Mayor seeks to create local film commission in Natchez

Published 12:11 am Monday, December 2, 2013

NATCHEZ — Mayor Butch Brown says he is in the process of establishing a local film commission to recruit filmmakers to the area.

Brown said the city has several residents who have connections to the film industry who could compose a local film commission that would be the “cream of the crop” in the state. Brown declined to name the residents he is considering for the commission, which he said is still in the “discussion stages.”

Brown said he was considering creating a film commission even before the announcement that the James Brown biopic “Get On Up” would be filming in Natchez. Jackson native and “The Help” director Tate Taylor is directing the film, which will wrap shooting in Natchez on Dec. 20.

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With the added attention “Get On Up” is bringing to Natchez, Brown said he believes now is the time to assemble a film commission.

The commission will not be the first of its kind in Natchez, however.

Former mayor Tony Byrne created a film commission for Natchez in the early 1970s. The commission, Byrne said, traveled to California once a year to meet with filmmakers and industry contacts.

Byrne said through the contacts the commission made in California, the commission was able to recruit 13 films to Natchez in the last 11 years Byrne was in office, some of which were TV films and others for the big screen.

After Byrne lost his bid for re-election in 1988, the commission disbanded.

Byrne said he supports the creation of a new film commission.

“I’m sorry it hasn’t been going on all this time,” he said.

Mississippi Film Office Director Ward Emling said the first step to really developing the film industry in a city is setting up a film office with a professional recruiter.

Emling compared the recruiter’s position to that of Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ, who recruits industrial prospects to Adams County.

“I think a full-time professional, where that’s their job, is a huge step to developing the film industry in your area,” Emling said.

That professional, Emling said, would work with the state film office to woo filmmakers.

“My job, on a state level, is to work with everybody that can make a filmmaker’s job easier,” he said.

Brown said he hopes to begin the further development of the local film industry with a commission first, with that eventually leading to a full-time recruiter.