Natchez gets to shine in ‘Get On Up’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 13, 2013

How on earth could a dead man from Georgia — one particularly known for rather outlandish costumes including a jumpsuit emblazoned with the word “sex” — put Natchez on the map?

Simple. Make him the star of a big-time film and film it here.

Creating silver screen productions cost money and that money has begun trickling into Natchez lately with production ramping up on “Get On Up,” a biopic film about the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.

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Production is only in the early stages, but the buzz is building. More and more waves of film people are expected to parachute into town soon as the dates of actual filming approaches.

It’s difficult to know exactly how much of an impact the film will have on Natchez, but it’s certain to be felt in the short-term.

If nothing else comes of it, we’ve had a chance to make an impression on the film crew by perhaps dispelling a few myths about Mississippi — if they had any.

Director Tate Taylor, a Mississippi native, has made it a point to lobby the studio in order to get all the filming done in Mississippi. That’s no small feat. It’s tantamount to convincing all the members of a local Baptist church to agree to switch pews for a week.

Taylor should be commended for encouraging the investment into Mississippi — and into Natchez.

None of us knows how the film will turn out, whether it will be a big hit or even how much of the film will be created here in Natchez.

But we should feel confident that this is a chance for Natchez to shine a little bit. For those of us who live here, we probably take for granted the beauty and, more important, the diversity around us.

Not many communities have the full spectrum of humanity on display in Natchez. Our community contains a uniquely rich culture like none other around. That’s what makes Natchez special and that’s what, hopefully, will make this latest foray into film production the first of many, many more to come.

Not lost in this is the importance of this specific money to Natchez. Not too many major motion pictures these days focus on the life of a poor child who grew up in the rural South and became a star.

While James Brown’s private life certainly wasn’t perfect, his use of the talents God gave him in performing on stage could serve as an important sense of encouragement for today’s youth.

Perhaps that’s why it’s fitting that the film be created here in Natchez. No other place in Mississippi embodies the spirit of Brown’s life better than Natchez.

For decades and decades, poor blacks in our part of the world had to scratch out a life for themselves first as slaves, and later as free men living in an unfair society.

But out of that horribly unfair existence, some truly talented Americans emerged, including people such as James Brown.

Perhaps like no other place on earth, Natchez has the scenery both manmade and natural to help tell that story — and countless others.

Last week someone told me that other cities in Mississippi were lobbying to move more of the film production to their corners of the state. Hopefully that doesn’t happen.

Natchez residents will be welcoming and gracious to our Hollywood friends regardless of how long the film crew is here, but like most visitors, we hope they’ll decide to stay a good long while. The more they stay, the more Natchez will grow on them.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or