Help bring Natchez story to big screen

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I am a graduate of North Natchez class of 1980. I am the son of Thomas and Martha Mary Marsaw Mitchell. I grew up in Broadmoor where I was a member of Prayer Tower COGIC.

I went to  Southern University in Baton Rouge and studied journalism at Copiah-Lincoln Community College Natchez campus.

For the past seven years, I have been in the film business. For the past two years, I have been writing the events of the tragic Rhythm Night Club Fire of 1940. It is to be released as a featured film. With the help of the people of Natchez, I would like to take the script I’m finishing to the big screen to be released by a major production company.

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In order to give the script credibility I plan to shoot the trailer in Natchez. A trailer is a two-minute preview of a movie that I will use as a visual for potential production companies.

The scene of the movie, as I have written it, briefly opens in Chicago. This is where I currently live. We will conclude filming in Natchez and surrounding areas. It opens as Walter Barnes and his orchestra are packing their instruments on his tour bus headed to Natchez. I have recruited Chicago actors as well as volunteers for this brief scene. It is time-consuming and costly.

We have had people donate cars, wardrobe and apparel of the era. These individuals have dedicated their efforts without hesitation. If Chicago can step up, I know my fellow classmates, church members, neighbors and business leaders will outdo them. This trailer project will be pushed to a level where a Hollywood production company will gladly invest in it.

This is truly an investment Natchez business leaders should take note of.

When a majorly funded production company picks up the movie, they will have to build a replica of the Rhythm Night Club. That requires a lot of building materials such as wood, paint and tin. They will need Model-T Fords and other vehicles from the 1940s era.

The hotel industry of Natchez will also benefit from this project. When the cast and crew come to town, they will need lodging. The antique shops of Natchez are a must for props.

A shoot of this nature requires many things associated with a production. First and foremost, we will need in excess of 300 people as attendees of the fire. Then we will need another 50 or so who will act as parents or family members running to the scene or pulling back sheets just to discover their child is not home. For the individual scenes, I will conduct a casting call at one of the local hotel banquet rooms for aspiring actors. This is why I have contacted several pastors of churches in Natchez to help with the group of people needed. One of the scenes will be done in an old church, so we need a full congregation including a choir, preachers, musicians, etc.

The shoot itself will take from five to seven days at various hours, so anyone working will have an opportunity to participate.

With this amount of people, we will certainly need a production staff. It’s a great opportunity for high school students who are aspiring to learn the filming industry.

The behind-the-scenes activity is important. Things like how to properly shoot action scenes or lighting techniques are a must.

During the casting call, I plan to cast ministers, barbers, farmers, firemen, morticians etc.

I will be coming home during the Fourth of July weekend to meet with business owners, as well as to arrange a casting call at one of the local hotels.

I do not have a set date in mind to shoot or the cast call, but I will have it after the Fourth of July weekend. If you are interested in becoming a cast member or staff, please email me at or by phone after the Fourth of July at 601-334-3326.

You will also be able to call with any inquiries you might have. Natchez, I need your help to bring this movie to the big screen. I’m not asking as a Hollywood producer. I am asking as a man who walked and lived the same streets as you.


Mychal Mitchell is a former Natchez resident.