News Column

Film crew shoots movie scenes at Lenoir Memorial Hospital

June 3, 2013

YellowBrix

June 03--Haley Thompson witnesses her parents dead in the front seat following an automobile accident after she becomes conscious in the back seat.

That's the beginning of a movie, "Changeover," with portions that are being filmed at Lenoir Memorial Hospital Sunday and today.

The film, produced by Hushpuppy Media in Raleigh, details the 16-year-old's experience of dealing with the tragedy of losing both parents.

Director Estes Tarver, a native of Kentucky, lives in Raleigh where he and Tripp Green, director of photography, started the production company about three years ago. The company has done numerous commercials and documentaries.

Barbara LaRoque, LMH market coordinator, said Green asked to use the hospital and LMH accommodated them by choosing an area where it wouldn't disrupt patients.

"We thought it would be nice for the community to have a film crew come in for a few days," she said, "and actually, it would be kind of fun."

Green had previously done some shooting at LMH for one their commercials. Tarver said finding a suitable hospital would have been one of the most difficult filming locations to find, but the LMH hospital crew has made it easy for his film crew.

"It makes my job so much easier," Tarver said. "We just can get to work and there's just a lot to do, and so it's been just wonderful for that."

Anne Johnson, a social worker at LMH, was one of a number of extras used for background in the hospital's hallway of the fourth floor, in what is going to be depicted as a mental ward in the movie. Johnson, who said the movie role was fun, has acting experience in local productions.

"I've always dabbled in theater," she said, "... It's something I've always wanted to do."

As many as 10 people are staying in Kinston through the two-day shooting at a local hotel in Kinston and dining out, Tarver said.

Tarver has about 20 years in the film business, and coaches actors, writes scripts and directs. Green has been an actor since he was as a child.

"The goal was always in making films," Tarver said.

Tarver, who earned his master's degree in acting at UNC-Chapel Hill, came to North Carolina because he said the film production market here is growing and the cost of living is lower than in New York, where he previously worked.

Tarver wrote the script for "Changeover" a couple of years ago. The inspiration came from his own anxieties and depression and coaching a young actress in a lead role.

The story is about the teenager, played by Mattie Taylor, dealing with post traumatic stress disorder.

Her tennis pro uncle, a single father of an 8-year-old boy (Carter Godwin), becomes her guardian. Tarver, a former tennis pro and instructor, plays the father. He incorporated his tennis knowledge into his role as the uncle.

The scenes being shot at LMH include the ambulance bringing the lead character to the hospital at night, the 72-hour period she has to remain in the hospital after attempting suicide, a panic attack episode and the uncle coming in to apologize for leaving her at home by herself.

"The story's sort of a positive look at treatment," Tarver said, "and all the things that go into anxiety disorders, and learning that's not a bad thing."

Tarver said he was inspired by actors, such as Matt Damon, who has let his emotional distress be known publicly. Films have the distinction of allowing viewers to relate and connect in an intimate way, he said.

"I love it being a vehicle for anybody who deals with these disorders," Tarver said, "to see that everybody deals with them, but there shouldn't be a stigma attached to them."

His first feature-length film is costing between $45,000 and $50,000 -- considered a low budget film.

"This story suited us doing the first film because it's a very character-driven film," he said.

The crew is shooting the film in other areas, including a cemetery and areas around Raleigh, a house in Oak Island (where the uncle lives in the movie) and a high school in Dunn.

Sometime in the fall, Tarver said his company will market the movie at film festivals. He said he hopes it will be available on DVD and maybe something bigger. He'll have a number of versions, with and without profanity.

Margaret Fisher can be reached at 252-559-1082 or Margaret.Fisher@Kinston.com. Follow her on Twitter @MargaretFishr.

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