Movie shoot lifts town profile

Published 11:06 am Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cops blocked off Valley Street in Montevallo Sept. 2 as cameras rolled down the street shooting one of the last scenes for the independent feature-length film “Lifted.”

The crew shot a funeral scene earlier in the day at the Alabama National Cemetery and moved on to shoot a carpool scene at Montevallo High School that afternoon.

Alan Hunter, owner of WorkPlay in downtown Birmingham, and his brother Hugh co-produced the film. Hunter said Montevallo stood in for ‘Any Town, America,’ because it is so picturesque.

“It’s got that great small-town feel,” Hunter said. “The cemetery was also perfect for what we needed.”

What they needed was a good location to set up a movie with what Hunter said are strong patriotic and family-oriented themes. The movie centers on the story of a young boy, played by Uriah Shelton of Mobile, who shares a love of music with his father, played by Dash Minok. The father encourages his son to pursue his dream of singing by entering an American Idol type event. The boy must still find the courage to do so even after his father is deployed for active duty in Afghanistan.

Production coordinator Michael Walters scoped out locations.

“In this job you have to be creative,” Walters said. “You’ve got to make sure no lawn mowers are running or dogs barking. It’s good to work with cities that understand what you are trying to do and are willing to work with you.”

Hunter said new tax incentives the state recently put in place for film companies incite an immediate interest.

“We’re going to reap the benefits this first go around,” Hunter said. “But already the word has gotten out that we are shooting here. Now that they know there’s incentives to film here — I think the door is open.”

Towns and cities also benefit from the incentives.

The film involved almost 100 extras and 60-70 crewmembers.

Chamber of Commerce President Mary Lou Williams said businesses couldn’t help but get a lift from the day of production.

“There were 60-plus people from the movie who were in town doing business with our merchants,” Williams said. “Bringing that many people in town is great news for us.”

Two-thirds of the “Lifted” crew hailed from the Birmingham area.

Walters himself lives in North Shelby.

“Predominately I do more commercial work because that’s what has always been available,” Walters said. “All the incentives help when you’re trying to get the most for the money and hopefully they will help us build our local film workforce.”

Walters said hiring local crew reduces cost; less money is spent on lodging and transportation. Makeup artist Linda Thacker kept the crew camera-ready, while her husband provided a motorhome for crew to work out of between takes.

Williams said Montevallo was happy to reap the benefits of the money crew members did spend.

“It’s a great opportunity for towns like us to benefit from the film industry,” Williams said. “Because we have a beautiful historic downtown, a beautiful campus and well-kept schools, we can provide great locations.”

Crew began filming Aug. 17 and continued working six days a week for three weeks. Filming wrapped up this past weekend.

Hunter said he hopes it’s not long before local residents can see familiar streets and buildings on the big screen.

“The director Lexi Alexander has written a great family-oriented story that is very timely and very patriotic. Now, we just have to find a buyer to distribute it,” Hunter said. “A year from now, we’d like for it to be in the theaters.”