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Mississippi movie storytellers

February 3, 2011

Lukos is one of the films playing in this year’s Mississippi narrative shorts block.

OXFORD TOWN — Most Mississippians are natural born storytellers. So it comes as no surprise that this year’s Oxford FIlm Festival is chock full of creative narrative stories for the visual medium. Ranging from out of state filmmakers that teamed up with locals (“25K” and “Where I Begin”) to local Oxford High School students (“All Work”) to established filmmakers in the state (“Lukos,” “Treat or Eat” “The Mistake”), this year’s festival has a full range of Mississippi narrative.

For director Robert Davis, making “All Work” was a great outlet during their senior year of high school in Oxford.

“I guess how it all came about was our various life experiences, problems, pains and triumphs. A lot of teens turn to drugs, violence and alcohol. We turned to film,” Davis said. “I started writing the script in January of 2009, Alexander Mullen and Ben Evans edited the script (and numerous editions went on continually throughout filming as we had about five alternative endings). The film has quite a bit of drama, random twists and violent turns so it’s not the easiest motion picture to follow, yet I believe that we wanted it to come out like this because most films today are just something to watch and not live.”

“Ben Evans and Tom Lutken have had the most acting experience in high school performances. Alexander Mullen was in many Oxford University School plays and I was in the 2001 MGM motion picture ‘Big Bad Love,’ doing an extremely difficult bit of acting which involved riding my bicycle down a hill. Being only 19, I sincerely hope to have more opportunities in this grand field of cinematic art,” Davis said.

But being only 19 led to some difficulty with parents and the film’s darker side.

“The worst part was when some (but not all) of the parents tried to shut us down due to the film’s ‘violent and twisted’ content. At this point we were more than halfway done with the filming so cancellation of production wasn’t something we wanted to hear. Our pastor, Father Joe Tonos, was essential at this point in helping to smooth things out and the differences were settled. Yet this showed me that the even best and closest people can get in your way of pursuing a goal,” Davis said. “I hope that audiences will remember how good Steven remained at the end, even with everyone and everything against him and his soul. In this world today it is imperative that we do and be the best we can, no matter what it takes.”

For Michael Williams, “Lukos,” filmed in West Point came together quickly.

“In order to meet several film festival deadlines that were coming up towards the end of 2010, I shelved all the existing scripts/ideas that I had that were too complicated to achieve with the limited time and resources that I had. Therefore, I began developing an idea that became ‘Lukos,’” Williams said. “I had a little less than two weeks for script development/preproduction and roughly two weeks for post production. Needless to say, the schedule was very tight. I was very fortunate that everything came together so well and was able to have a cast and crew who were able to pull this film off.”

Williams also was assistant camera on “Where I Begin,” filmed in Oxford this summer.

“Where I Begin” will have a work in progress screening before premiering elsewhere this spring. Directed by Thomas L. Phillips, the narrative feature was filmed in Oxford and Sardis last summer.

“I had always wanted to come back home to the south and make a movie, and so it began. There were two instances that i wanted to combine, two personal stories into one screenplay and that is what I set out to do,” Phillips said. “We filmed in August 2010, the hottest month possible, in fact I think it became one of the hottest months on record.”

The cast was made up of a mix of people from across the country including Texas, California, Florida, South Carolina, Virginia and Mississippi.

“The best part of making a movie is after you have made it, edited it, and have it wrapped up in a pretty bow. I live for the audience. they are why I make movies,” Phillips said. “There is nothing better than sitting down in a theater with a packed house and watching them watch and react to your film. You see them connect, you see them laugh, you hear them scream or cry. Connecting with your audience is the best part about making the movie.”

For Phillips, he hopes audiences walk away from “Where I Begin” with some insight that life is not as black and white as we make it out to be.

“A lot of people think in black and white, which if you really think about it, it is never that simple, there are so many shades. I feel that the characters in ‘Where I Begin’ are real, true and honest. I feel that every audience member can connect with them, whether they are just like them or know someone like them,” Phillips said.

Chris Spear, now living in Louisiana, was directing the Crossroads FIlm Festival in Jackson when he decided to make “Shock.”

Spear made “Shock” as a fun project to dip his toe in the filmmaking waters.

Other films that will screen, filmed on location in Mississippi are: “25K,” director Billy Chase Goforth; filmed on location in Oxford and Holly Springs with a cameo from UM football coach Houston Nutt; “The Mistake” and “Treat or Eat” by director April Wren; “Blood Feud” by Johnson Thomasson and filmed in the state; “Murderabilia,” director David Matthews; Crew from Jackson; “River City Dead,” Director Daniel Lee; crew is from Blue Springs and Tupelo area which was also the filming location. Also premiering at the festival is “The Hanging of Big Todd Wade,” filmed in Oxford by director Micah Ginn as a film festival community film project.

For the full schedule, visit www.oxfordfilmfest.com.

 

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