Beaufort's mayor, along with film and chamber of commerce officials, welcomed on Tuesday a first-time producer with ambitious plans to shoot a $7.2 million film despite a financing plan that's still taking shape.
With filming scheduled to begin late next month, executive producer Barbara Terry said she still needs about $2 million from investors willing to back "Route 65 Nashville," which she said will cost $7.2 million. No local investors have come forward yet, she said.
Terry says about $5 million already has been raised for the movie, but she acknowledged Tuesday that much of that is contingent on paid product placement deals.
She also is counting on about $1 million in rebates from the S.C. Film Commission, which provides incentives to film companies that shoot movies in the state. That $1 million is already built into the $5 million Terry said has been raised.
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But a spokesman for the film commission said Dream Coast Films, the Beaufort company Terry co-owns, hasn't applied for a those incentives yet.
Financial issues aside, the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Beaufort Film Society and Dream Coast Films hosted a press event for the movie Tuesday at The Arsenal in downtown Beaufort.
Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling, who attended the press conference, said he was impressed that several members of the cast and production crew traveled to Beaufort for the event. He interpreted it as evidence of the company's seriousness.
"The talent from whom they've gotten commitments, the detailed production schedule and the fact that they invested so much time and so much money to bring people to Beaufort demonstrates to us their seriousness," he said.
Keyserling added that he was offered a bit part in the film if he wants one.
Cast members present at the press conference included Bobby Cyrus, cousin of Billy Ray Cyrus; Tommy Jennings, brother of Waylon Jennings; Taylor Watson and Jamie O'Neal, all of whom will act in the movie and help with the soundtrack.
Beaufort resident Haley Davis, 28, also has been cast in the movie. A longtime singer, Davis said she is "thrilled" to be part of the project.
Several speaking parts and extras will be filled by locals, said director Ric LaMonte. Indeed, Terry said she plans to hire as many local people as possible for the film and "spend as much money as (she) can in Beaufort."
Blakely Williams, president of the Beaufort chamber, declined to comment on specifically on the film project. In a written statement, however, she called film production a "great opportunity for our region."
Ron Tucker, head of the Beaufort Film Society, said Route 65 Nashville, "is definitely going to happen."
He added that it's not uncommon for independent movies to begin shooting before all money to cover expenses is in hand.
"Those were some of the top talents in Nashville that came down just for the press conference," Tucker said. "They wouldn't have come down and put their names and their reputations on the line if this wasn't all good to go."
Even though its financing is still evolving, Terry said the movie offers rewards to investors.
"Those investment opportunities will include a 100 percent return on the investment, they will own a certain percentage of the movie and if they want a role in the movie I will give them that, too," she said.
Route 65 Nashville will be about an aspiring female country singer trying to make it in Nashville and will feature an ample supply of country music.
Based on the current schedule, filming is supposed to begin in late August and last about eight weeks. A movie trailer should be ready by Christmas and if all goes well the film should hit theaters in early 2014, LaMonte said.
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.