Phenix City native working in LA needs your help to film new movie in Columbus

Here are all the famous movies filmed in Georgia’s Chattahoochee Valley

Here are some popular movies that were filmed in the Chattahoochee Valley and surrounding area.
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Here are some popular movies that were filmed in the Chattahoochee Valley and surrounding area.

A Phenix City native living in California wants local residents to help make a faith-based feature film in Columbus this fall.

“The Inheritance” promises to be a a family-friendly comedy about a 30-year-old, one-hit-wonder rock star named Kasey, who returns home, along with her estranged siblings, to bury their mother and claim their inheritance. They discover that the deed to the entire estate is hidden on the property, and the first one to find it inherits everything. But as she races her siblings, the scavenger hunt for the deed leads Kasey and her siblings to a revelation.

“The film deals with the biblical theme of ‘You can’t take it with you,’” co-producer Meredith Riley Stewart, a 1997 graduate of Central High School, told the Ledger-Enquirer,“and also reminds us that our true inheritance in life is not money or an estate but the people that we are blessed to call our family.”

Stewart and her production team are seeking donors and investors, as well as someone who will let their large home and property be used for the film’s main location. In return, they plan to bring more than 30 jobs and around $500,000 in spending to the local economy during the several weeks of pre-production and about 20 days of filming.

The film’s limited liability company has signed a contract with the Columbus Visitors Bureau, doing business as VisitColumbusGA, Stewart said, so donations and in-kind contributions to the film project can be tax deductible. Investors in the project would contribute to the film’s LLC, meaning they couldn’t take a tax deduction but they could take a share of profits.

VisitColumbusGA president and CEO Peter Bowden told the Ledger-Enquirer that the Columbus Film Commission also can help film projects obtain city permits, scout locations and identify local resources, such as catering, transportation and hotels.

“We’ve provided our resources to help navigate the community, etc.,” he said. “… Our goal is to be that one-stop shop for filmmakers to help market Columbus as the destination for film and entertainment production.”

Students who graduated from or are attending the Georgia Film Academy at Columbus State University will have a chance to work on this movie, as they have others filmed here.

Her path

After earning bachelor’s degrees in biology and dance at the University of Alabama, Stewart danced professionally in Philadelphia, then worked in New York as an actor before moving to Los Angeles, where she also is a producer.

Her acting TV credits include appearances on “Devious Maids” (Lifetime), “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” (CBS), “Scandal” (ABC), “Days of Our Lives” (NBC) and “Boardwalk Empire” (HBO).

Her acting film credits include appearances “On Time” (HBO Shorts), “Future Weather” (Fairweather Productions) and Pretendagers (Relativity).

Her producing experience includes the virtual reality experimental short “See Me,” the Women in Film’s first digital series “Flip the Script,” and the original sketch comedy series “AutocorrectFU” and “Southern Dish.”

“I saw the opportunity to add value to the world through the power of media and therefore take on projects that have social consciousness to them,” she said.

Now, those projects include “The Inheritance” by award-winning writer Alexandra Boylan. Stewart read the script two years ago while flying back to Los Angeles after visiting family in Phenix City.

“I immediately thought of Columbus as the perfect location for it,” she said, “and decided to attach myself to the project in order to ensure I can bring it back to my hometown area.”

As co-producers with director John K.D. Graham, Stewart brought Boylan to the Chattahoochee Valley last April to meet with representatives from the Columbus Film Commission and scout out locations.

“She is totally on board,” Stewart said.

Stewart said Boylan was so impressed with Columbus that she “took one look at the whitewater run and said, ‘I’m going to write another script that incorporates this so we can come back here and shoot another movie.’”

Stewart likes the potential for “The Inheritance” to not only spark good laughs but also spread a good message.

The growing film scene in Columbus helped Stewart convince her L.A. team members at Mustard Seed Entertainment.

“What we need now is local support to secure Columbus as our location,” she said. “We are halfway financed and need a little more local buy-in to seal the deal.”

Stewart declined to disclose the film’s budget but said it’s “just under a million.”

Mustard Seed

Mustard Seed Entertainment says on its website that its mission is “to create visually stimulating films that honor Jesus and start conversations for our viewers,”

Stewart described the mission as bringing films “to small towns and knit a community together through a message of God’s love.”

That’s another reason she thinks Columbus is a perfect match for this film project.

“In a town where a message of faith resonates, I know that there are people who would support a movie that can take that message to a global audience.” she said.

Mustard Seed has produced two low-budget films that were released online for streaming that paid high dividends, according to the company: “Catching Faith” (2015) and “Wish for Christmas” (2016).

“The Inheritance” would be Mustard Seed’s first theatrical production if it gets released in movie theaters.

Location, location, location

The key beyond the film’s financing is to find the right location, Stewart said. The project needs an estate where filming can be done for at least 20 days, Stewart said.

“Almost everything takes place on that single location, which makes everything easier as far as company moves and equipment storage, etc.,” she said. “We could set up shop at one place and pretty much stay there, besides a few exterior shots.”

The goal is to start pre-production in September and shoot the movie in October, Stewart said. Post-production for the film could take as long as a year, she said, so she isn’t sure when it would be in movie theaters.

“Faith films typically don’t make a festival run, so we would focus on theatrical distribution as well as streaming,” she said. “We would of course have a local premier with our stars on the red carpet that our supporters would be invited to be a part of.”

No actors are set for the film yet, Stewart said, but she noted Mustard Seed’s latest movie in production, “Switched,” stars John Schneider (“The Dukes of Hazard”) and Denise Richards (“Love Actually”) and YouTube personality Vanessa Merrill.

Stewart expressed gratitude for the local support the project already has received.

“Peter Bowden‘s office has been so supportive of the project, she said, “and this effort is setting us up for a success. . . . Once we open our production office in town, we’ll need local crew, vendors for hospitality needs with product placement opportunities, auditions for local cast.”

Some local actors could have speaking parts.

“We have a couple of scenes where we will need people, some background and some with a few lines,” she said. “Once we set up our production office, we’ll be sure to schedule audition dates and let the community at large know.”

To contact Stewart about the film project, email her at mrileystewart@gmail.com with “The Inheritance” in the subject line.

Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.