The Valdosta Daily Times
While Roy Kirkland was driving to meet Doug Sebastian to edit their first film, the edgy comedy And There You Are, Kirkland would drive past an antique, beat-up RV with a for sale sign. After seeing it a number of times, Kirkland started getting the seed of an idea for his next screenplay.
Now that film, Grandma's Blessings, is going to be unveiled at a world premiere at Mathis City Auditorium here in Valdosta.
Originally starting out as a more risque, R-rated comedy, Kirkland decided to go in a different direction. After talking with his sister and Grandma's Blessings actor Ben Register, Kirkland decided to challenge himself.
“I knew I could make something proactive, something risque,” said Kirkland, “but it would be more of a challenge to make something family friendly.”
“There's no cursing and no sex scenes,” said Sebastian, the director of Grandma's Blessings. “The film's kind of ‘square,’ but the comedy isn't. We wanted to do comedy without having to go the cursing and nudity route. It's our own spin on ‘square.’”
A family comedy might seem like an odd choice for Kirkland and Sebastian, but for them, that was the point.
The duo's previous two movies were Battle of the Cursed, about the longstanding truce between a group of vampires and werewolves breaking down, and Crazed, where a man has to deal with two dangerous home invaders. Before that was their award-winning documentary, A Cross Burning in Willacoochee, which was about Kirkland and Sebastian’s experiences with hate crimes and homophobia in the early ‘90s.
“We had such a fun time making And There You Are, we wanted to go back to something fun and light,” said Kirkland.
Grandma's Blessings is just that, telling the story of T.V. talk show host Drayton Taylor who, after inheriting an old Champion RV from his grandmother, proceeds to drive it from Austin, Texas back to his Georgia home.
“That RV was like the shark in Jaws,” said Sebastian “It gave us a lot of trouble while shooting.”
The film utilizes the familiar tropes of the road trip movie, with Taylor visiting different locations and meeting a varied cast of characters on his trip back home, something that wouldn't have been possible with the support of the local community.
“Nashville let us shut down roads and film in their downtown,” said Kirkland. “Horsecreek Winery let us shoot at their vineyard. Valdosta let us shoot at the Industrial Authority and arranged for police cars to appear in some scenes.”
This sense of community spread to the cast and crew, with actors holding mikes when they weren't on screen and operating the clapboard.
The budget for Grandma's Blessings went straight into the local economy.
“We've supported the community and we hope the community will support us,” said Kirkland.
The world premiere is taking place on Friday, Feb. 15, starting at 6 p.m. with the movie showing at 8 p.m. The film's titular RV will be there, as will the cast of Grandma's Blessings, along with hors d' oeuvres, wine, photo ops and a number of local businesses giving out prizes.
“Valdosta's never had something like this, a world premiere movie,” said Kirkland. “We want the community to be able to experience something it never has before.”
While the world premiere is here in Valdosta, the film could be traveling across the country.
“The Austin Film Commission in Austin, Texas has contacted us about Grandma's Blessings,” said Sebastian “They've been very supportive, wanting to see the film and giving us information about Austin theaters that might be interested in showing it.”
Kirkland and Sebastian have no plans to slow down their filmmaking, with releases of Crazed and Battle of the Cursed to follow in 2013. After that, they're planning their next film.
“I've got a Depression-era script, a drama called The Burning Sky,” said Kirkland. “But it all depends on what kind of mood we're in and what investors are interested in.”
“We'd also like to see a film commission come together in Valdosta, like they have in Austin,” said Sebastian.
“Valdosta has a lot to offer filmmakers and
filmmaking would bring
a lot of money into the
“We want to do it as a community,” said Kirkland. “A bunch of people gathered together around a table, everyone helping each other out. That's just the best feeling.”