News Column

Coast ready for its close-up as filming begins in Biloxi

June 18, 2013

YellowBrix

June 18--Two separate movies are being filmed on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, one a novel-based murder mystery and the other a fictional Starz channel hurricane movie that includes Burt Reynolds.

'Artists Die Better in Black'

Shooting for the Southern Gothic whodunit film "Artists Die Better in Black" began Monday in downtown Biloxi next to City Hall.

"Artists" is the first full-length, present-day film shot entirely on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, executive producer Paul Bonge said.

Filming will go on for the next five weeks, 12-hour days, five days a week and will take place in Biloxi, Ocean Springs and Gulfport locations.

The movie is based on Martha Mabey's murder mystery novel by the same name. The story centers on the death of an aspiring filmmaker whose body is found hanging in an art gallery and costumed like a figure in one of his mother's paintings. The death appears to be a suicide, but the owner of the gallery and a detective think otherwise and team up to uncover the truth as a love interest develops between the two.

"There's a red herring, several false leads and a thrilling, unexpected conclusion," Bonge said.

Principle cast members include American-Israeli award-winning actress Hani Furstenberg, Luke Goss of "Hellboy II" and "Red Widow," Golden Globe nominee Malcolm McDowell from "A Clockwork Orange," "Halloween" and "Easy A" and Christopher Emerson from "What Women Want," "Resident Evil 6" and "Bring It on Again."

"We hired as many locals as possible so that we would be able to promote the industry here," Bonge said.

Bonge described the Mississippi Coast as an "undiscovered gem" and said it has a variety of photographic elements.

About 60 employees were hired for the making of "Artists," and Bonge said it was important to the production team to educate local filmmakers and build a crew base. He said a crew base is one of the things Mississippi lacks as a whole, which limits the state in the film industry.

Locations where "Artists Die Better in Black" will be shot include The Office, a bar in Ocean Springs; Vintage Station, a wine bar in Gulfport and Williams Gallery, an art gallery also in Gulfport.

The endeavor to produce the film began 17 years ago when the mother of director and screenwriter Price Hall met the book's author, Mabey, at a hair salon and discussed the possibility of her son turning the novel into a movie. Funding fell through and the making of the film was put on the backburner, but Hall has revisited the vision, and 17 years later, it's lights, camera, action.

The story was originally set in Virginia where Mabey authored the novel, but in planning the movie, she visited the Coast where she decided the setting was a better fit and rewrote the script accordingly.

Production cost for the film is budgeted between $1 million and $2 million locally fund-raised and invested. Bonge said they plan to have a local premier in September and possible public showings, but currently has no concrete plan for distribution.

'Category 5'

Filming for the Starz channel fictional movie "Category 5" began three weeks ago and is wrapping up by Saturday, producer and screenwriter Eric McCoy said. The movie also is being entirely shot in Mississippi Gulf Coast cities including Biloxi, Gulfport, Long Beach, Pass Christian and Waveland.

"Category 5" is about a family that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina and comes back together eight years later when another storm threatens the Gulf Coast.

"We really wanted to do a hurricane movie, and we thought what better place than here," McCoy said. "New Orleans got a lot of coverage during Katrina, so we wanted to shed some light on what happened in Mississippi. We want to honor the people here by telling their story."

Principle cast members are Oscar nominee and award-winning actor Burt Reynolds most widely known from "Smokey and the Bandit," Teen Choice award-nominee Chelsea Kane from "One Tree Hill," "CSI" and "Minutemen," and Yani Gellman from "Lizzie McGuire," "Pretty Little Liars" and "CSI."

Director of the film is Robert King, known as a stunt coordinator for films including "Skyfall," "Thor," "Spiderman" and "War of the Worlds." Executive producer is Barry Rosen, who has produced several movies and tv shows including "Zorro" and "Highlander: The Series."

"We've had a really great experience on the Gulf Coast," McCoy said. "The people have been really welcoming and have opened their doors to us, which is so rare in this industry. We're definitely planning on coming back."

McCoy said they plan to film at least two other movies on the Mississippi Coast beginning later this year.

"Category 5" will be released to U.S. theaters upon completion and then shown on Starz.

McCoy wanted to recognize the help of the State Film Commission, which includes Ward Emling, Nina Parihk, Betty Black and Bill Webb.

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(c)2013 The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.)

Visit The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.) at www.sunherald.com

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