The photograph above was taken by Alex Harris, @thesouthinanewlight, during production for Son of a Gun in Raymond, Mississippi. The photo shows William Embry (left), A.J. Embry (center) and Russell Taylor (right) of the Bracewell crew holding back actor David Worley in an emotional scene from our film.

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: The Cannon Crew From Florida

We were fortunate enough to have the aid of many Civil War re-enactors or living history folks as they may like to be called. I will call them soldiers as I did during production. These people came from all over to take part in our Raymond battle scenes that we filmed April 14th, 15th and 16th. Technically and logistically, these were the most challenging days of our production. The groups that came to help us out not only brought all their uniforms and gear but most of them camped out in period-specific tents as is their custom during living history events.

A photograph by Konnor Megginson (Gaffer) of Bracewell’s crew and their cannon.

One such group came all the way from Crestview, Florida. Led by pastor David Bracewell, this artillery crew brought not only themselves but their cannon. They also came with the ability to dress as either Federal or Confederate which provided us with more flexibility for several shots in the film.

But the most important thing they brought with them was a great attitude. From the very beginning of our shoot in Raymond (which started in an intense storm that I will write about more in the future), Bracewell’s crew were there to help in any way they could. Starting out as Federal infantry, I had them as part of the attacking force on the opposite side of the famous creek at Raymond where much of the fighting took place. Directing from the other side, I gave them a few specific actions and then relied upon their experience and knowledge to “sell” the rest. They did so very well, bringing authenticity to the background action of our scenes. One young man, William Embry (who I believe they nicknamed “Wild Bill”) was instructed to stab a Confederate soldier in the scene (fake of course). While doing so during the first couple takes, we heard him yelling something. He had improvised the line “Die you beggar!” during the scene which gave us all a good chuckle at the time and adds a nice little touch to the scene.

In another funny moment, I asked for a volunteer to climb down the bank and stage themselves as a corpse of a soldier who’d fallen off near the water’s edge. One of the younger members of the group, Micah Bracewell jumped at the chance. He scaled down to the spot where we wanted him and did a free fall into the brush to make sure his “death position” looked real. He even wanted to fall into the creek during the scene but his father wisely would not let him.

Another photograph by Alex Harris, @thesouthinanewlight, shows the enthusiastic Micah Bracewell (left of center) with another soldiers during our shoot in Raymond, Mississippi.

After the first two days of intense filming in Raymond, most of the soldiers had to leave to be back at work on Monday, April 16th. I became concerned that we would not have enough to complete our final scenes however Bracewell’s crew volunteered to stay which was more than gracious of them. Along with another Roger Hansen (another re-enactor who helped us tremendously) they were the last to leave, making sure we had all we needed before starting their trek back to Florida.

A photograph by Merina Kahn showing Kaitlyn Bishop’s first time operating the slate.

On that final day of filming on the battlefield, we were able to capture the crew in action with their cannon. We captured footage of the crew loading and firing their cannon as both Federal and Confederate. Since Son of a Gun tells the same story from different perspectives, it was the perfect opportunity to do these variations. In one versions we had the crew working at an extra frantic pace. At one point, I asked David, a very gentle and kind man, to turn up his performance a few notches and he blew us away with his next take, commanding the crew like a drill sergeant.

For the same scene, Kaitlyn Bishop, a young woman who came with the Florida crew to lend a hand named, wanted to participate in the filming process. After a quick tutorial, she operated the slate during a couple of our takes and did a fine job. Though our experience with Kaitlyn and the others was limited to a couple days of shooting, the collaboration has made an impact not just on our film but in their lives. Pastor David relayed to me this to me a couple weeks after production:

“Kaitlyn and Jacob left fired up about making short films for the church. They wrote letters to the leadership explaining their vision and the church backed 100%. You and your team really inspired them.”

If our movie does nothing but inspire a few people to take action and start telling stories in their own way, all the work is more than worth it. We are very thankful to David Bracewell and his crew for being part of our movie. To our new friends in Florida, we are forever grateful.

-Travis Mills