Filming brings economic boost, tourists

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 31, 2004

NATCHEZ &045;&045; Total hotel room nights spent by the crew and cast of &uot;The Ladykillers&uot;: 540.

Amount spent per day per crew and cast member in and around Natchez: At least $150.

Exposure TV and movie filming gives the Miss-Lou: Priceless.

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Hosting the filming of a television, movie or commercial shoot has a definite short-term economic impact on the area, said Connie Taunton of the Natchez Film Commission.

Although not all of that money was spent in the Natchez area, crews shooting &uot;The Ladykillers&uot; spent $200,000 to $250,000 on equipment rental alone, Taunton said.

About 15 people associated with the movie spent two weeks in pre-production and two weeks in postproduction and a five-day shoot in late summer of last year.

In between, dozens of cast and crew members converged on Natchez and the surrounding area for a four-day shoot. And each of them spent an estimated $150 to $200 a day for rooms, meals and other purchases.

Tourism Director Walter Tipton estimated that Natchez profited $184,450 during a 21-day period from such purchases.

&uot;They also had seven or eight scouting people&uot; in the area before the &uot;Ladykillers&uot; shoot, said Ed Godfrey of Natchez, assistant location manager for the film.

&uot;They hired at least 50 to 100 extras and hired local artisans and craftsmen,&uot; he said. &uot;And almost every business got some economic impact.&uot;

Beyond the short-term impact, such productions also bring tourists into town to see the sights they’ve seen on the big screen, Taunton said.

Visitors sometimes remark that they came to Natchez to see where parts of &uot;North and South&uot; or &uot;Huckleberry Finn&uot; were filmed.

&uot;It’s good exposure for our city and has helped us in lots of ways,&uot; Taunton said.

Those associated with film often come back to Natchez to visit at their leisure. &uot;These producers, directors and actors have the money, travel and like to see interesting places,&uot; said Godfrey, who also assisted with the shooting of an episode of the television series &uot;Promised Land&uot; and, most recently, PBS’ &uot;History of Slavery.&uot;

&uot;It’s priceless advertising you couldn’t get (otherwise),&uot; he said.

Such was the case with actor James Woods, who filmed part of &uot;Ghosts of Mississippi&uot; at the antebellum house Monmouth and ended up visiting at least twice after that, Godfrey said.

And if filmmakers have a good experience filming somewhere &045;&045; as &uot;Ladykillers&uot; directors Joel and Ethan Cohen said they did in Natchez &045;&045; they often recommend the location to others in the movie business. That’s especially important since Natchez doesn’t have many dollars to spend on recruiting movie and T.V. shoots to the area, Taunton said.

&uot;One of our most valuable selling tools,&uot; she said, &uot;is word of mouth.&uot;

The City of Natchez, in addition to the community as a whole, bent over backwards to make shooting convenient for the Coen brothers and their cast and crew, Taunton said. Among other things, the city made a city-owned building available for the shoot, made the city auditorium available for costume fittings and casting of extras and had some police officers assigned to secure the area where filming was done.

That helps give Natchez the reputation of a place &uot;that is easy to work with,&uot; Taunton said.

Of course, she also believes Natchez-Adams County is a good deal for filmmakers in other ways, too &045;&045; including the availability of a variety of shooting locations.

&uot;We have uniqueness. If you’re looking for historic homes, the water, swamps, unique neighborhoods, we have it,&uot; Taunton said.