Independent Lens: Filmmakers find Hopkins County the perfect setting for their movie
Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

Eric King and Michael "Bigg Mike" Brown, executive producer and director of Poor Child Films, direct Dallas actors Jason Skeen and Crystal Pate in a scene from “Be Careful What You Ask For,” an independent movie being filmed in barns and back roads throughout the county. "I knew this would be a great little town to shoot in," Brown says.
Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

April 21, 2006 -- Birthright, Brashear, Saltillo and Martin Springs are just a few of the outlying communities that make up Hopkins County, but area residents may be interested to know about another community developing in our midst.

Laywood is a "quaint, little fictional town" based on the country charm of none other than our very own Sulphur Springs, which is also the setting for an upcoming independent movie being filmed in barns and on back roads throughout the county.

"The first time I came here with my wife, I fell in love with it, and wanted to move here," said Eric King, president and executive producer of Poor Child Films LLC, who is married to Sulphur Springs native Andrea Wright, a 1996 graduate of Sulphur Springs High School and the daughter of Harold Wright of  Pleasant Grove and Dorothy Wright of Sulphur Springs. "We want to do Sulphur Springs proud."

Shooting has been taking place on weekends since the beginning of March and is expected to continue through the month of May when "hopefully" filming on the project will wrap up. Locals are encouraged to come on location and participate as extras in various scenes throughout the filming, the next being that of a press scene on Sunday, May 7, which will take place just outside the Hopkins County Courthouse.

Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap, as well as some other city officials and local law enforcement officers, may even have a few bit parts, according to King.

"Marc Maxwell and Police Chief Jim Bayuk have really opened up to us," said King, who explained officers Mike Morgan and Jameson Hawkins will make appearances in the movie offering investigative support from Sulphur Springs, depicted as the neighboring community of Laywood.

"It'll be fun," said Judge Millsap. "I've often wished the Dallas Film Commission would take a closer look at Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County for future movie-making projects due to the uniqueness of our downtown area and courthouse. I even think we should commission our own committee to bring in other production companies, because they often spend millions of dollars fixing places up and add money to the local economy."

"Be Careful What You Ask For"  is about a small town police officer who aspires to make a big name for himself within his department and across the state. After making his way up through the ranks, he finally gets his first real chance for others to take notice of his work when he's assigned as the lead detective on a kidnapping case that rocks the small town community. But his big break doesn't turn out the way he ever imagined, hence the title of the film. 

Bungle after bungle concerning the case brings the detective unfavorable news recognition, embarrassment, and a surprising twist of events when a serial killer comes to town strictly with the intent of taunting the unfortunate investigator.

"Be Careful What You Ask For" is only the second independent film written and directed by Michael "Bigg Mike" Brown, a former semi-professional athlete and longtime employee of the Pepsi Bottling Group in Mesquite, and King's partner in the film.

After graduating in 1988 from Chisom High School, located between Rockwall and Terrell, Brown attended El Centro Junior College with plans to major in criminal justice and minor in art.

"I had a print shop teacher who would often tell me that I had a special knack for telling stories, and that I should pursue that as a career," recalled Brown. "But I was dead set on becoming a police officer."

Along the way, Brown's plans changed, and he ended up playing semi-pro football and working a job where he ultimately grew unhappy. 

"I've always been a story teller and enjoyed writing, so I decided to go back to school and take a creative writing class and try my hand at writing books," explained Brown.

According to Brown, his first attempt, "Why Do I Look Like My Father," barely made it past the title, but his second attempt "The Six Degrees of Trust" fared a little better.

"The book never left my shelf except for a few family and friends that I let read it," said Brown, who explained it was a very personal account of his failed relationships and the prospect of falling in love again.

It wasn't until after a chance encounter at a barbershop with a man, later to become his partner, that Brown found himself turning manuscripts into screenplays.

"I didn't know anything about filmmaking or directing, but it was fun and exciting to see words that I had written on paper come to life," he said. "I was hooked. I knew if I could just get some professional actors and a crew together, there would be no stopping me."

King, employed with Pepsi Bottling Group for more than 12 years, transferred from Austin to Mesquite and brought with him eight years of managerial skills. The two quickly became friends, and King soon found himself caught up in Brown's dream of becoming an independent filmmaker.

"Yeah, I thought I was just being a friend showing support," laughed King. "I didn't know at the time that he was baiting me."

According to King, Brown had already produced his first movie, "Against The Grain," and needed funds to transfer it to DVD.

Although the movie was a bit "rough around the edges," King said that he saw potential and gave Brown the money he needed.

Although "Against The Grain" was not that good, nor well received, King said he hated for anyone to give up on their dream.

"I knew he was struggling with what he was trying to do," said King, who knew Brown's former partnership had been dissolved. "He was discouraged and just about ready to give up his dream, but I encouraged him not to."

King read the first 30 pages of Brown's next script, "Be Careful What You Ask For," and sought input from other co-workers who also had not been that impressed with "Against The Grain," as well as advice from his wife, before deciding to climb on board as Brown's new partner.

"I thought it was really pretty good, and so did the others that read it," King said. "That told me what I needed to hear and kind of gave me the go-ahead to get involved a little more."

King said he believes in the old adage, "It takes money to make money." He dipped into his own savings to purchase new equipment and hire professional actors from the Dallas area.

"There's a lot of talent from Dallas," King said. "This job is helping some of them realize their own dreams while we're trying to achieve our own. I believe in them and I believe in this project. We're all just excited about it, and even more excited because the citizens of Sulphur Springs are getting excited about it."

"I knew this would be a great little town to shoot in," Brown said. "Everyone has made us feel real welcome -- donating food, their time and locations. I hope the citizens of Sulphur Springs will come out and witness the story that's happening in their back yards and just experience the magic of movie making."

"At this point, the turn-around sign was about 5 miles back," laughed King.  "We done passed it and we got no gas to get back, so we're just gonna keep on truckin'."

Brown and King plan on presenting their independent film at some of the Dallas Film Festivals and premiere "Be Careful What You Ask For" in Sulphur Springs.

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