Film crew must pay to use school facility

Published 12:05 am Saturday, October 19, 2013

NATCHEZ — The chances for Natchez High School’s band hall to make an appearance in the upcoming James Brown biopic aren’t looking so good after a specially called school board meeting Friday.

Natchez-Adams School District Superintendent Frederick Hill told board of trustee members that he met with officials who are in Natchez to film “Get on Up” — a movie chronicling the life of the “Godfather of Soul.”

Last week, board members gave movie officials the go-ahead to use two school district facilities for filming and rehearsal.

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Movie officials contacted Hill about using the auditorium in the Braden Administrative building as well as the NHS band hall.

The filmmakers want to use the stage at Braden auditorium for actors to rehearse their performances for the two weeks prior to the start of principal photography, which is the phase of production during which the movie is filmed with actors on set and cameras rolling.

A concert scene for the film was also scheduled to be shot in the auditorium.

The band hall was slated to be transformed into a Hollywood recording studio, where in 1968, Brown hosted a group of children from South Central Los Angeles. The scene would involve a half-day of filming, about a day of preparation and a day of restoration.

Hill said there was an apparent miscommunication between the movie officials and what the board approved last week.

“I visited with the location manager for the movie and in my conversations with her it’s my understanding they believed the agreement was to offer them free use of the facilities,” Hill said. “They’ve since decided not to use the facilities here (at Braden)…so if we have to get to the point of a decision it would only be for the band hall at Steckler (Multipurpose Building).”

The district’s facility rental fees are charged $700 per day plus a $100 deposit for the Steckler building.

Board members argued renting the building to movie officials for no charge would be going against the district’s policy and could open the door for similar situations in the future.

“We have a board policy that says we can’t deviate from policy,” Board President Wayne Barnett said. “We have a rental policy, and we didn’t want to vote to break our own rule.”

The board unanimously voted it would not rent the building to movie officials for anything less than the $700 rental fee.

“We always want to be team players,” Barnett said. “But if we do it this time, what about the next time?”