Mississippi is seeing benefits from reviving an economic incentive program for movie making.
“Breaking News in Yuba County” started filming in Natchez in early June. The movie will tell the story of a housewife whose husband has a heart attack when she walks in on him with another woman. She buries him and pretends he’s been kidnapped.
“A comedy of errors ensues after that,” explained director Tate Taylor, a Mississippi native who grew up in Jackson and lives near Natchez.
Gov. Phil Bryant signed legislation in April allowing 25% tax rebates for non-resident cast and crew on films shot in Mississippi. Before the Mississippi incentives were brought back, the film was supposed to be shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, WLBT-TV reported.
“Breaking News in Yuba County” features Oscar-winner Allison Janney and other big-name actors, including Mila Kunis, Awkwafina, Ellen Barkin, Regina Hall, and Wanda Sykes.
“An incentive in a state is a chicken-and-egg situation,” Taylor said. “At some point, crew has to keep coming and staying in hotels. But they can’t start planting their roots, like say in Natchez, if movies aren’t going to keep being filmed here.”
Executive producer Robin Fisichella said the film is coming in under budget and said the state “offers a lot as far as filmmakers and locations and ease of shooting.”
Taylor and producer John Norris plan to build a sound stage in Natchez and want to create resources to decrease costs and attract film projects.
“We probably do $25 to $35 million worth of business in Mississippi a year now,” Norris said. “We’re hoping to grow that to $100 million within two to three years. And beyond that, we’ll see.”
Part of the incentives includes a commitment to hiring at least 20% locals and training them, a welcome opportunity for those who thought they’d have to move away to live their dream.
“My whole life I thought I wouldn’t be able to come back here,” set production assistant Mark Iles said. “But now it’s a realistic possibility that people that leave here and go to school can come back here and have a job to do.”
Some storefronts in downtown Natchez have been transformed with different names for the movie. Soiree Boutique clothing store, for example, was turned into a flower shop on the outside while owner Gwen Massey kept the shop open for business.
“It’s been kind of fun to watch all of this activity going on,” Massey told the Natchez Democrat. “They did a lot of filming here for ‘Get on Up,’ but on a personal level, I didn’t get to watch as much of it. Now they’re here at the Natchez Mall and out at Trinity School. We just have a little more access and can actually see what is going on than we did then.”
“Get On Up” is a James Brown biographical movie that Taylor directed. Another of his movies, “The Help,” was also filmed in Mississippi. He said he hopes to continue shooting movies in the state.
“Our crew and actors just keep falling in love with it,” Taylor said.
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