Producers plan to film thriller flick on Coast

Mississippi cast, crew, extras sought

Kidnapping, betrayal and the needs of a supernatural being are plot elements of a movie that will soon be filming on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, hopefully with a cast and crew consisting mostly of people who live in the state.

Producers of “Rites of Spring” are seeking Mississippi residents to fill 13 primary cast roles, more than 100 roles as scene extras and a cadre of people to work behind the cameras. The film is in pre-production, and Wes Benton, one of the producers, said locations from Ocean Springs to Pass Christian are being considered.

“We want to spread it out. We want the entire Coast to benefit from what we’re trying to do,” said Benton, a Jackson native who lives in Atlanta and promotes Mississippi in the movie industry. “It’s a rich environment for untapped, unused resources as far as locations go.”

The movie’s budget has not been finalized. For some of the primary roles, producers said, they are talking with established Mississippi actors but willing to cast talented newcomers for those and other cast needs.

The working plot summary reads: “After abducting the son of a wealthy businessman, a group of kidnappers escape to an abandoned farmhouse, unaware they share their hideout with a supernatural creature preparing for its annual killing spree.”

John Norris, another producer, said the plot actually reveals that some locals know about the creature’s spring cravings and includes a moral lesson.

“It’s really a cautionary tale, as well. Be careful what you ask for,” he said. “These guys have gotten caught up in a situation where it just gets worse with every choice they make.”

Norris said there are no extraterrestrials in the movie, just a supernatural being who is drawn into a human drama through no fault of his own.

“It’s really sort of a great combination of a kidnapping thrill movie and a supernatural creature movie,” he said.

“This is a classic monster. This is not something that can be explained away by science.”

“Rites of Spring” is accepting headshots and resumes of potential cast members, extras and crewmembers over the next several weeks. A two-week training program for behind-the-scenes crew workers will be held in late March. Production is scheduled to begin about April 5 and run for about 20 days.

Nina Parikh, deputy director of the Mississippi Film Office, said “Rites of Spring” is one of many movies whose backers have committed to filming in the state. However, she said, it is hard to know how many are approaching the point of actively planning production at this point since many are trying to secure funding in an unsteady economy.

“We have a lot of interest in the state. We’ve been reading a lot of scripts, and we’ve got a pretty competitive incentive program,” she said.

Among incentives included in the package are help finding location sites, a production guide listing Mississippi residents with experience in the film industry, a list of resumes of movie veterans who would like to work here and state rebates that include 25 percent of salaries for Mississippi residents and 20 percent for the cost of items such as rental cars, hotels, food and set materials purchased in the state.

“So far, the state has bent over backwards to help us,” Norris said. “It’s a warm place to be just in terms of the music and the culture and all the people.”

He said the movie, written by Missouri native Padraig Reynolds, could be shot in most any rural setting. But with Benton’s influence and the state’s incentives, Norris said, backers decided they want to film in the area most affected by Hurricane Katrina.

“There was this dream to do it on the Coast, and all the guys in the (Mississippi) film office agreed. Not only because of all the locations, but because of all the jobs that will be created,” he said.

“It just makes it work better.”

Benton emphasized that locals are preferred for cast and crew positions.

“We’re casting as many of these roles from Mississippi residents as we can, “ he said. “As many as we can fill locally, that’s what we want to do.”

How to get involved

Anyone interested in a primary cast, extra or crew position on the film “Rites of Spring” can fax a resume and headshot to: 323-372-3641

Or, mail a hard copy to:

Rites of Spring, LLC

P.O. Box 872

135 Main St.

Biloxi, MS 39530-4315

By JAY HUGHES

Sun Herald

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