Thomaston and Upson County are already becoming well-known as filming locations for movies such as The Hunger Games, television shows such as The Walking Dead, and commercials, such as the one shot by Georgia Public Television last week for Georgia EMC. Now we can add home of a movie company owner, producer and writer.
Vanessa D. Anthony, the daughter of Ralph and Emma Searcy of Thomaston, has brought her movie company, Movie Mad Entertainment, home after starting it in Japan. She recently filmed a short video at the old Meriwether County Courthouse which she will use to help start branding her company and will eventually use as a company logo. And she had plans to film a feature-length movie in the Upson County area next spring.
Vanessa graduated from Upson-Lee High School in 1995. After two years at AUM (Auburn University, Montgomery), she came home to finish up at SCAD Atlanta (Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta). There she studied video and film production. She followed that with a six-month internship at CNN in Atlanta, and landed a job working at Turner Broadcasting in the television programming department.
But after a year, Vanessa decided she wanted to see the world before settling down, so she moved to Japan as an ESL (English, Second Language) teacher. While there, she received an opportunity to work in Japanese radio and television on NHK, the national television and radio network in that country. She worked there for two years and was able to work on several film projects, including a TV show called ‘Art in Hidden Places,’ which was nominated in the television category for a couple of film festivals.
After six years in Japan, Vanessa was ready to come home. She is current working two jobs. The first is as a media editor for the College Park City Council, and the second is her company, Movie Mad Entertainment, which she said she actually started in Japan.
“I did a couple of short films and worked with other film makers in Japan. So the company has been around since 2007, but I’ve had to establish it here in Georgia with different entities,” Vanessa said. “So I’ve been doing that ever since, and we recently filmed my new logo. We filmed on location for two days. It is a video that becomes our logo. We’re going to start using that and branding the company’s name. We filmed at the old Meriwether County Jail in Greenville, because we thought it was the perfect location. I had the opportunity to work with other film makers and other creative people to make this project happen. I’ve been very fortunate and blessed to actually get it done.
“We are now planning on raising money to get a budget to make our first feature film here in America at the old Meriwether County Jail, as well as the surrounding locations like Thomaston and Greenville. We are definitely going to come back to the south and make a feature film, ‘Death of a Drunk,’”
Vanessa said the idea of the movie actually came to her when she was a senior at SCAD and that she used it as her senior thesis. Her time in Japan helped her develop the idea for a feature film,.
“I started thinking about a feature film when I was in Japan, because in Japan there are many cases of abuse, and Japanese women keep things internally, and then they snap and kill their husbands, or get tired and think that murder is the only way out,” Vanessa explained. “So I expanded on that and I started writing what was a short story in college into a feature-length screenplay. So a lot of it is true. A lot of the film is based on true stories, factual stories.
“We haven’t done any casting yet. Right now we’re in the process of putting our information together so we can get funding, because the ultimate goal is to raise enough money and get a budget, so we can start filming in the spring or summer of 2015.”
When asked why she and others were finding the middle Georgia area such a great place to film, Vanessa said it is the space, budget, and the hospitality of the people in the area.
“It is a different environment, and it is a workable environment,” she said. “When my cast and crew went to film in Greenville last Saturday, we were very welcomed. It was an open space with more to work with, and we embraced that. Also, the people were hospitable. They were very curious about what we were doing, and we got them involved. So it is about building relationships.
“Especially for independent filmmakers,” Vanessa added. “When you’re not working with a multi-million-dollar budget, working in the south allows you to be more comfortable, rather than being uptight working in the city with this amount of money and the space being very little.
“When we begin filming, we’re going to do an open casting call for locals to get involved in the film. That’s what I want. We want something more real and close to home, and that makes me work better.”
Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.