Critics agree — the Golden Triangle is a great place to film a horror movie.
The Mississippi Film Group is shooting “The Craving,” a suspense-horror movie that’s being co-produced by Twelve Productions and 13 South Productions. Bryan W. Carpenter, one of the project’s executive producers, told The Dispatch the project fulfills one of his long-standing goals of filming a movie in Mississippi. Carpenter is from Carthage.
Carpenter is working with Jennifer Sulkess, vice president of Twelve Productions, on the movie. He said he convinced her to film in Mississippi because he said what the state lacks in tax incentives, it makes up for in hospitality.
The movie started pre-production in February and has been filming in rural Oktoc, south of Starkville, since early March. Carpenter said filming at the current location should wrap up by the end of the month, before moving to get a few shots near Columbus.
Carpenter and Sulkess have previously worked together on the film “Nona,” which won the One in a Million award at the Sun Valley Film Festival earlier this month. Carpenter said independent films can go the festival route, which they did with “Nona,” in hopes of being picked up by a studio. He said they can also get pitched directly to film studios, as they plan to do with “The Craving.”
He said he hopes to complete filming for “The Craving” by June or July. If all goes well, it should be out by fall.
“The Craving” is a horror film, but Carpenter said it’s more of a suspense-thriller than a “slasher.”
This project is Carpenter’s first in the Golden Triangle, and from volunteers, to housing at Old Waverly and a casting call at Mississippi State University, he said the region has been wonderful to work in.
“I was very familiar with Natchez, and of course Canton — I’ve filmed in that area before,” he said. “I’ve even filmed on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. … I was quite pleasantly surprised with all the resources you guys have here.
“For one, Mississippi State University is just outstanding and for them to open their arms the way they did for us is huge,” he added. “And the people in the region have been outstanding.”
First time role
With several open roles for the film, Carpenter looked to give local talent a shot.
Producers set up a casting call one weekend at MSU, with help from Melanie Harris, an instructor in the Communication Department.
Carpenter said about 50 people showed up for the casting call, and from those, they selected Lillie Moore, a local second grader, to play one of the parts in the movie.
Moore, who attends Henderson Ward Stewart, plays the younger version of one of the movie’s characters and appears in flashbacks and as a ghost.
Moore said she’s enjoyed being a part of the film and hopes to act in more films in the future.
Lynda Moore, Lillie’s mother, said Lillie participated in Starkville Community Theater’s Project Play over the summer and has also been in Christmas plays and musicals at their church.
“It’s been a great experience for Lillie,” Lynda said. “She’s enjoying what she’s doing, and the crew has been great. They’ve been attentive to her, making sure she has the snacks and food she needs while she’s there.”
It has been a bit of a challenge, Lynda said, to balance the movie and school, but she said the crew has been accommodating in scheduling around school for Lillie, and her teachers have worked with them as well. Lynda and her husband, David, split duties going out to the set with Lillie, so they can alternate taking care of their three other children.
Still, for a first foray into filming, Lynda said it’s gone well.
“It’s been a baptism by fire for us, but the crew and everyone have been great and patient,” she said.
Should Lillie act again, she said she wants to have in a part in a friendlier movie — not because she’s afraid of “The Craving,” but because she might not get to see the whole thing for a while.
“She probably won’t watch the movie ’till she’s 16 or something,” Lynda said. “She can watch her scene.”
“The Craving” is set primarily in and around the Outlaw Plantation, a 19th century home also known as “The Cedars” on Oktoc Road.
Owner Erin Scanlon said she didn’t know the home was being considered for the film until Carpenter showed up at her door shortly after Christmas.
Scanlon, who is from Los Angeles, is a former film critic, and she said it’s been interesting to watch the filming process unfold. She said she gets to see some of the shots at the end of the filming days, and said the film is “visually striking.”
Hosting a movie filming in the home can at times be a hassle, she said. But, she said she’s happy to see the home, where she lives alone, full of life again.
“The house, when it was originally built, was built to be a house full of people,” she said. “Every room was bustling all the time. Everything took place in that house — there were births, deaths. It didn’t take place in town. You got married out here. You died out here. You were buried right out in the back — there’s two family cemeteries, a white one and a black one, and they’re all still here.
“I like the idea of activity and young people in the house again, just because that’s how it was meant to be,” she added.
Behind the scenes
Carpenter said Lillie is the only local to have an acting role in the movie, but others have played big roles behind the scenes.
Harris, who also works as the costumer for Theatre MSU, is helping with the movie’s costuming. She said she got involved to learn about the film costuming process, and to be able to share what she learned with her students.
“I thought it would be neat for me to have the opportunity to learn this side of what it is I do — film costuming versus theater costuming — and then be able to go back and share it with the students, who might want to do this version,” she said.
Harris, describing herself as “the world’s oldest intern,” volunteered to work on the set during spring break, and has been coming out after her classes at MSU since then.
One of the things she’s learned is that movie costuming presents a different sort of challenge than theater.
“In theater, we put actors on stage and then we say ‘go’ and for two hours they continue along a motional build,” she said. “For film, of course, you may shoot scene 63 and then scene 26, so it’s more of an organizational challenge in making sure there’s consistency and continuity.”
Brett Armour, one of Harris’ students, has been helping as a set dresser. Armour is a junior mathematics major. He’s also on the MSU football team and in the university’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program.
He said he’s had a good time being part of the crew, and it’s been more hectic than he expected.
“It’s a lot more organized chaos than you would expect,” he said. “When I first got involved, I kind of thought it would be a little more refined. It hasn’t quite been that. If we have problems, we get tasked with fixing them.”
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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