Natchez has long film history

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Natchez is expecting a surge in film production in 2020, thanks to Tate Taylor, John Norris, Jake Seal and Thor Juell.

Juell told the Natchez Rotary Club last week that the anticipated film production boom is being fueled in part by recently reinstated tax incentives for the film industry that the Mississippi Legislature had let lapse a few years ago.

Also, Taylor and Norris who live in the area and are committed to producing high-quality films in Mississippi, Juell said, are fueling the film boom.

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Taylor and Norris have already produced “Ma,” “The Help,” “Get On Up” in Mississippi and Natchez, with much success both financially and critically.

Taylor and Norris are currently filming the movie “Breaking News in Yuba County” in Natchez with a strong female cast, including Allison Janney, Ellen Barken, Juliette Lewis and Mila Kunis to name a few.

The anticipated film boom also is being upped by Seal, a successful Louisiana film producer, who is in the process of closing on the purchase of the historic mansion Dunleith and plans are in the works to reopen Dunleith not only as a hotel, restaurant and bar but also as a film production studio.

The fact that much of Natchez and Adams County also are in Opportunity Zones as designated under President Donald Trump’s tax bill that offers tax breaks to investors who invest profits into the rural Opportunity Zones, makes the film industry even more viable.

All of that combined, Juell told the Natchez Rotary Club last week, is expected to bring $30 million into Natchez next year, which is a financial shot in the arm that Natchez could certainly use.

Current unemployment figures in Natchez-Adams County is approximately 1,100 people unemployed, Juell said, and the $30 million from the film industry is the equivalent of 1,400 by the time the money is turned over in the local economy.

Plans are in the works, Juell said, to keep the film industry here and growing, which is the new twist to the film industry that has a long history with Natchez.

Over the years, more than 50 movie and television productions have been filmed either partially or in full in Natchez, according to the Internet Movie Database.

The first movie to be filmed in Natchez, according to, was 1914’s “A Gentleman From Mississippi,” which was a 50-minute silent-film drama.

Other silent films made in Natchez include “Slippy McGee” 1923, “Fighting the Crowd” 1924 and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” 1927.

Since the end of the silent-film era, several big name productions — and not so big — have been filmed in Natchez, including “Show Boat” in 1951, portions of “Raintree County” in 1957; several versions of Huckleberry Finn; the television mini series “North and South,” and even episodes of HBO’s vampire drama series “True Blood.”

Throughout the 1980s, 1990s and up until today, Natchez has had a film production schedule with at approximately one film or major television production made per year in Natchez.

With Taylor, Norris, Juell and Seal investing in the area, working to bring more productions to the area, operating production companies here, and pushing to train and recruit locals, the film industry could become a mainstay in the area rather than a one-production a year industry.

That would certainly help to fill an economic gap in Natchez.

Scott Hawkins is editor of The Natchez Democrat.  Reach him at 601-445-3540 or