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: Bill Seratt in Vicksburg
I first met Bill on one of my early scouts around Vicksburg, having heard his name from Daniel Boone at The Strand Theatre. I walked into the Visit Vicksburg office. He was having a brief chat with one of his staff. “Can I steal a few minutes of your time?” I asked. He told me to come in, sit down, and then I told him what we were up to. I remember at the end of my long list of needs (locations, people, etc.) Bill said, “I’ll help you as much as I can.” I hear that many times while making each film; rarely is it the truth. It was this time.
Over the next few weeks, I texted Bill repeatedly for a wide array of things. Without fail, I always had a response in less than an hour. That’s a rare occurrence these days, as people have become less responsive, especially those working for the government. But Bill is the exception. Even when he was busy, he’d text back “in a meeting. Get back to you in an hour” and he would. I sent him on a wild goose chase looking for the owner of this particular two-story building in downtown Vicksburg. He went to scout it out on his own time and then followed up, driving by the supposed owners business until he finally caught him one day. I was so wrapped up in pre-production that it took some time for me to realize how much Bill went out of his way to help our low budget production.
He’d mentioned that he was up for driving around with me to look for locations and one day, as we neared our filming start date and still had some key places missing, I took him up on the offer. We met at the Old Depot Museum (Bill was a key factor in securing that location for us too). From there we road around town in his truck going from house to house, historic landmark to historic landmark, cycling through every idea he could think of to fill in the gaps for our production.
We stopped for lunch at L.D.’s Kitchen, right by the water for what Bill described as a “Delta thing”: fried catfish and spaghetti. After the tasty meal, we got back to work, seeing an extravagant place in Vicksburg I really wished we’d been able to feature in our movie but not all these possibilities work out the way we hope. However, an interesting event occurred while scouting the building, we found an abandoned dog, young and frightened, unable to figure out how to get off the second story exterior walkway. The pup wouldn’t let us touch it, traumatized. But Bill wasn’t willing to give up. He wanted to find it a home or at least a safe place to be. We went back to his home to get food and a blanket to hopefully help retrieve the little one. By the time we returned, the dog had found his way off the balcony and we hope to the place he needed to be.
This moment left an impression on me. It didn’t really matter what else was going on with the rest of his day, Bill needed to help this animal just like he felt it was necessary to help me on our film Son of a Gun. I don’t know him very well but I know he has a heart to serve the community and that is something to recognize and uphold these days. I’m glad he’s in Vicksburg; I’m glad he represents Mississippi.