HBO vampire series films at Longwood

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 13, 2010

NATCHEZ — The fictional town of Bon Temps, La., came to life in Natchez Monday.

An HBO series, “True Blood,” was filming four episodes at Longwood all day Monday and into the early morning hours today.

Natchez got lucky in snagging the crew, said local Ed Godfrey, who scouted and managed the location for the filming company as a volunteer.

“They decided the series could go for a while, so they started buying set products to sell when the series ended,” Godfrey said. “The man who used to be with the Louisiana film commission is a Natchez native, and he got them up here antiques shopping.”

Once the production team arrived, Godfrey said it was only a matter of time before they wanted to use Natchez for filming.

“I always say, if you can get people to Natchez they will love it every time,” Godfrey said. “The production manager took one look at Longwood and said she wanted (the historic house) in next year’s series.”

Godfrey said the sets featured in a couple of HBO’s series have become celebrities in themselves.

“For instance, even though the series ended several years ago, there are tours in New Jersey for ‘The Sopranos,’” Godfrey said. “The same thing is in New York for ‘Sex and City.’”

Once people fall in love with a TV series, they want to go where something has been shot, Godfrey said, and he hopes the same will happen with “True Blood.”

“It will without question generate tourism for Natchez,” Godfrey said. “This is the first time that Longwood has been used in any type of film production.”

It is Godfrey’s hope that Mississippi will start having the same luck at attracting film crews as Louisiana, with a little help from attractive filming tax incentives.

“Film production is big business,” he said. “By time they leave, they will have purchased 300 to 400 hotel nights.”

Godfrey said he hoped Natchez would be filming friendly and that the team would come back for a subsequent series or episode.

“True Blood” is a series about vampires who are trying to integrate into human society after the invention of a synthetic blood. The government and religious leaders have decided against integration, but in Bon Temps, La., the jury is still out.

Local waitress Sookie Stackhouse, played by Anna Paquin, falls in love with a vampire, Bill Compton, played by Stephen Moyer. The two are drawn into a series of catastrophes that puts their love to the test.

The series is filming its third season, which will begin airing at 9 p.m. June 13.

The production crew would not comment on their work in Natchez.

Longwood is owned by the Pilgrimage Garden Club and completed Spring Pilgrimage tours this weekend.