Films Set (or Made) in Montgomery

By on 8 October, 2012 in Art, Historic Midtown, Kate and Stephen with 4 Comments

Photo by M4D GROUP

Although nearly everything about media consumption has changed in the last decade, people still love movies. People like going to see thoughtful independent pieces and big blockbusters, even as options for consuming films have proliferated onto phones and portable devices. The Capri is one of Montgomery’s most beloved institutions, and will always be a great way to take in a film, but even if the economics of theater-going has changed (and continues to do so), the public continues to devote vast sums of its household entertainment budget to consuming movies.

As proof, note the recent vintage of the biggest cinematic box office returns. Certainly, the costs of going to the theater have skyrocketed, especially with the advent of the higher priced tickets for 3D films. But there’s also a cross-cultural unification that happens with going to see seasonal blockbusters. Some would say that the culture industry shoves those films down our throats at the expense of more thoughtful pieces of cinema, but the fact remains — people still love the picture show.

This reality has not escaped elected officials in Alabama, who have bent over backwards at the statehouse in recent years to offer tax credits to people seeking to make movies here. The idea is that they’d come and make movies, spending money during the filming and helping the overall economy. Sadly, this is not a new idea. An episode of “The Simpsons” commented on this phenomena way back in 1995, mocking the advertisements in Variety and the methods employed by film execs to select movie locations. Also, pretty much every other state offers tax breaks for movie making.

Still, that doesn’t mean that movies can’t be filmed in Alabama, or even in scenic Montgomery. But movies can also be set in our town. Montgomery makes a great setting for story telling, even if the movies are made somewhere else. So that raises the question: What movies have been filmed in Montgomery, and which ones are set here?

When movies are filmed in your town, it is really kind of a hassle. Streets are blocked off. Gawkers and weirdos gather to stare at any celebrities that are involved in the project. The media freaks out and follows actors to local restaurants. It’s all pretty annoying, even if it’s nice to see your city on the big screen.

When movies are set in your town (but filmed somewhere else), you don’t have any of the hassle. Obviously, a lot of existing movies that are set in Montgomery are about the Civil Rights Movement. The Long Walk Home (1990) was set here, and even allegedly used the actual bus Rosa Parks was riding before her arrest. Whoopi Goldberg was in that. There was also a 2002 made-for-TV movie about Rosa Parks, starring Angela Bassett.

But that seems like about the only films that actually use Montgomery as a setting. What about movies made here? I couldn’t find any. I know Wetumpka has a few films to its name (Big Fish, The Rosa Parks Story, The Grass Harp), but that doesn’t count. That might be “River Region,” but I’m just talking about Montgomery proper.

Part of the problem with setting movies in Montgomery may be that our city has been “typecast,” and the telling of civil rights stories is historically problematic for films with a budget big enough to shoot on location. Many of those reasons are touched on by this Nelson George essay, which describes the aforementioned “The Long Walk Home” as “a rather toothless metaphor for racial reconciliation.”

Look, it’s not like Birmingham has a prestigious list of movies filmed there either. But I couldn’t even find a list like this for Montgomery. Are there films set here or filmed here that I’m forgetting or have just overlooked?

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a cat, a dog, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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  1. Penny Weaver says:

    The Long Walk Home was filmed in Montgomery. Don’t think any of it wasn’t made here. Check with John Cork to make sure.

  2. anon says:

    The Vernon Johns Story

  3. bill says:

    “The Traveling Executioner” starring Stacy Keach was filmed at the old Kilby Prison in Montgomery.

  4. bill says:

    You might check this listing. It should help.

    http://alabamafilm.org/dynamic/results.asp

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