Natchez native’s award-winning film The Saloon now streaming on Amazon Prime

Published 4:43 pm Wednesday, September 21, 2022

NATCHEZ — Natchez native Timothy Givens has released his second movie, The Saloon, which is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Givens directed his first movie, Mississippi Madam, along with Natchezian Mark Brockway, which debuted in 2017. It tells the story of Nellie Jackson, a benevolent woman who operated a brothel in Natchez. That brothel was a secret to no one, including law enforcement, and came to a tragic end when a rejected customer set it on fire and killed Jackson in the process.

Mississippi Madam was accepted into six film festivals and won best documentary film at Crossroads Film Festival in Jackson in 2018. It was nominated for best Louisiana-made feature at the New Orleans Film Festival, that same year.

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The Saloon is special to Givens, he said, because he made almost every aspect of the film himself.

“I had just finished with Mississippi Madam and that had gotten on Amazon. I wanted to do another project in Natchez. I was living in New Orleans by that time,” Givens said.

He graduated from Trinity Episcopal Day School in 2004 and earned a degree from Ole Miss in graphic design in 2010. Givens worked for several years in graphic design and photography at The Natchez Democrat. He moved to New Orleans in 2016 and was page designer for The Times-Picayune, designing numerous front pages with coverage of historic events for that newspaper.

“The Saloon was a challenging project, not only because I was on my own, but because I was telling the story of a building. I wasn’t telling the story of a person or an event or a situation, but a building,” Givens said. “It turned out to be very interesting. It’s a thought-provoking story about a building and its history.”

When he could, Givens would drive up from New Orleans with his camera and iPhone, which were the primary equipment used to film The Saloon.

“Then COVID hit. I didn’t know how film festivals would change, if they would all become virtual. And I didn’t know if I wanted to enter it into a virtual festival.

“I was reading about Jason Reitman, who directed Ghostbuster: Afterlife. It was ready to release in 2020, but instead of doing that, he spent that time during the pandemic re-editing the film and getting it exactly how he wanted it,” he said. “I spent time in 2020 and 2021 getting the film The Saloon right. Besides the musicians in the film, who were so gracious, it was only me.”

In October 2021, Givens took The Saloon to its first film festival, Rails to Reels in Meridian, where the film won best documentary film.

“I was very humbled. I didn’t know how this film was going to be received,” he said.

The Saloon made it into film festivals in California, Nevada and Texas, and was a nominee for best documentary film at the festivals in Nevada and Texas.

“I am actually very happy with the film. It is as good as I was ever going to get it,” Givens said. “It starts out very slow, much like a bar does every morning. I wanted it to be like a day in the life of a bar. It gets faster and faster and closes very fast. Just like for a painter, you’ve got to know when to step away from a painting. You’ve got to know when to step away from a film, and I knew I needed to step away and put it out there.”

Givens drove up from New Orleans very early one morning simply to film Andre Farish as he was arriving at The Saloon.

“I was down there at 6 a.m. with just my cell phone and a tripod set up waiting for him. He didn’t know I was going to be there. The scene looks staged, but it wasn’t,” he said. “I am so grateful to Andre Farish and his sister, Melissa, who own the bar. They were extremely gracious and let me come in and interview whenever I needed to.”

Making documentaries is a passion for Givens, but he has a day job, as well, working for a New Orleans law firm and traveling with attorneys to their trials held across the country. He sets up courtrooms with technology and assists attorneys with any technology needs they have with opening and closing statements and helps with deposition videos. “It is very interesting,” he said.

Given said he is proud of his hometown and is happy to have made another film here.

“I’m very happy that Natchez has another film to promote the city. I didn’t make either to be a visitor center video, but a lot of what I do is because I’m proud of Natchez and want people to know what Natchez is like and what Natchez has to offer.”

He’s also proud his second film is available for the entire world to see on Amazon Prime.

“Amazon definitely gets its share of the money,” Givens said “It’s more about pulling up a streaming service and seeing your film there. And, again, it promotes Natchez in a way.”

His next film will likely be set in New Orleans.

“Assuming no one from Natchez presents a compelling idea for a film, I am going to focus on a story here in New Orleans. There are several things I have already filmed here and some things in the works. I plan to take the rest of 2022 to relish the fact that I completed The Saloon.”