Making movies happen: Natchez Film Company wraps Al Pacino film, looks ahead to future

Published 12:49 pm Thursday, February 29, 2024

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NATCHEZ – Davis Sharp and the other members of Natchez Film Company just wrapped work on the set of an Al Pacino moving filming in Natchez, and they’re looking ahead to what 2024 will bring.

Sharp worked as an assistant director on “The Ritual,” which filmed in Natchez for about five weeks. Directed by David Midell, the film tells the story of Emma Schmidt, who reportedly suffered blackouts and aversions to holy artifacts. Much of the movie was filmed at St. Mary Basilica.

“It was very awesome,” Sharp said of working with the crew and Pacino. “It was fascinating to watch (Pacino) go through his process.”

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Sharp, a Natchez native and graduate of the University of Mississippi, planned a career as a physical therapist until his first taste of movie production. “I started as a location scout for Tate Taylor and John Norris on ‘Breaking News in Yuba County,’” Davis said, referring a 2021 movie filmed in Natchez. ‘Once you get your foot in the door, you kind of get into that cycle. By the end of 2022, I did 12 projects in seven different states.”

Throughout 2022, as he worked these productions, Sharp drew in other locals in the process.

“As we were going along and gaining this experience, we developed Natchez Film Company,” he said. The business provides a wide range of video production services; on-site services; equipment rentals; a recording studio; and more.

“Working on these productions locally, we were also able to a sense of what infrastructure was lacking locally,” Sharp said. “And we saw some ways that we could fix some of these issues to make Natchez a more attractive designation for movies of any size.”

Natchez Film Company, whose office is on Homochitto Street, keeps on hand a local crew database and location database, in addition to providing equipment rentals and post-production editing and voice-over facilities.

“If a production needed any piece of filming equipment, they would have to spend a lot of money to send someone to New Orleans on the fly … even just being able to offer the basics locally makes a difference,” Sharp said.

The company was created in 2022, and then a series of strikes shut down the movie and TV industry in 2023. “Before the second guild strike, we have four films back-to-back.”

While Natchez Film Company keeps an active database of the extensive network of local film workers – “A lot of. People would be pretty shocked to know how many union film workers are here.” – the core of group remains small.

“When we do a movie like this one, it takes our entire in-house team for weeks at a time,” Sharp said.

Others who worked on “The Ritual” include Jack Dukes, a production assistant and assistant director; Emily Brinks, a production assistant; Burne Sharp, an assistant director, set production assistant and boom operator; Tuckor James, a best boy grip and rigger; and Will Smith, a set decorator. Four of the core in-house team members are part of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, one of the biggest film workers’ unions.

As 2024 unfolds, Sharp said Natchez Film Company will continue to produce “Live at Natchez Sound,” a show featuring local musicians, as well as work on additional film projects throughout the state and region. And, eventually, Sharp sees an ultimate goal.

“We want to produce our own feature film.”