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‘Get On Up’ filming turns back clock on Natchez streets

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Antique cars line Commerce Street Monday afternoon.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Antique cars line Commerce Street Monday afternoon.

NATCHEZ — Despite the cold, rainy weather Monday, filming for “Get On Up” in downtown Natchez went well and hopefully with a minimal impact on shop owners, executive producer Trish Hofmann said.

Sun, Moon & Stars was closed Monday, but owner Erin Myers said she did not mind at all. Myers’ shop was converted into a television and radio repair shop for a movie scene. The store’s merchandise was shuffled around to make room for antique televisions and radios, Myers said.

Having their business closed the week of Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, may have bothered some shop owners, but not Myers.

“I think it’s exciting,” she said. “I just don’t think it’s an inconvenience … they’re bringing in more business than they’re hindering.”

And Myers said the cast and crew of “Get On Up” patronize her store.

“I’ve had several people shopping in here,” she said. “I sold one of my big paintings and several little gifts. Plus, they’ve bought tons of things for the movie here in town.”

Myers said she thinks it is important that business owners — and everyone else in Natchez — be accommodating to the movie’s cast and crew.

“If they’re happy doing this film here, they’re going to go back and tell more people about us,” she said. “And that’s bringing money into Natchez. These people go out and they eat, they shop, they stay in hotels and bed-and-breakfasts. They’re spending money all over town.”

Likewise, Hofmann said the film crew does its best to accommodate the needs of businesses when streets need to be temporarily closed for filming.

Hoffman said the production crew sends out letters to businesses that will be affected by filming and tries to stay in constant contact with shop owners, alerting them of temporary road closures because of filming.

“We also posted signs saying all the merchants were open (Monday),” Hofmann said.

The crew, Hofmann said, also made sure passers-by knew the shops were open,

“Often if we’re standing outside and we see somebody walking, we’ll say, ‘Go in and get out of the rain. Go in Turning Pages and buy a book,’” Hofmann said.

During the four hours of filming downtown, Hofmann said the crew filmed inside for scenes set in a bank for an hour and took a one-hour lunch break.

“So hopefully it was only a couple of hours (of business) that was impacted,” she said.

Portions of downtown on Franklin Street, between Pearl and Union streets, and on Commerce Street, between Jefferson and Main streets, were transformed for scenes set in 1942 Georgia and 1965 Cincinnati. The bank scenes were filmed inside the former City Bank building.

Filming went “surprisingly well” given the rain, Hofmann said.

“We all got accustomed to the beautiful, warm weather here; we didn’t know what to think about the cold,” Hofmann said, laughing.

The scenes shot Monday could be filmed in rain or shine, Hofmann said, so the rainy weather did not pose a problem. For continuity’s sake, Hofmann said, it is important to start and finish a scene in the same weather.

“We’re sure it rained at some point during James Brown’s life,” Hofmann joked. “So it wasn’t a problem.”

Last week’s filming schedule was shuffled around because of the weather, Hofmann said. Turning Pages owner Mary Emrick said she was initially concerned filming scheduled for Wednesday would deter people from coming to a book signing at the store.

But then Emrick said she got word from movie officials that filming had been rescheduled,

“That helped me immensely with the book signing,” she said.

Crews will continue filming in Natchez through Dec. 20 before taking a break for the holidays and picking back up from Jan. 6 through 24 in Jackson.

The film, which is being directed by Mississippian Tate Taylor, who also directed the Academy Award-nominated film “The Help,” will depict Brown’s life from when he was nearly 5 years old in 1938 until he was about 60 in 1993.