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Long Beach filmmaker reacts to HB 1523 with a movie

LONG BEACH -- Filmmaker Tammy Devin said she had to do something when she heard the Mississippi Legislature had passed HB 1523, which has become known as the "religious freedom bill."

But the Long Beach native didn't start a protest or attend a rally. She started writing.

Devin's writing became the screenplay for "Meanwhile in Mississippi," a short film now in pre-production.

"It's not about gay rights, and it's not about religious freedom, but the film is about civil rights in America," she said. "I'm not a big-government person, so when the government steps in and says that it's going to decide what is right or wrong, and they are going to legislate morality how they see fit, I have a problem with that and that's how I wrote this -- it's about the chaos that comes when the government steps in and does that."

A modern horror story

She said the film is a mixture of comedy and science fiction, reminiscent of both the "Twilight Zone" anthology TV series and the Bill Murray film "Groundhog Day."

"It's about a young couple living on the Coast where everyone is getting along -- the Coast that I've experienced -- and the bill is passed and every day they wake up, the bill is passed again based on a different religion," she said. "It goes from excitement to fear and in the end, it's deadly chaos."

A self-professed fan of director Tim Burton, Devin is producing the film, which she will also direct, through her production company, Gulf Coast Filmworks. She said she hopes to begin shooting principal photography soon.

"We are scouting locations right now, and we are getting the crew together."

She is also trying to raise money for the film's production. An IndieGoGo crowdfunding account has been set up.

"We have raised almost $1,000 of the $20,000 we are trying to raise," she said. "We have about a month left to raise it, but we are going to start shooting way before we get to the end of the campaign -- we want to get it done before July 1, which is the day (the bill will go) into law."

Using locals

Devin said the film will feature several locals in its crew, including Francisco Gonzalez as director of photography.

Bay St. Louis band the Rochelle Harper Band will provide an original song for the short film's sound track.

"They are going to use our song 'Mississippi Hippie Blues,'" Harper said, "and we are really excited about it."

The addition of her song to the sound track was something of a gift to Harper, who had been scheduled to perform in the 37th annual Mississippi New York Picnic in Central Park.

"We had big plans to go to the picnic, and we were disappointed when it was canceled," she said. "But we understand because I support that decision."

Everybody is welcome

Devin said she plans to host a screening of the film "somewhere on the Coast" for everyone who helps support the film.

She said she wasn't going to discriminate when she puts together her guest list.

"I'm going to invite Gov. Bryant," she said. "He probably won't come, but we want him to know that he's welcome to if he would like."