Shot in Oxford, 'Where I Begin' will have its premiere at the city's film festival

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Can you ever really go home?
That’s the question posed by the new film “Where I Begin.” In its own way, the movie is proving that you can, just via unexpected journeys.
For director/co-writer/producer Thomas L. Phillips, the movie took him home to his small-town roots. In a bigger way, “Where I Begin” is returning home, too: The movie was shot in Oxford in August, and it will be premiered at the Oxford Film Festival next weekend.

Origin story
“Where I Begin” is the brainchild of Phillips, director of “Rattle Basket” and the cult classic “Special dEaD.”
“The plot follows Alex Walters, who plays Jacob, on his arrival back to his small Southern hometown. He’s been away for 10 years,” Phillips said. The film’s secret is what drove Jacob away, and Phillips isn’t spoiling it. “He knew it’d never be the same again, because of an incident that happened. It affected him, his friends and his family, and he knew he had to go away. … It’s like in a small town, somebody said something or there’s a rumor, and people are gonna form their own judgments whether it’s the truth or not.”
Phillips began writing “Where I Begin” based on “two true stories I wanted to make into one story,” and sent a rough draft to his friend and colleague Melanie Addington, an Oxford Eagle reporter and co-director of the Oxford Film Festival. Her suggestions and ideas prompted Phillips to ask Addington to co-write the film with him.
“It was like writing heaven,” he said of working with Addington. “We just clicked, and we got each other.”

Back down South
Walters, who plays the main character, Jacob, also starred in Phillips’ “Rattle Basket.” “Where I Begin” also stars Lance E. Nichols of HBO’s “Treme,” and Bo Keister, who has also starred in “Remember the Titans.”
The movie was shot in Oxford and surrounding areas this past August.
“It was 115 degrees the very first three days of filming, and it was all exterior (shots), so it was insane,” Phillips said. But the Southern backdrop was a necessity, said the Tennessee native.
“I have a problem with the way Hollywood portrays the South, not only in the stories and how they show the South, but how they show the characters. They show caricatures, not characters,” he said.
Plus, filming in North Mississippi has its perks.
“It’s the best filming experience I’ve ever had, filming in the South,” he said. “Filming in Hollywood is kinda jaded, but filming here was really nice, because the community was really excited about it. Oxford and Mississippi were very welcoming.”
Phillips said he can’t wait to see “Where I Begin” on the big screen at the Oxford Film Festival. “Where I Begin” will be shown at 3:25 p.m. on Feb. 11, and 3:20 p.m. on Feb. 13.
“Out of everything I’ve ever done, from idea to conception through completion, it stayed on track, and it became better than I thought it could’ve been,” he said. “We had an amazing cast, crew, locations, everything. This is the thing I’m most proud that I’ve ever done.”

The Oxford Film Festival
When: Feb. 10-13
Where: Malco Oxford Studio Cinema
Cost: $30 regular/$25 student three-day pass; $15/regular, $12/student day pass; $8/regular, $6.50/student individual film pass.
Film titles and showtimes: oxfordfilmfest.com

Extra
There will also be two separate festival events:
Feb. 10: Opening Night Gala, The Lyric Oxford, $20
Feb. 12: Saturday night party, Powerhouse Community Arts Center, $15