By Shelia Byrd/The Associated Press
JACKSON — Brunson Green, a producer known on the independent film circuit for movies that include “Chicken Party” and “Pretty Ugly People,” said he had to fight to get his first major studio picture shot in his home state of Mississippi.
DreamWorks Studios announced Thursday that the “The Help,” based on the 2009 best-seller by Kathryn Stockett, will mostly be shot in Greenwood, Miss., even though it’s set in 1960s Jackson.
“It was really hard for us to bring the film to Mississippi, but state officials worked to make that happen,” Green said Thursday.
No doubt, the state’s film incentive program helped to persuade the filmmakers.
The production companies will receive a rebate of 20 percent of all expenditures, said MDA spokeswoman Sally Williams. The maximum rebate is $8 million, she said.
A local incentive of about $40,000 in private money will help cover the costs of a costume warehouse and the construction of new offices, said Bill Crump, chairman of the Greenwood-Leflore Carroll Economic Development Foundation.
While the majority of the movie will be filmed in Greenwood, Brunson said a few scenes also will be shot in Jackson and other cities in north Mississippi.
The book is a tale about black maids living in Jackson, Miss., in the 1960s as the civil rights movement was taking shape.
Stockett said her “heart would be broken” if it was filmed anywhere but Mississippi.
Greenwood is a rural city with a population of about 18,000, located in the impoverished Delta region known for blues music and cotton fields. Apparently, that’s what appealed to producers.
“We looked for a town that had a lot of similar aspects of Jackson in the 1960s and Greenwood fit the bill,” Brunson said. “Jackson had explosive growth in the late ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, so a lot of the architectural elements that were featured in the book no longer exist.”
Greenwood Mayor Carolyn McAdams said the production crew will film around Baptist Town, the neighborhood where blues legend Robert Johnson lived before his death in 1938. A ballroom scene will be filmed at the old Elks Lodge, where high school prom dances were held decades ago, she said.
“They’re also going to be using some of our county plantations and antebellum homes,” McAdams said. “We’re just blessed that we have a historical town that was appealing enough to catch their eyes.”
The movie will star “Zombieland” actress Emma Stone and Viola Davis, who was nominated for an Academy Award in 2009 for “Doubt.”
“The Help” starts filming in late July and is expected to have a $13 million impact on the local economy, Crump said.
This isn’t the first time a Hollywood film crew has worked in Greenwood. Some scenes in “The Reivers,” a 1969 movie starring Steve McQueen, were filmed in the city. The most recent filming occurred for “The Chamber,” the 1996 movie based on a John Grisham novel, said Crump.
“This is probably the largest film production we’ve ever had,” Crump said.