From big-budget films with well-known directors to independent fare shot on a shoestring, South Mississippi is building a reputation as a go-to spot in the film industry. Though the Coast hasn't yet achieved Hollywood-level status, it is becoming a popular place to film movies and TV shows.
'Free State of Jones'
One of the more anticipated summer films was shot in Louisiana but it takes place in South Mississippi.
"Free State of Jones" is a period-piece drama set in Jones County during the Civil War. It stars Matthew McConaughey as Newton Knight, a Jones County native who opposed secession and going to war with the U.S. gov
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Ward Emling of the state film office said "Free State of Jones" is scheduled to open May 13.
Shot on the Coast
A March 18 release date has been set for the Jeff Nichols-directed film "Midnight Special," one of several movies with scenes filmed along the Coast. It will premiere in February during the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, where it will compete for festival's top prize, the Golden Bear. Billed as a "science fiction action thriller," it stars Kirsten Dunst, Sam Shepard and Adam Driver of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
Emling said "Midnight Special," which was also shot in and around New Orleans, will head to the SXSW Film Festival in Austin before opening in theaters March 18.
He said he's received some good news regarding a TV-show pilot shot on the Coast and featuring a onetime resident of Pass Christian.
"The Amazon Prime series pilot for Tig Notaro's 'One Mississippi' is available online," he said. "It has been picked up as a series, but we are not yet sure of the production dates and location."
He said a release date has not been set for a Bruce Willis action thriller that was shot in Gulfport and Biloxi, among other locations, over the summer.
Another film shot on the Coast is making its way around pay-per-view. Emling said the Dolph Lundgren vehicle "Shark Lake" can be found on the pay service Video On Demand.
The film "Iniquity" is filming in the area. Executive producer Darnell Fayard Sheffield said the movie is halfway through shooting.
"We have had to fight the weather a lot," she said. "We project to complete the filming in March and have a release sometime in the fall."
Drafthouse films announced earlier this month it has bought and will distribute "Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made," a documentary about three Coast kids who made a shot-for-shot remake of "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
Emling said he hasn't seen a release date for the Bruce Willis action vehicle "Precious Cargo," which was filmed along the Coast during the summer.
Although the film's office was in Biloxi, most of it was shot in Gulfport.
Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes said he remembered being excited when he heard filming was going to take place on the Coast.
"I was contacted by the (Mississippi Development Authority) and told this movie wanted to shoot here and it was bigger budget film and it was already pre sold to a large degree," Hewes said. "They came in and started asking us about places they could shoot and asked us for our ideas, and they told us about the movie."
Hewes said he inadvertently made himself a part of the shoot.
"I told them if they wanted to go out on the water that I had a boat and they were welcome to go," he said. "I was just doing was I was supposed to do, which is be hospitable to folks. They ended up wanting to do a chase scene on the water. You just never know."
State movie industry
Hewes said the state has become an attractive place for filmmakers because of the success of movies such as "The Help" and "Get On Up," both of which were shot in Mississippi.
"I think we will see more filming in Mississippi in general," he said. "There are a lot different looks that directors are looking for."
One of the reasons for the sudden popularity in filming in South Mississippi is a film incentive through the MDA.
The Mississippi Motion Picture Incentive Program is a tax incentive created by the MDA designed to bring more filmmakers to the state. It rebates certain expenses to the film's production company.
The cap on the rebate program is $20 million.
A recent PEER evaluation of the state's film office showed a deficiency in having a trained, film-ready workforce.
Hewes said training for film workers may be on the horizon.
"Some of our universities are trying to embrace the technical training that is required for the industry because when they come in, they are looking for some folks that are skilled," he said. "USM at Gulf Park is trying to bring some of this along."