Movie producer expresses interest in renovating old Margaret Martin School for studio

Published 9:27 am Wednesday, October 11, 2017


NATCHEZ — An actor, director and film producer Tuesday expressed interest in leasing and revamping the Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center to house a film studio.

Jake Seal spoke before the Natchez Board of Aldermen Tuesday about the possibilities he sees for the center.

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Seal owns Plantation Village Studios in Jackson, La., which he said has attracted movies such as  “Oblivion,” starring Tom Cruise, “Free State of Jones” starring Matthew McConaughey, and even the star-studded film, “The Magnificent Seven.”

Seal said these films all had “massive expenditures,” leading to an economic uptick in the small Louisiana town.

In addition to the Jackson facility, Seal said he also has two other physical studios, one in Canada and another in the United Kingdom.

Considering the rich history and heritage of Natchez, Seal said he sees no reason why this city cannot replicate the success of Jackson.

“I’ve been coming to Natchez for a few years now and (have) become increasingly interested in doing something long-term in Natchez,” Seal said.

“I firmly believe that if you build something that works in one area, then you can repeat that in another area,” Seal said.

Seal said after looking at Margaret Martin extensively, he is encouraged because he does not think it needs many renovations and he thinks the building itself is complimentary to his vision of a studio.

Seal also acknowledged that the center has plenty of tenants currently occupying the center, which he implied works with his vision.

One of the specific aspects of the building Seal mentioned was the auditorium, which he envisions as a cinema.

“The idea is to look at that as a hub,” Seal said. “A hub for learning, a hub for creativity and a hub for learning, TV and media.”

Seal said the large size of the center would allow for these implementations necessary for creating a studio.

“What’s wonderful is it doesn’t … require anything really to change in terms of its current usage, because everything that I can see is being done there currently is very positive, very much for the community,” Seal said. “And it’s a big building. It’s a lot of space to share.”

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said he believes Seal can take the city to “a new level” with this potential endeavor.

Later in the meeting, Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard, who also called Seal’s potential involvement in Natchez “exciting,” wanted to ensure the public has a say in what should happen with the building.

Grennell noted the city has done that before in similar situations by holding public hearings.