Running Wild Films will come to the Jacinto Courthouse in March to capture that scene for its next movie project, “Blood Country,” a tale of murder set in the small south Mississippi town of Oakdale in Lawrence County in 1884. It is based on true events told in Robert E. Jones’ short story “The Outlaw, the Sheriff and the Governor,” part of a collection called “Mississippi Gumbo.”
Running Wild Films cofounder Travis Mills visited Jacinto on Sunday and said the courthouse is “perfect” for the film.
“Making a movie that’s set in the post-Civil War period is not the easiest thing in the world anymore,” he said. “There’s only so many places that still fit that period.”
The Jacinto Foundation welcomes the opportunity to bring some attention to the historic courthouse.
“It’s exciting to me, because I have been doing tours in that courtroom for 30 or more years now,” said Executive Director Beth Whitehurst. “The court day was a big day, and people would turn out in their best clothes, and it was packed.”
Because there wasn’t much in the way of entertainment during those times, sessions of court had good attendance.
Filming begins in Mississippi on March 13 and will be in Jacinto on March 20.
“It’s based on one of those stories where truth is just stranger than fiction,” said Whitehurst.
It centers around feuding brothers, a rather grisly murder and the trial that follows.
After reading the sort story, Mills, who adapted the screenplay, felt “this is just too perfect to not make into a movie,” he said. “I almost didn’t even want to write a screenplay, it was so good. It’s just unbelievable, the turn of events that happened with the murder and the trial that comes out of it. I saw it as a Mississippi western.”
Locals will have the chance to get involved as unpaid extras for the courtroom scene.
“We need a crowd of people,” said Mills, as well as sources who might provide appropriate costuming.
Whitehurst estimates more than 50 people will be needed to fill the courtroom and for milling around outside the courthouse. But they will have to look the part.
“If you’ve ever watched ‘Little House on the Prairie,’ that’s what people are going to need to wear,” she said.
Nothing, including overalls, should be made of denim.
The scene will need people of all ages, both sexes, Caucasian and African-American.
Several other Mississippi locales will feature in the film.
“We’re going to shoot some in Lawrence County, because that’s where it took place,” said Mills. “We’ll also be filming a little bit in the Jackson area, and a good portion of the shoot is going to happen near Greenwood in the Delta.”
It is the first of four movies Running Wild plans to make in Mississippi during the next two years.
The company started in Phoenix in 2010 with the mission to tell Arizona stories. But Mills has family in Mississippi in Brookhaven, and he gradually began to make connections in the state.
“We decided to kind of start doing what we did in Arizona in Mississippi, as well,” he said.
Running Wild’s “Don’t Come Around Here” just premiered at the Oxford Film Festival and took the prize for best Mississippi feature.
It was around the beginning of January that the Jacinto Foundation first heard from the independent filmmakers, who were scouting for locations. Whitehurst believes “Blood Country” will be the first movie to film in Alcorn County since “Tomorrow,” the well-regarded 1972 adaptation of a William Faulkner story starring Robert Duvall. The Jacinto Courthouse makes an appearance in the movie, and local film buff Alan Simmons, playing a reporter, can be seen sliding down the bannister.
In preparation for the movie and opening for the season, the Jacinto Foundation will host a work day for cleanup on Saturday, March 4, beginning at 9 a.m.
Those interested in participating as extras should contact Whitehurst at 286-8662. Updates on the movie are at facebook.com/bloodcountryfilm.