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Sun Herald (Biloxi, MS)
3 movies to be filmed in South Mississippi in 2013-14
1st film will start production in June
TAMMY SMITH, email@example.com
Networking during the Sun & Sand Film & Music Festival late last year appears to have paid off for the Mississippi Coast.
Three feature films are to be shot here within the next two years, through Mississippi-based production company Red Planet Entertainment and its collaboration with Outlier.
The three-film project came about when Outlier principals Mark Morgan, known for "The Twilight Saga," and E. Thompson, who produced "Rites of Spring," attended the first Sun & Sand in November. Morgan also produced "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2" and "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters," and Thompson recently completed "Hansel and Gretel Get Baked."
Principal photography is scheduled to begin in June on "Open 24 Hours," the first film in the co-production/co-finance deal. The horror-thriller, by writer/director Padraig Reynolds ("Rites of Spring"), is about a woman who works at a 24-hour service station and is tormented by paranoia and hallucinations. Producers will be Morgan, Thompson, Wes Benton and Bobby Benton.
The second film is described as a "youth-driven comedy" that was bought as a pitch at Sun & Sand.
"It's for children, to my understanding," said Keith Sisson, Sun & Sand spokesman.
The third project will be mutually determined by both companies.
The two companies plan to shoot the three films on the Coast and surrounding areas for several reasons, including some attractive incentives, Sisson said.
The Mississippi Film Incentive Package has passed both the state House and Senate, as slightly different versions. The legislation would increase overall rebates as well as provide incentives for production companies to hire military veterans.
Among the incentives is raising salary caps from $1 million to $5 million, said Ward Emling of the Mississippi Film Office.
"That helps attract higher-budgeted movies as well as higher-salary actors," Emling said. "Also TV series, where actors can have a long salary life."
The veterans incentive, which addresses hiring honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, also resulted from Sun & Sand.
"After the panel discussion, a member of the audience said we should do something for the veterans," Emling said. "We agreed, so now there will be an extra incentive for production companies to employ military veterans.
"Another thing that helps us is that there is a big military population throughout the state.'
Sun & Sand, Emling said, was a real success in promoting Mississippi's film industry.
"I cannot stress how incredibly successful Sun & Sand was for us from a business perspective," he said. "It really did step up interest in the Gulf Coast."
Film students at the University of Southern Mississippi could benefit from the three-film project.
"Growing the film industry in the state is a major focus of Red Planet Entertainment," Benton said. "We plan on working with the University of Southern Mississippi to employ and mentor film students as well as hire many local qualified industry professionals for all areas of production."
Several people involved in the project were in Los Angeles last week for the Grammys, Sisson said. The Mississippi Music Celebration at the Grammy Museum was held Thursday night in downtown Los Angeles.
"It's a tribute to Mississippi's Grammy winners," Sisson said. "We hold this every year, and we invite Los Angeles producers to come out to a Mississippi-style party."
The party is all about the music of the Magnolia State, he said.
"We bring the blues to Los Angeles, and country music. This year, the North Mississippi Allstars were the headliners. You know, Mississippi has more Grammy winners per capita than any other state," Sisson said.
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