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Oxford’s Film Industry and World Premiere tonight

June 12, 2009

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Local film industry grows independently
Latest indie feature, ‘Loup Garou,’ premieres tonight

By Melanie Addington
As Published in the Oxford Eagle

Oxford has had its glamorous film moments when Hollywood has come to town, but mostly the local film industry is made up of just that: local filmmakers. A good portion of those filmmakers teamed up this year to help with Micah Ginn’s production of “Night of the Loup Garou,” a B-movie in the vein of ’70s horror movies. The movie has its world premiere at 8 tonight at The Amp movie theater.
“I wanted this movie to be like the campy horror movies I saw as a kid,” Ginn said. “They scared me back then, but now when I watch them, I enjoy them for a whole new reason. I think audiences of all kinds will enjoy this on varying levels.”

Throughout the years, Oxford has been host to the occasional large-scale movie production. Back in the 1940s, a Hollywood film crew came to town to film William Faulkner’s “Intruder in the Dust.” More recently, much of the 1992 film, “The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag,” was filmed here.
Still, the outside film industry has not taken advantage of much that Oxford has to offer. Local filmmakers, on the other hand, have. Most of these independent filmmakers have focused their local efforts on music videos, short narratives and documentaries.

Ginn’s “The Night of the Loup Garou” is one of the rare feature-length narrative films made in Oxford.

“I think the local film community is growing,” local actor Johnny McPhail said. “Because of local filmmakers’ talent, we don’t need Hollywood. We have all the talent we need here. We can do our own marketing and produce good quality films at a very low cost by using local talent, with support from the community.”

The Oxford Convention and Visitors Bureau serves as Oxford’s film office. Several other film offices, such as those in Tupelo, Canton and the state film office in Jackson, take an active role in encouraging members of the outside film industry to come to their towns. Oxford currently does not due to budget constraints.

“We are the film office for Oxford, but we haven’t really defined a role yet,” Oxford Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Hugh Stump said. “Mostly we act as an information source for folks looking to film something in or around Oxford and Lafayette County. We don’t actively pursue film projects at this time.”

The local office does get requests for location advice, technical support and other questions throughout the year, Stump said. Mostly they act as a first step to connecting outside filmmakers to local film people such as Ginn.

“Most of our work with film currently is supporting the Oxford Film Festival and it is our hope that the continued success of that will grow the Oxford film and filmmaker market and that will, in turn, spur our involvement in seeking out filmmaking opportunities for Oxford,” Stump said.

Getting filmmakers’ attention

Molly Fergusson, along with Michelle Emanuel, work with Ginn as co-directors of the Oxford Film Festival. Fergusson said she has seen multiple filmmakers return to Oxford to screen more films because of their impression of the town.

“The filmmakers that attend the festival are always impressed with Oxford and spread the word about the town and the festival to others in the industry,” Fergusson said. “Many have expressed interest in coming back here to create. The festival strives to put on a great event for the audience, but we also work hard to promote the area and hope that more filmmakers will consider Oxford for their future productions.”

The film festival is in its seventh year but so far, filmmakers outside of the local film industry have yet to start any projects in Oxford. That may change, however.

Los Angeles filmmaker Thomas Phillips came to the Oxford Film Festival this year with his indie film, “Rattle Basket,” and said he has several scripts in the works and is considering Oxford as a location.

“I really would have never thought about filming in Oxford until I came there for the festival,” Phillips said by e-mail on Thursday. “Now I have actually been considering it on multiple occasions. I can definitely see myself filming there one day, and hopefully soon.”

Staying local

Local filmmaker Thad Lee served as inspiration for Ginn’s film because of Ginn’s work on Lee’s short film, “Mantis Rhes.”

“We shot ‘Mantis Rhes’ in one night at Thad’s cabin in Taylor and it got me thinking about how much fun horror movies are and how much fun it is to make movies in general,” Ginn said.

The story follows Dr. Dax Wingo as he travels to Taylor to investigate a murder and a mysterious video captured on a cell phone. The werewolf film is set in Lee’s cabin and also uses the woods near the cabin as the werewolf hunting grounds.

The film stars all local actors including Rhes Low, Thad Lee, Scott Morris, Ace Atkins, Haven Nutt, Tiffany Kilpatrick and McPhail.

“For me, using locals and shooting locally makes the film a lot more fun for the audience,” Ginn said. “Seeing folks you know and places you know on screen is quite a novelty.”

After receiving his journalism degree, Ginn left Mississippi to be a filmmaker in California. After five years there, he returned home, bringing his industry experience with him.

“I worked for several different folks in the film industry — producers, directors, actors, casting agents — pretty much anyone that would let me work for them. I wanted to learn as much as I could about getting a movie made,” Ginn said. “My plan was to get back to Mississippi and make movies here one day, and I’ve been very blessed to have that opportunity.”

Ginn now is a producer-director at the Media and Documentary Projects Center at Ole Miss. He worked with co-director Matthew Nothelfer to make the film. He and Nothelfer had previously worked together on two documentaries, the “University Greys” and “Undefeated: The Chucky Mullins Story.”

Ginn said he hopes that people come to the film not only to see it but to begin more dialogue about creating a successful local film industry.

“We need local support so that the model for future film productions can take form,” Ginn said. “Independent film is tough to create, but it is made possible when the regional support is in place.”

After the film’s premiere tonight, it will continue to be screened at The Amp in the Oxford Commons for one week and, depending on local demand, could play a second week. The film will also play as part of the Oxford Film Festival summer series on Aug. 3 at The Lyric.

—melanie@oxfordeagle.com

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