By Hannah Richardson
Lights, camera, action! Natchitoches Parish once again provides ideal locations and scenery for the silver screen. This week, Phileon Productions, a production company based in Los Angeles, has been shooting a short film, which will be entered in the 2019 Louisiana Film Prize.
Phileon Productions, formed by Sarah Phillips and Laetitia Leon in 2014, strives to make a difference in the film industry. Their mission is to increase the number of women in front of and behind the camera. After forming the company, they have made at least one project per year, whether it is for the Louisiana Film Prize or branded content for companies. Last year, Phillips’s short “LILAC OCEAN PUMPKIN PINE” was a festival favorite and garnered the Phileon team a prestigious Founder’s Circle Grant.
For their current project, the crew arrived in Natchitoches to start filming last weekend. A notable rule for the Louisiana Film is that all production must be done in the Northwest Louisiana area, including Caddo, Bossier, Webster, DeSoto, Bienville, Claiborne, Red River, Natchitoches and/or Lincoln Parishes. According to Leon, it was crucial to find a modern-esque building for certain scenes in the film and finding that location was a priority. After searching online, they found the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest History Museum in Natchitoches. Phillips and Leon said it was the perfect location.
“It was a great experience working with the film crew,” said LSHOF Branch Director Jennae Biddiscombe. “The crew was professional and enthusiastic and I got to see a little movie making magic up close.”
After filming at the museum Monday, the crew went to work filming at the other surrounding locations. Throughout the week, they’ve gone to Ronnie’s Mechanic (who also provided trucks and a “stunt driver” Mike Martin), Church Street Inn, Olivier’s Woodworks and Oakland Plantation. I saw the crew hard at work first hand at Oakland Plantation, filming scenes in the field and in one of the former tenant cabins. Chief of Interpretation for the CRCNHP Barbara Justice was beside the crew at the plantation, making sure they have what they need and even giving them little tidbits of history behind the locations.
“Everyone has just been so accommodating and lovely here,” said Leon. “We love making movies in Louisiana. It sort of rejuvenates that excitement we had when we first started making movies. That sort of excitement is gone in Los Angeles. There’s history here.”
While the plot of the short film is shrouded in mystery, the two have been calling it a “romantic comedy.” With Leon in the lead role, other actors include Roberta Moses, Terrie Dreyfus, JV Bernard, Murtaza Ali and Mike Scarlett. Other production crewmembers helping with the making of the film include Nick Batchelder, Elizabeth Izzo, Margaret Stabile, Kayla van de Bunt and Haley Summerlin. After wrapping up filming scenes Thursday, Phillips will go to work on editing and adding special effects, as the film is very VFX heavy. The final selections for the Louisiana Film Prize’s Top 20 will be announced Aug. 9 and finalists will receive a $500 reward and a chance to win the cash award of $50,000.