Lepanto considered as location for Grisham TV movie

Friday, September 20, 2002

On Wednesday, McGee Street Productions visited Lepanto, scouting for a location to film the Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie, "A Painted House". The TV movie will be based on the novel by author John Grisham, which was published in February of last year.

"We are considering Lepanto very strongly as a possibility for filming scenes for the TV movie," said Paul Boydston, who is the Location Manager with McGee Street Production, of Studio City, Calif. Boydston had several assistants photographing and measuring the businesses on Greenwood, Ave., the main street in Lepanto. His team will assess existing structures and the possibilities to adapt them to Grisham's short novel.

The production company will be based in Memphis, while filming in the area. Another town closer to Memphis is also being considered. Several factors will assist them in their decision, such as the cooperation and support of Lepanto business owners, city administrative issues, and support from the State Highway Department, because Highway 135 would have to be closed for production. Boydston told the Tribune that filming in Lepanto would last three to five days and begin in early November, if the town is chosen as the location.

Mayor Dale Dunlap announced that a public meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 26 in the Lepanto courtroom with McGee Street Productions. Boydston said that the meeting will be held to answer any questions the public may have. Information about open auditions for the movie will also be given at that time.

Tammy Wyatt, Lepanto City Clerk, said that the production company is interested in Lepanto because, "we are one of few towns that still have businesses on both sides of Main Street."

Several local individuals have been approached concerning the possibility of the use of their property as props of the era. The local museum, drug store, antique vehicles, farm equipment and the city's vintage fire truck seemed of great interest.

Inspired by events in Grisham's own childhood, A Painted House is the story of the Chandlers, a 1950s Arkansas farming family, as told through the eyes of seven-year-old Luke, son of sharecroppers outside Black Oak, Ark.

With his family, townspeople, hill people and Mexican farmhands, Luke shares experiences far beyond his innocent age. He struggles to understand his grandparents' devotion to the unstable world of farming and his mother's dream of one day living in "a painted house" as opposed to a run-down farmhouse.

One of the few diversions from the harshness of farm life is the ritual weekend ride into Black Oak --- the highlight of an otherwise tedious week. It is in town that people fall in love, fight and come together with their neighbors to discuss the weather.

In this tale, Grisham paints a brilliant portrait of not just farming life and the Chandlers, but of those who dream and the sacrifices they make to see those dreams reach realization.

John Grisham was born in Jonesboro, Ark. and spent the first 12 years of his life growing up in rural Arkansas. Of the 14 novels he has written, six have been adapted into motion pictures.

McGee Street Production publicist Russ Patrick told the Tribune that A Painted House, the Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation will air on CBS next year. Over the past 51 years, Hallmark Hall of Fame has been presenting quality productions starring Academy award-winning actors and actresses. The Hallmark Hall of Fame has produced over 200 presentations including "Foxfire," "Sarah, Plain and Tall," and "The Secret Garden."

The official Hallmark website noted, "One out of every four Academy Award winners in acting categories has appeared in a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation."

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