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February 17, 2013

Valdosta turns out for premiere of ‘Grandma’s Blessings’

VALDOSTA — On Friday night, hundreds of Valdostans attended the world premiere of “Grandma’s Blessings,” a Valdosta-produced film about Drayton Taylor, a down-and-out talk show host who inherits an RV from his grandmother and goes on a road trip from Austin, Texas, to Valdosta.

“We came in with 15 gallons of sweet tea and we’ve ran right through them,” said Frank Cook, who came out to the premiere with Chick-Fil-A, one of the local restaurants to cater the event.

The film was written and produced by Roy Kirkland and directed by Doug Sebastian, two local Valdosta filmmakers who want to see more films shoot in Valdosta.

Kirkland and Sebastian have spent the last few weeks tirelessly marketing their film premiere, giving countless interviews to local media.

“I’m not even nervous at this point,” said Kirkland. “I’m just exhausted.”

Except for Kirkland and Sebastian, no one attending had seen the film, not even the cast.

“I’m excited to see it this way,” said Cameron Lent-Shiver, who plays Drayton Taylor in the film. “I get to experience it just the same as everyone else in the audience.”

Lent-Shiver was offered the role of Drayton after playing a werewolf in Kirkland and Sebastian’s last film, “Battle of the Cursed,” which should come out later this year.

“He never lets us see the films until they’re finished,” said Haley Boykin, who plays Lisa. “He wants us to watch it fresh. I’m a little nervous about seeing myself.”

Boykin, who was in Kirkland and Sebastian’s first film, “And There You Are,” is part of a loose group of actors whom Kirkland and Sebastian regularly feature in their films.

Also returning were actors Tyler Mitchell and Blake Connell. In the film, they play Good and Bad Conscience, who watch from the sky and comment on what’s happening in the film.

“We’re kind of like the two old guys from the Muppets,” said Connell.

Connell and Mitchell, who’ve worked together for years, have developed a comfortable, back-and-forth ad-libbing style that suits their characters.

“On set, Doug and Roy are pretty loose,” said Mitchell. “They know what they want out of a scene, but they give us flexibility.”

Beth Walters, who plays Drayton’s friend, Felicia, also praised the on-set atmosphere of “Grandma’s Blessings.”

“They’re very supportive and encouraging,” said Walter. “Very patient.”

Filmmaking can bring in a surge of outside money into local economies, something Lowndes County Tourism Board Member Jerome Anderson would like to see happen.

“It’s important to support local film,” said Anderson. “Growth is important. The film industry could be part of our city’s growth.”

For Henry Tisdale, who plays presidential candidate Freely in the film, local artists would be the most important part of that growth.

“These guys are doing a lot for artists in the southeast,” said Tisdale. “It’s giving them a chance to express their talent. In this area of the country, there’s not a lot of places talent can go.”

For Drew Varick, an actor out of Palm Beach, the movie gave him a chance to do something a little different.

“A small, local film isn’t something I would normally do, but I enjoyed the role,” said Varick. “It’s not something you see a lot of, a clean, family film, but one that’s still fun.”

The film also features country music singer Mitch Rossell and Lacie Yeager, Miss Georgia United States, who both attended the premiere.

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