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Hollywood coming back to Natchez

Church Hill resident and Hollywood filmmaker Tate Taylor talks Monday morning about his new film that he will be making in Natchez and Jackson.
Church Hill resident and Hollywood filmmaker Tate Taylor talks Monday morning about his new film that he will be making in Natchez and Jackson.

NATCHEZ — Tate Taylor may be an actor, a screenwriter, a producer and a director of major Hollywood movies, but his biggest role Monday morning was that of gardener, helping tend the seeds that were first planted when he filmed “The Help” in Mississippi in 2010.

This time, Taylor was planting seeds in Natchez and Jackson. Taylor said Monday he is bringing Hollywood back to Mississippi, this time to film the life of “The Godfather of Soul,” James Brown.

“Every frame will be shot in Mississippi,” Taylor said. “We’re even doing Paris, France, in Mississippi, Vietnam as well.”

Filming will start in mid-November and continue through December in Natchez and then move to Jackson in January and February.

Taylor said he has even bigger plans for his home state — bigger than “The Help” and his new James Brown biography.

“I think with all of our hard work we will soon see great talent rising up from our native soil,” Taylor said.

“All of (our hard work) is starting to pay off in a big way. We are going to set up a situation where we can have a permanent film base and crew here in our state.”

Taylor said he wants to create a lasting movie industry in the state so Mississippians would no longer have to go to Los Angeles to pursue a movie career.

A permanent movie industry, like the one in New Orleans, could allow families to buy houses and live in Mississippi and start their lives in the film business, he said.

Such an industry would have a major impact on the state.

“We could easily see film revenues approaching $100 million within our state,” Taylor said.

Natchez Mayor Butch Brown, who could not attend Monday’s announcement in Jackson, said he is excited about the upcoming filming in and around town.

“We are happy and tickled to death,” Brown said.

Brown said his staff and other locals have been busy working with Taylor and the production crews to make them feel welcome.

“But it could not have happened without David Paradise,” Brown said.

Both Paradise and Taylor live in Church Hill in Jefferson County.

“Paradise has been pivotal,” Brown said. “He has been supportive of the project and helped entertain (Taylor and others from Hollywood).”

Brown said without Paradise, the film would have gone to other parts of the state that already have recent movie experience.

“David has helped them feel warm and wonderful in Natchez,” Brown said. “It has been an example at how to talk somebody into giving you a good look.”

At the announcement Monday, Gov. Phil Bryant and Taylor agreed that the incentives the state is offering are what made the James Brown and other future movies possible.

In announcing the project, Bryant said the state would provide rebates of up to 30 percent of the payroll for state residents hired on the project. Earlier this year, the Mississippi Legislature increased the incentives that the state offers to moviemakers. The new law says the state could provide rebates up to $10 million per project for nationally distributed feature films, documentaries and television shows.

Without the incentives, there would be no James Brown film filmed in Mississippi, Taylor said.

The economic impact of the project is undeniable, Bryant said during Monday’s announcement at the Mississippi Coliseum. Bryant’s office said 7,000 to 9,000 paychecks would be added to the economy during the filming.

An actor to play Brown has not been selected, Taylor said.

“Those are tough shoes to fill,” he said.

More than likely the role will not go to a well-know actor, Taylor said.

“Like in ‘The Help,’ I tend to go to relative unknowns,” he said.

The film will depict Brown’s life from when he was nearly 5 years old and will extend to 1993. Other than that, Taylor said people will have to “buy a ticket and come see it,” to find out more about the movie.