The Meridian Star

'Red Dirt' finishes first week of filming
By Ida Brown

It was a week of long days, rewrites and retakes on the set of "Red Dirt." But overall, writer and director Tag Purvis of Meridian is pleased with the first days of production of his movie.

"The first of the week, we were just getting up to speed," said Purvis. He and his crew have been putting in 12 to 15 hour days on the set.

"The first day of shooting is always tough, and I had to reshoot some of the scenes because I didn't feel that I was running at peak."

Merrehope has been the site for the movie's actors and production crew. The antebellum index will serve as the residence of the principle characters in the movie. Both interior and exterior scenes have been filmed this week.

"And we're going to have to film one more day there before moving to our next site," Purvis said. "We've been shooting some pretty dramatic stuff, so it's been challenging. Last night, I looked at the playback of the reels and there are so many things... it's really coming along well."

The film is a story of family and place, and a man's search for love within a dysfunctional family.

During the week, the crew had an unexpected loss. Harold Hertha, a character actor who has appeared in movies such as "Forrest Gump," and was to be featured in "Red Dirt," died suddenly.

"It was a total shock to everyone. We had to stop and collect ourselves," Purvis said.

Hertha's character has been replaced by Glenn Shadix, who was featured in "Beetle Juice and "Demolition Man."

"We were very fortunate to get him. Karen (Black) had recently worked with him and recommended him to us," he said.

In addition to Shadix and Black (an Academy award-nominated actress), the cast of "Red Dirt" includes Aleksa Palladino, whose film credits include "Manny and Lo," and the upcoming project "A Cool Dry Place;" Dan Montgomery, an independent film actor who is known for his appearances in television commercials for Levi's jeans: Walton Goggins, who was last seen in "The Apostle" with Robert Duvall; and Peg O'Keef.

Purvis noted that local residents have been very helpful and cooperative.

"We've got a car, we've got a truck... We're still looking at several cemeteries," he said. "Everyone has been so helpful."

The writer/director will begin receiving film dailies this weekend for a closer look at the progress of the project.

"We have to send them to New York, since there is no film lab in Meridian," he explained. "So, they should be coming in this weekend."

"Next week, production will move to "the country" for more outdoor scenes. The production is expected to be completed in mid-August.

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