Lights, camera, action?
Production company wanting to shoot a movie in Sulphur Springs may have all the pieces in place for successs
Bruce Alsobrook | News-Telegram Editor

Oct. 1, 2006 - Jesse Holland wants to make a movie in Sulphur Springs.

And believe it or not, he has a pretty good shot at it.

Holland will be in town tonight for an invitation-only showing of two short films — one that was once nominated for an Academy Award, the other expected to play at the renowned Sundance Film Festival — by Jesse Holland and his partners, who are planning to shoot a feature-length movie, "Dig," in Sulphur Springs.

"We're going to show the films, then do a question and answer session about the film, or our careers, or anything," Holland said earlier this week in a telephone interview from his California home.

Tonight's gathering at Main Street Theatre isn't designed to just be a night at the picture show. Holland and Co. want to show what they're capable of, answer questions about their plans, and — let's face it — do a little goodwill hunting with the city's movers and shakers.

One of the films being shown Saturday night is "Last Breeze of Summer," a 1991 production nominated for an Academy Award in the best live action short film category. Raymond Forchion, who along with Holland is producer of "Dig," was an associate producer on that project.

The other short is "Lynx," which has been submitted to the Sundance Film Festival and was written and produced by Wynn Padula, who is slated to serve as director of photography on "Dig."

Jesse Holland has a few acting credits to his name, as does fellow producer Ray Forchion. Forchion is both an acting consultant and actor. He played the role of O.J. Simpson in the 2000 CBS miniseries "American Tragedy," based on the book told from the defense lawyers' point of view of the long trial, and has at least 39 other credited roles in film and TV.

Also expected to make the trip tonight are a few of the players in the film — Princess Lucaj, who landed a role in the pilot for the new drama series "Jericho" on CBS; and Rana McAnear, who had parts in "Elizabethtown," "Meet the Fockers," "Havoc," "Rent" and "Herbie: Fully Loaded," albeit uncredited roles.

There's also Kelli Nordhus, a young model whose face has graced ads for major companies in multiple magazines (Marie Claire, Glamour, People, Cosmopolitan and Allure) and is now breaking into acting. She's been in "The George Lopez Show," for one, and has roles into two other films currently in post-production.

Thomas Griffith wrote the screenplay and has signed on to direct "Dig." He's directed more than one film, and won the 2001 New York International Independent Film and Video Festival award for best feature film for his thriller, "Rope Art."

To Holland's mind, that's the foundation for a succesful project.

"I've got to have good actors, a good crew, and a good script," he said.

But he also needs a location for an expected shooting schedule of 40 straight days, and the script is still undergoing rewrites.

"It [the script] was a pretty hard 'R' when I bought it, but I don't want to shoot an 'R,'" Holland said.

On the other hand, it's not going to be some frothy, Disney-stamped kid fare, either.

"Because of the content, it can't be a 'G'," he said, adding the film would probably get a "PG" rating.

The story revolves around a 30-something archaeologist who's taken a job in a small Texas town that, due to some convoluted restrictions involving a years-ago land transaction from the county's patriarch, has the post of County Archaeologist to ensure no ancient artificats are ever lost to development.

The first day on the job, he approves a construction site for development of a casino. The second day, what appear to be important artifacts are uncovered on the site, and that's when the greedy developer, the ancestors of the patriarch and many Native Americans get involved.

"It's about preserving the past," Holland said.

Two other actors may also come on board, at least if Holland has his way. He's trying to get Graham Greene, best remembered for his Oscar-nominated role in "Dances with Wolves" and one of those actors who pops up in innumerable film, television and video roles. If you see his face in a film, you remember him.

The other is Wes Studi, who's been in numerous movies and is well-known for playing tough, proud Native American roles. If you've ever seen "Geronimo: An American Legend," that's him playing the lead role.

People from Hopkins County could end up on the screen, too. They'll have to hire a lot of extras for the movie, and Holland fully intends to get those background characters from the local populace.

The other thing they have to have is location, and Holland has said he thinks Sulphur Springs will serve as a great backdrop. Of course, he may be a little biased towards East Texas — he was born in Carthage and went to high school at Longview Pinetree, and his mother, Dianne Hershberger, lives in Sulphur Springs. She helped start the recently opened Hearts of Life Animal Rescue and Adoption Shelter. Some might have already met Holland, by the way — he was here for the grand opening of the shelter, something he says he is passionate about.

Holland, Forchion and the others seem to have all the goods to get the job done, but will it come to fruition? We'll know more after tonight.

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