Fraser family cites negotiations in film's cancellation

bheffernan@islandpacket.comAugust 18, 2013 

Sea Pines founder Charles Fraser's family balked at plans to show the film "A Chat with Charles Fraser" because doing so could have interfered with negotiations to have a "major university" adopt Fraser's library of books, memorabilia, audio and video tapes and writings, according to a family attorney.

Portions of "A Chat with Charles Fraser," an interview with Fraser produced in 2001, were to be shown Aug. 3. The showing was planned as a prelude to a four-day lecture and panel series, ImagiNATION 2013, this fall by the Hilton Head Island Institute.

But on July 29 -- five days before the showing -- the institute canceled it because "the family objected to use of the material."

Fraser, one of Hilton Head Island's earliest developers, is widely regarded as a visionary among land planners. Some concepts the Yale Law School graduate applied to development of resort communities such as Sea Pines were adopted by others, becoming for a time the gold standard for resort communities elsewhere.

The family objected to the film's showing through its attorney, Chuck Scarminach of Hilton Head. Efforts to get Fraser's materials placed at the unnamed university were "too important to us to take a chance on disturbing," Scarminach said in an interview last week.

And, he added, Fraser's widow, Mary Wyman Stone Fraser, had never given the institute permission to show the film.

"She had expressed that she liked the concept," he said, but the institute did not receive final permission.

Attempts to reach Mary Fraser on Friday were unsuccessful. An email reply from the Frasers' daughter, Laura Lawton Fraser, referred questions to Scarminach.

The Frasers have no hard feelings toward the institute, Scarminach said.

"There is no animosity against the institute or its board members," he said. Mary Fraser is "thrilled with the institute and its purposes." However, she "is just very, very, very concerned about getting this deal done with the university," he said.

Some of Charles Fraser's material dates to the 1940s, he said -- well before the Sea Pines Co. was formed in 1957.

Institute officials expected the film showing at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina to be a sell-out, said Jack Alderman, executive director of the institute.

In his July 29 letter to institute supporters, Alderman said its leaders "understood that the rights to the relevant video and audio were available to us."

"Courtesy communications with the Fraser family indicated their support," Alderman's letter said. But because the institute "intends to be a unifying body within the community," it accepted the family's position, the letter continued.

Asked this week about the sudden cancellation of the film's showing, Alderman said: "There was a change of heart on the family's part. We don't understand it, and we don't need to."

Scarminach said the institute was notified within a week or two of the Aug. 3 showing that it didn't have permission from the Fraser estate to use the film.

The film was produced by Crescent Moon Pictures, a production company based in Bluffton. Crescent Moon director Mark Mooney would not comment on the contents of the Fraser film. Crescent Moon's website includes clients representing a variety of enterprises, such as Aetna, Alcoa, Bass Pro Shops, Belfair, Berkeley Hall, Brays Island, Habitat for Humanity, Hilton Head Christian Academy and the Mighty Eighth Air Force Heritage Museum.

The film was produced a year before Fraser's death at age 73, in an explosion on a small boat carrying him and family members in the Turks and Caicos islands.

For its part, the institute is moving on with plans for imagiNATION 2013, Alderman said.

The film was "a small part of what we were working on, and our full attention is on the excellence of the upcoming programming," he said.

Other events leading up to the four-day main event in late October include "The Art of Imagining," a lecture on Sept. 12 by documentary producer Robert Hutton, former senior vice president of creative development at Walt Disney Imagineering; and a two-part discussion on the history of Hilton Head, Mitchelville and the Lowcountry environment Oct. 7-8.

The four-day "imagiNATION 2013" will include panel discussions and speakers on such topics as education, technology and turning individual success into community impact.

Keynote speakers will include education expert Tony Wagner; author William Paul Young, who wrote the spiritual novel "The Shack"; and motivational speaker and former NFL quarterback Tom Flick.

Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at

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