LOCKHART — For four days this week, a production crew could be seen filming in the Town of Lockhart after the town was selected as the location for an upcoming short film.
Entitled “Pills,” the film, which was filmed primarily in Lockhart, features actors Luke Grimes — who played the role of “Jamie” in the 2012 movie “Taken 2” — and Owen Campbell. They portray boys from a small, blue-collar mill town with dreams of running away to California in search of a better life.
“They can’t escape the town; it has a hold of them,” said Production Manager John Metcalfe. “The film follows them around as they cause mischief. They’re best friends, and they’re causing a ruckus together.”
The executive producer of the film is Matthew Johnson — co-founder of American independent record label Fat Possum Records, which is based in Oxford, Miss. Fat Possum Records has released albums featuring blues artists including R.L. Burnside, T-Model Ford and Junior Kimbrough, as well as more contemporary bands such as The Black Keys. Fat Possum also released Solomon Burke’s comeback album “Don’t Give Up On Me,” which won the 2003 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
Metcalfe said the soundtrack of the film will feature the music of a lot of the Fat Possum artists, and Johnson plans to use the footage in various music videos.
“He is creating a catalog of footage he will be able to use from this project,” Metcalfe said.
Johnson met Director Craig Zobel at a film festival, and they have been working together for the last couple of months on the project. Metcalfe said that Producer Adam Stone drove around for weeks — over 5,000 miles — searching for an old mill town with the right feel and look.
“He had the script, which describes the feel of the town,” Metcalfe said. “Lockhart had the right feel to it. Plus it’s fairly close to Charlotte, and most of us are out of Charlotte.”
Zobel visited Lockhart two weeks ago to get an idea about filming the project.
Metcalfe also said he is appreciative of how welcoming and accommodating Mayor Ailene Ashe and the people in Lockhart have been. He said Ashe has put them in contact with people around town and even brought Christmas decorations back out at Town Hall for the filming of one scene.
“When you shoot in bigger cities, people don’t want anything to do with you; they’re not as welcoming,” Metcalfe said. “Everyone here seems excited to have us here and more than happy to help us out in achieving our goals. We can interfere with people’s daily lives, and we can be needy. We have schedules to meet and scripts to shoot out in only four days.”
He said the crew of 35 people has worked 20-hour days to complete the hefty task in a short amount of time. The crew filmed in both Chester and Lockhart on Monday; in Lockhart all day Tuesday; in Sharon and Lockhart on Wednesday; and all day in Lockhart on Thursday, which is when the film wrapped up.
Metcalfe explained that on a film set, little goes according to plan. For example, Wednesday morning was extremely foggy, and the crew had to wait until the sun came up, which pushed them back a couple of hours.
“We roll with the punches and make do the best we can,” he said. “At the end of the day we make it happen.”
The budget for the film is $100,000, which Metcalfe said is small, comparing it to another film he worked on — “The Hunger Games” — which had a budget of $100 million. He said although the $100,000 budget may sound like a lot, the money goes very fast considering the cost of actors, equipment, hotels, food, rental cars, cargo vans, trucks, wardrobe, art department, hair and make-up and location fees.
Metcalfe said when the film is complete, it will be entered into various film festivals to create a buzz and hopefully lead to bigger projects with bigger budgets and eventually a full-length feature film.
Mayor Ailene Ashe said even though she knows little about the actual content of the film, she hopes Lockhart can benefit from it.
“Hopefully, what we’ll gain from it is people will see scenes of the town and it will encourage them to come,” Ashe said, adding that when crew members arrived, some of them told her Lockhart was a beautiful, unique little village that looked like the houses were carved out of the hill.
Metcalfe also mentioned a bill (H.3357) which is currently scheduled to go through the South Carolina House of Representatives which would allow the state to offer film incentives to entice companies to film in South Carolina. He said the state offered those incentives at one time and a large number of movies were shot in South Carolina. Since the incentives are no longer offered in South Carolina, however, lots of production has moved to areas such as Savannah, Atlanta, Charlotte and Wilmington.
He offered the example that “The Hunger Games” spent a little over $100, and got 20 percent of that back. Even though the film spent more than its budget, it technically stayed under budget because of North Carolina’s incentive program. South Carolina Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell has signed on as a co-sponsor of bill H.3357.
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at email@example.com.