented:

SPECS: Open to all ethnic backgrounds.

COUPLES IN THEIR 60S

+

MULTIGENERATIONAL FAMLY

GRANDMOTHER: 60s to 70s

ADULT DAUGHTERS: 30s to 40s

GRANDDAUGHTERS:  2-12 years of age

Feel free to share, re-post or tag your friends and family!

Thanks so much!

Morgan Casting

Jared Hollingsworth, Editor and Colorist

Jared Hollingsworth

Jared Hollingsworth is an editor and colorist based in Hattiesburg. He is also a lecturer for the Media and Entertainment Arts program at the University of Southern Mississippi. His latest work as editor can be seen in the Mississippi-made film Open by Hattiesburg native filmmaker Miles Doleac. Open is now available to stream on Amazon Prime and Apple TV. The Mississippi red carpet premiere for Open will be held Friday, Nov. 10 at the Grand Theater in Hattiesburg at 6 p.m. For tickets, click here.

Where did you grow up and go to school?

I grew up in Newton and I went to Newton Academy. Then I went to East Central Community College, and that’s where I started studying music theory. I got an Associate’s degree in music from there and mainly played guitar. Then I moved to Hattiesburg and transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi. I was going to continue with music, obviously. Then I sat in on my first music theory class here and we started to look at the jury process and plan recitals, and I just started to get so burned out on the guitar and music theory. Then I took an editing class as an elective while still majoring in music. And I really liked it. So I ended up switching over to that and dropping the music major and going into radio, TV and film.

When did you discover your interest in working in film? Was it that first editing class?

Well, I was always interested in film. I really liked the process of it, and just general appreciation and watching movies. I was always interested in the behind-the-scenes stuff. I used to watch the documentaries on how the films were made. So I had an interest, and then I ended up taking the editing classes as an elective and I really loved putting it together. That was a fun component for me. You get all the pieces and then there’s so many options and so much you can do. That was really attractive to me. I just stuck with it from there on out.

I moved to Jackson for a bit after I graduated with my Master’s and I worked at WJTV directing the newscasts. At first, I was fine with it. And then it got pretty repetitive for me, so I just kept trying to learn stuff in between shows and study up on AfterEffects, Adobe premiere and all that.

I ended up getting an interim job here at USM, that’s when I first met Miles Doleac. A friend, Teddy Champion, was teaching at Southern and he gave me a call because he was moving to Alabama. Miles was working on The Historian at that moment, which was his first feature film. So, I came back to Hattiesburg and filled in for a week on The Historian set doing location sound. And then from there, I picked up a few classes to help teach because Teddy was transitioning out and they brought me on as a visiting instructor.

At what point did you realize you could take steps to pursue your career from Mississippi?

Leaving Mississippi was at some point a consideration, but I really love Hattiesburg and my wife really loves it here, too. We wanted to stay because we liked the family dynamic that it provides. We’re close to our families, but not super far away. But once I got the job at USM, I started doing more freelance work on the side and it just continued to grow. We’ve stayed here and more and more projects keep coming through. I’ve met a ton of people that are from Mississippi that get to work in the film industry. So, we just stuck it out and ran with it.

Other than at USM, what type of training have you had and where?

I’ve looked at a lot of online stuff. I did some linda.com learning for a bit back before it became part of LinkedIn. I’ve done some more training with Final Cut Pro 7, which is what I learned editing with. And then outside from that, I’ve tried to be part of any project that I could and just cutting as much as possible and learning from my mistakes and failures moving forward. You got to be willing to take a risk and give it a go and just figure it out as you progress. I’ve also gotten into color and DaVinci Resolve and some other things and a lot of that has been just pursuit of wanting to know more.

What was your very first film job? Was that The Historian?

Yeah, that was my first film job. I did some PA work prior on reality TV stuff. My first editorial gig was with a short film called Two Birds. That was my first one that I got to do the edit and the color on. And then from that point I’ve just consistently gotten work.

What are some of your most current and recent projects? Is most of your work done with Mississippi filmmakers?

Yeah. So I did the color on Driven which was with Glenn Payne. And then I also did the color for The Atoning, which was Michael Williams. And Michael shot Two Birds as well, the short film that I was talking about.

I also got to work as an assistant editor on A24’s The Inspection. They came to Jackson and they needed an AE, and they were going to run everything through Premiere. I picked up that gig by putting in with their post supervisor and they pulled me on and I was there for about a month doing all the assistant editor work and working with the digital imaging technician. I set everything up for the editor, Oriana Soddu, to do. She taught me a bunch of really cool stuff and was very nice and kind to me. That was a hell of a good time because I got to go on set some, too, and just see how a larger production worked. That was my first big experience with a major post-production workflow. I learned a lot on that project.

I also worked on Miles’ latest film, Open, that’s the last project I finished editing. Currently, I’m cutting Bone Face, which is an indie horror film with Michael Donovan Horn, the director, and Miles is helping produce it, along with Artist Vodka Films. Right now we’re in the second reel.

What was editing Open like, with all the music-video type sequences in it?

It was definitely challenging, but it did make it a hell of a lot more fun. It was a fun sandbox to play in. The film transitions from a typical narrative and then you get to jump into this different universe for a moment and you can just throw everything at the wall, and just do whatever you want and have fun with effects and try random things because it had that ‘80s vibe. So, we got to be sort of quirky with it. When I was first talking to Miles, he was like, just whatever gut reaction, whatever you think upfront when you go into these things, just throw it out there, nothing’s too weird or bizarre. It was a really good time but it took us a minute longer than usual on the project. The workflow was interesting because we were doing sub-masters because there were so many effects going into the music video pieces. I was working on sending those out, and the colorist was kicking those back to me to replace and then cut back in while we were still cutting the movie, all while sending stuff to the mix and VFX and all that. It was a really cool project and it’s been one of my favorite ones to date because I just got to experiment so much, you know?

You’ve worked with Miles on several projects now, how did that ongoing collaboration come about?

When I worked on The Historian, we didn’t know each other all that well. He was still teaching at Southern at the time before he moved to New Orleans and started teaching at Loyola. He wrote me one day and they were going to be working on a short film. He’s always been big into getting students on set to get that practical experience. I was up here in Hattiesburg where they were going to film the project. I met up with him at a Starbucks on campus and we had some coffee and we talked about the film and getting some students on there to work since I was teaching at the time there as a visiting instructor. And then I started asking him about if he had anybody to cut the project. And I was blunt about it and told him I’d like to give it a go. I said, if you trust me, I’ll cut the project and color it. And he gave me a chance and then it just worked from there on out. He liked the work that I did and I like working with him and (his wife and producing partner) Lindsay (Anne Williams). We just had a good connection and chemistry as far as editorial work has been concerned. And since then, I’ve been cutting most of his projects.

Can you explain what you do in your work as a colorist for someone who might not know what it entails?

I’m fairly new to it. I have done color on three features now. The most recent one I did was Mysterious Circumstance. I put a lot of work into that one. Michael Williams was cinematographer, and produced images that were just so pristine and great to work with. With color, it really helps if you have a solid film and a solid foundation to work with and enhance what is already there. So that is one thing about being a colorist, from my experience. Everybody is a bit different, but on all the projects I’ve worked on, it’s just trying to work with what’s there and reiterate and capture that color component that ties in with the message, the overall feel and tonality of the movie or the project that you’re on. I’ll clean it up a bit and balance it out and then typically I’ll talk with the director and the DP, and they have a lookbook that outlines the direction they want to push it into. But a lot of it is tied in with the set design and the art direction and the color choices that they’re already using, and I’m just enhancing it and enriching things and cleaning it up and pushing it further into where they wanted it to be in terms of tone, to look and feel right.

I’ve finished up a documentary with this fellow out of Miami, Rico James. He made a documentary on this artist, Scott “Nobody” Patterson, aka TMNK, who passed away not long ago. He was was a graffiti street artist that went all around New York and traveled the world. They had been collecting footage for quite some time. I did the color on that one. It’s still on the festival circuit and after Christmas it will go out for final delivery for release so I may get another run at it, maybe even get to try my hand at an HDR pass.

What has been the most surprising thing about working in the film industry?

Wow, that’s a loaded question there. (laughs) I guess the most surprising thing is learning how to navigate and deal with different personalities, especially from a creative aspect. Thinking of editorial or even color, you might push it into something that’s more dusky or more saturated than what they were after. Trying to have that representation of your vision, too, as an artist, as the editor or the colorist but still also complement what they’re trying to do. So that’s been the most surprising thing as far as like figuring out how to find that middle ground and navigate those waters which can be kind of hairy at times because you can get some really strong opinions, especially with how things are cut together, right? It’s about developing that thick skin and not taking it personally when something’s just not working. Those initial notes you get on your work when you’re new and you’ve worked so hard on something, it’s a big gut check at times, but that’s just something you have to embrace, you know?

Who has been an influence on your career and why?

Pretty much everybody I’ve delivered to on post teams has been a valuable influence. Bradley Greer has been really cool to me. Such a nice guy. He owns Kyotocolor in New Orleans and he’s done the color on most of Miles’ projects. Getting to meet was really cool, he answered any questions I had, especially when I was really green. The first feature I got was Demons. And I was stressed on that one because I hadn’t gotten all these deliverables that I needed to do for post-production and then for him too, and then for the VFX. And I was still kind of learning some of that process. But any time I had a question Bradley was glad to answer. Sometimes you sort of have the reservation, like, I don’t want to ask. I don’t want to seem like an idiot. But it’s always better if you just ask, though. He was always so gracious and helpful to me. Also the team over Apex Post in New Orleans has been really cool to me, too. That’s Jon Vogl, who owns Apex, he’s always been a real cool guy to me.

If you could create a scene built around one location in Mississippi, where would that be and why?

I think Lake Thoreau here in Hattiesburg, it’s USM’s nature center. We’ve had a few events out there, it’s a cool spot. Some of my students went out there and shot a found footage-type short film.

Favorite moment on set or with a project?

One that sticks out in my mind, it was a hard time, and it was my first time delivering a project to a distro company, and it was The Atoning. I had been doing the color work on it. It was a long process. I drove up to Michael Williams’ house in north Mississippi at one point and we watched it on his monitor, went over and made notes, and then when we’re getting ready to do the final delivery and do all the QC stuff and all that, he drove down here and stayed at my place. It was just such a massive render, and I had such a small setup at the time. We crunched through it overnight and got the deliverables done and rendered it out and shipped it off. But we virtually didn’t sleep at all during the final deliverable. It was stressful. But then also, it was fun. When you finally get it out there, it’s like the ultimate relief.

What would you say to convince/encourage a producer to bring their project to Mississippi?

I’d say all the talent here. That’s one of those things, we’re a hidden gem here. We have a lot of people that want to work like hell on film projects and documentaries. There’s a whole host of talent here that’s not always tapped into. You can get every bit of that here and every bit of the quality of work. There’s also anything that you desire as far as production components down here and actors and actresses, too, we have it all. And there’s so many good locations, too, and that are not overly saturated with people that you can get in to make the process a bit simpler. It’s just a really cool place to be that’s got a lot of rich culture and some of the best damn food you could ever eat. I’ve worked with a lot of people from other states and they consistently talk about the food and the people down here and how everybody’s so nice and willing to work with you and wanting to do the best thing possible. Like on that A24 project, the lead editor that I was working with, she consistently talked about the food and how good it was, right? (laughs) And how everybody was so kind and willing to help and go above and beyond the norm, you know?

What are your hopes for the film industry in Mississippi?

I would love for when features come from out of state, they could have all Mississippi crew. And not just on set, but all in-state with post as well. Seeing someone start actual post-production houses and finishing houses would be amazing. I would love to set one up here in Hattiesburg eventually. So if you do film here, you have the option. It can be cut here, we can incorporate remote workflows and we can finish and deliver it here.

What’s your advice for someone looking to break into the film business?

Fail with your best foot forward. (laughs) You just have to give it a go and try. Be willing to take that jump, that risk. I just stuck my neck out there. I had never cut a feature or done those deliverables. I did okay on the short film. But then jumping from a short to a feature was a whole different ballgame. Take the risk and be willing to make mistakes. If you make them, that’s okay. You own them and you continue forward. Just always keep looking forward to the next project and don’t stop trying to pursue the changes in the tech that are moving forward. Embrace new workflows, you need to constantly stay on top of it and be willing to learn more.

How can people find/reach you?

My website is hollingsworthpost.com, and my Instagram is @hollingsworthpost.