Filmmakers launch fundraiser for ‘Miss Nellie’ documentaryPublished 12:01am Thursday, November 7, 2013
NATCHEZ — In a town that prides itself on telling its story to the world, a seemingly important part of Natchez’s tale has gone relatively untold.
But three local documentary filmmakers are giving residents and people around the world the opportunity to help tell the story of “Miss Nellie” Jackson, a local madam that ran a bordello at the corner of Rankin and Monroe streets for decades.
Mark Brockway, Lauren Jones and Tim Givens launched a fundraising campaign Wednesday on indiegogo.com, a website that allows filmmakers, artists and others to raise money for projects through crowdfunding.
Brockway said the film, “Mississippi Madam: The Story of Nellie Jackson,” has seen an outpouring of support from the community, especially on Facebook.
“I just thought that this way for $10 or $25 or whatever people want to give, they can feel like they are part of this, and they are.”
The Indiegogo campaign also allows donors to purchase “perk packages” from $10-$1,000, that include various benefits from film merchandise to a stay at Bisland Bed-and-Breakfast and a mention in the film’s credits.
The goal for the campaign is $20,000. The money, Brockway said, is for equipment, travel, post-production work and editing, DVD production and posters.
The filmmakers screened a fundraising video for the documentary Wednesday evening at Bowie’s Tavern for a crowd of approximately 40 people.
“We have put a lot of time into the research for this documentary, and there’s a lot more research to do,” Brockway told the crowd. “But we’re starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Brockway said he, Jones and Givens will be traveling a lot more than they had originally anticipated, including trips to Oregon, California, Texas and multiple trips to New Orleans and Shreveport, La.
The video touched on parts of the story of “Miss Nellie” the documentary will explore, including Jackson’s love of baseball, big cars, the poodles she brought everywhere with her, her charitable contributions to the community, the money she used to bail Civil Rights workers out of jail in the 1960s, the meals she cooked for neighbors and the little black book she had to keep herself immune from arrest.
Jackson died in July 1990, a week after a neighbor allegedly doused her in gasoline and set her afire, reportedly angered because she had turned him away from the bordello for being drunk. She had operated the house since the 1930s, and one of her rules was that clients had to show up sober.
Jones, who is the documentary’s producer, said the deeper and deeper she got into the story of “Miss Nellie,” the angrier she became that her story had been swept under the rug.
“I got really sick and tired of hearing people bury it,” Jones said. “You talk about Natchez, and you hear about all these antebellum homes and our history, but you don’t hear about the Civil Rights actions that ‘Miss Nellie’ took.
“It wasn’t all about her business. People should know how strong she was and how tough she was. When people about Natchez, I want this to be part of they talk about.”
Something is to be said also, Brockway says, about a black woman who was allowed to operate a bordello three blocks from downtown through the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
“With the business she ran, she had to be tough,” he said. “And there’s something to be said about how she managed to stay in business all those years with all those things going against her.”
Givens, the documentary’s cinematographer and a graphic designer for The Natchez Democrat, said he joined the project because he, too, thought Jackson’s story needed to be told.
“It’s a story I’ve known my whole life, and it’s a story I can’t believe no one has really told yet,” Givens said.