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Local helps find locations for ‘Get On Up’

NATCHEZ — Members of the Miss-Lou community who were fortunate to be cast in on-screen appearances of the James Brown biopic “Get On Up” aren’t the only locals working on the set.

In the case of Sally Durkin, she’s helping with the set itself.

The former film liaison for the Natchez Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Durkin took a job with the movie production company shortly after leaving the CVB when her contract there was not renewed earlier this year.

“I had helped them before, and when I told them I was no longer going to help them because I was no longer working at the CVB, the location manager just snatched me up and put me to work,” Durkin said. “She said, ‘You’ll work for me.’”

Durkin’s job with the film company is to follow up on securing locations that have already been scouted and considered for the movie, including not only sites for filming but sites that might be used for housing extras so they can be out of the weather while a shot is being set up.

“I have basically been about a day ahead of the camera in getting contracts signed, making sure they have all the elements we need for either base camp or catering or for holding for extras,” Durkin said.

“In one instance, I have had three days to find out who owned a location, to contact that person and have a chat about what we wanted to use it for, to get them to agree to that and then to agree to a price. The deal was done in three days and the crew moved in Monday morning and shot it.”

Having a local working for them might be advantageous to the production company because those who might be reluctant to allow the use of a location might be less so knowing someone who lives in the area is involved, Durkin said.

Knowing the area has also helped with location negotiations.

“I have had to talk some people down from the money they wanted to the money the film could afford,” she said.

“On the other side of that, there are some who have stepped up and not expected any money at all.

“Any time they use a church or a school facility, (the company) wants to make sure — whether they want money or not — they get some kind of stipend for use of a property.”

The movie has shot at approximately 10 locations and will likely shoot at another 10, she said.

Durkin has worked on nearly a dozen movies and television productions shot in the area since 1980, including with props, set dressing and location logistics.

In some ways, what she is doing with the current production is not very different from what she did with the CVB.

“The only difference is I am now getting paid by a production company as opposed by the CVB, and I am doing a little more in-depth work as a location assistant because when working for the CVB, I would not be carrying out the actual contractual execution part of it,” she said.

“Get On Up” will star Chadick Bozeman, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis, and is being directed by Tate Taylor.