This photograph was taken by Alex Harris, @thesouthinanewlight, during our production in Raymond, Mississippi. It shows the creek where much of the fighting of this particular battle took place. Unfortunately I do not have any pictures of the individuals mentioned in this article from our pre-production work together but you can see them on the Friends of Raymond site here.
This new blog series will highlight individuals, groups and businesses that helped us make our Civil War film Son of a Gun. A definition of community: a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. Though “community” seems to no longer be a priority in our society, our film work depends on it and would be impossible without the great support we have received from others.
Community: Ben Fatherree, Mickey Roth and the Friends of Raymond
It’s always a bit worrisome when the story you’re telling calls for a specific location because then the stakes are high for securing that place for the production. Such was the case with the Raymond battlefield, which was part of my conception for Son of a Gun since my original research. On the Wikipedia page for Legrand Capers, a real doctor who is the central character in our story, I learned that the supposed minie ball that impregnated the girl was fired during the Battle of R., believed to be the Battle of Raymond, Mississippi. Though the story is a myth (or could it be true?) and changing the location or faking it with another would have no obvious impact on the final film, I determined that we must do our best to actually shoot there.
I was lucky in two respects: 1. The Raymond battlefield is, unlike many of its kind, owned by a private group named the Friends of Raymond. You see, most of these places are owned and operated by the federal government and that means lots of red tape as well as lots of money that we don’t have. 2. These folks who have worked hard for many years to obtain the land where soldiers fought in the Civil War are very generous, kind and supportive. In the next few paragraphs, I will highlight a couple of these individuals whom I worked most directly.
First I must credit the mayor of Raymond, Isla Tullos, for being very responsive via email to my initial request and interest. Upon my first visit to Raymond, I dropped in to see her before anything else and we had a nice visit. I could feel that she wanted to accommodate our production in any way she and the town could. The Friends of Raymond organization set up a representative to meet me at the battlefield because I honestly had no idea what I was looking at and needed a guide as to what happened there and also what would be available for our production.
This man is Ben Fatherree, a long-time history professor at Hinds Community College who is finishing up work on a book about the history of that institution. To my recollection, both Ben and I had the sniffles that day, blowing our noses as we tromped around the various key spots of the property on foot and in his truck. He showed me everything with excellent commentary, from details of the creek where we would end up filming most of our scenes, to the various cannon lines. I have a fond memory of when Ben pointed out the color of the historical markers for either side of the war: the Union blue and the Confederate red. Why are the Confederate markers red, he asked? Because they are the “enemy” of course. I was quizzed on this when we met a month later.
Ben kept saying, “If you have time, I might show you something else” and we kept going, spending a few hours seeing a plethora of sights near the town of Raymond (some of which might even make it into our sequel to Porches and Private Eyes). I can’t express how appreciative I am of the time Ben devoted to scouting for our production. Unfortunately, I learned that he would be out of the country during our shoot in April so I was put in contact with another member of the board, Mickey Roth.
A video diary from the day of our second scout in Raymond, Mississippi
Mickey, a stoic presence, was our main contact leading up to production. With the help of Pam Howorth, we signed an agreement that made filming on the battlefield official. While I started to gather living history folks to come be part of our shoot, we set another meeting in Raymond to go over final details. Mickey met Ben and I on what I recall was a cold morning in late March. Once again, these men dedicated the better part of their day to supporting our movie. They patiently went over the Battle of Raymond’s history with me again while also covering where we could camp, how we’d get water during production and so on. During all of this, there was never a hint of haste to bring our time to a close. That is one of the many reasons I like working in Mississippi, because folks like Ben and Mickey are the rule, not the exception. The attitude of community runs deep in this Southern state, creating an environment ideal for storytellers and independent filmmakers.
Though the audience may never consciously understand the importance of actually filming on the Raymond battlefield for this story, I believe that the spirit of the place, the authenticity of the earth seeps into the movie and subconsciously resonates. This would not have been possible without the help of Ben, Mickey, Isla, Pam and the other members of the Friends of Raymond. We are forever grateful for their acceptance and aid to our film Son of a Gun.
Thank you, Travis. Best of luck with the movie.