COLUMBUS — In 2014, 19 feature films along with six reality shows and six documentaries were shot partially or entirely in Mississippi.
“We had a rather remarkable year last year and we expect that to continue,” said Ward Emling, director of the Mississippi Film Office.
While in the past, movies filmed in Mississippi were based on stories that took place in the state or were set in the Old South, Emling said the films last year were all kinds of genres and set in locations from all over the world.
A movie about James Brown was filmed in Natchez and Jackson, despite including settings like Paris and South Carolina. And “By Way Of Helena,” a Western starring Liam Hemsworth and Woody Harrelson, completed filming in Greenwood last fall.
That’s pretty good for a state which, in the minds of a lot of people, is about as far removed from Hollywood culture as you can get.
Last year was an unusually good year for movie making in the state, but Mississippi has a history of serving as a set for movies and TV.
Since 2000, more than 65 features, shorts, documentaries, music videos, TV episodes, TV series and more have been filmed in the state. From Elvis documentaries to “True Blood” episodes to major motion pictures like “The Help,” plenty of films were brought into the world in the Magnolia State, according to the Mississippi Film Office’.
The Mississippi Film Office has an incentive program to attract producers and filmmakers to the state, according to the office’s website. But it’s not just monetary incentives that have attracted filmmakers to the state. Mississippi has a similar incentive program to many of its competitor states like Georgia and Louisiana, Emling said.
“Beyond that, it’s the locations,” Emling said.
He said a film shot on the Gulf Coast last year actually is set in Lake Tahoe. While most movies are shot around the coast or near Jackson, filming has occurred in places like Greenwood and Tupelo, and scouts look all over the state when deciding where to film a production.
Emling also credited a supportive community of Mississippians enthusiastic about the film industry and committed to making the state a great place for production.
Mississippi gets a lot of benefits from films being shot here — financial benefits if nothing else.
Emling’s office estimated that the combined productions in Mississippi last year directly spent $50 million to $60 million in the state. When movie productions come to a community, they spread money everywhere, from laundry facilities and utilities to restaurants and building materials, Emling said.
It also provides exciting opportunities for people. Emling said many individuals who would never have been involved in film otherwise are exposed to a production here in the state and decide that film is the industry they want to go into as a career.
Plus, the more major productions take place here, the more the spotlight shines on Mississippi.
“Hunger Games” stars Harrelson and Hemsworth went straight from shooting “By Way of Helena” to the premiere of “Mockingjay,” Emling said.
“It’s incalculable, that kind of P.R. we get from a film,” Emling said.
Then when the movie comes out, the state gets that publicity again.
“We think the future is very bright for films in Mississippi,” Emling said.
— The Columbus Commercial Dispatch
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