The Meridian Star
Thursday, August 20, 1998

It's a wrap: 'Red Dirt' completes filming
By Ida Brown

At around 2 a.m. this morning, filming on the independent feature film "Red Dirt" came to an end.

"It's been a dream project, and to see it come to fruition has been wonderful. I can die now," said Meridian native Tag Purvis, who wrote and directed the film.

For the last six weeks, Purvis and a crew that included seven actors have spent countless hours filming scenes in Meridian and the surrounding area. Purvis describes the film as a "story of family and place, and a man's search for love within a dysfunctional family."

Filming began in late July at the historic antebellum index Merrehope. What was supposed to have been a one-day shoot was extended several days.

Also during the first 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 unexpectedly. "It was a total shock to everyone... We had to stop and collect ourselves," Purvis said. Shadix was recast in the role.

The cast and crew spent the second week in Basic City, at the farm of Charles and Paulette McNeil. Other sites for filming have included a fabric store in DeKalb, Bookers Antiques in Whynot, a cemetery at an Episcopal Church in Pushmataha, Ala., the Chunky River, Stuckey Bridge and the farm of Purvis' brother in Savoy.

"Everyone has been so nice, it has been unbelievable," said Sean Gibbons, producer for the film project. "When we asked for props and places for the cast to stay, people were more than willing to help."

Purvis added that City and County officials have been "just great. They've worked with us, setting up road blocks and helping out in any way we needed."

During the third week, production got a little behind, and the scheduled Aug. 13 wrap date was extended.

"We were about five days behind, which really isn't that bad," said Purvis. "There were scenes that had to be reshot because lighting was right."

This resulted in even longer shoots, and filming throughout the night into the wee hours of the morning - sometimes finishing at 6 or 7 a.m.

"It wasn't enough to shoot it, I wanted to shoot it right," said Purvis.

After this morning's final wrap, the remaining cast and crew celebrated with a party. Purvis expected it to end at about 6 a.m."

After closing up the local offices and taking a few days off, Purvis and Gibbons will begin editing the rough footage - with an eye toward entering "Red Dirt" in the Sundance Film Festival in October.

Purvis plans to do a local screening.

"The people here have been so great. We hope to be able to show the finished product sometime early next year," he said.

The young director currently has two other film projects in the works, one for the Public Broadcasting Station. He also plans to return to his indextown in a few years to work on another film project.

"Even though I've had a lot of red dirt to cover my body these last six weeks, I'm not allergic to it yet," he said."

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