5 feature films shot in Knoxville in 2018, and more are coming in 2019

Five feature films chose Knoxville to be their backdrop in 2018.

Visit Knoxville Film Office Director Curt Willis said he can't think of another year in which more feature films were shot in the city.

"We're on the verge of growing something really special here," he said.

The movies run the gamut in terms of genre, including the paranormal Jim Gaffigan flick "Light From Light," which will premiere at Sundance in 2019; the Civil War film "Into the Wilderness"; the black comedy/musical "Flirting with Azrael"; the juicy thriller "Purity Falls"; and the political/historical drama "No Time to Run."

So why have these productions flocked to Knoxville this year? Willis, who's worked on making Knoxville more appealing to filmmakers for five years, highlighted several reasons.

What Knoxville can offer to filmmakers

The most obvious of Knoxville's offerings is its setting. Downtown Knoxville can look like a big city, and it also has countryside, lakes, forests and suburbs, according to Willis.

With Discovery, Jupiter Entertainment and Lusid Media, Knoxville also has no shortage of experienced production crew and actors for filmmakers to hire.

Using local crew members and actors is less expensive for production companies because they don't have to pay as much for hotels and transportation while filming in Knoxville, according to Willis.

He added that the permitting process, which he developed with the City's Office of Special Events, is free and easy for filmmakers. This allows them to get permits to close roads or access locations with less hassle.

Along with these perks, Willis said Knoxville offers additional cash incentives on top of the 25 percent grant-based incentive provided by the state's Entertainment Commission for filmmakers.

"Everything that we have in place plus all the talent that is here and the supportive community, all that just is going to make this thing kind of really grow fast and big, and it's important," Willis said. "I mean it creates jobs. It provides a very substantial economic impact, and it's also a very cool thing to have here in Knoxville."

Willis said these productions have brought hundreds of thousands of dollars to Knoxville.

"It's hundreds of thousands of dollars, probably into the millions now ... since 2016 'cause they'll come in, and they'll ... spend, all of the films combined, thousands of hotel nights. They'll hire local crew. They'll eat at the local restaurants," Willis said. "They'll do local catering. They'll work with Smoky Mountain Grip on gear that they need. ... They have a huge economic impact."

In addition to their differences in genre, these five films highlighted different parts of Knoxville in their stories.

"Light From Light" is from Knoxville native and University of Tennessee associate professor Paul Harrill. He said the film was shot at Strong Stock Farm and the Smoky Mountains.

"Light From Light" stars Gaffigan and Marin Ireland and tells the story of Shelia, a single mom and paranormal investigator, who looks into a possible haunting at an East Tennessee farmhouse.

It will premiere at Sundance in the festival's Next category.

"Into the Wilderness" is from Into the Wilderness LLC with producers Michael Candela and Ev Stanton and stars Shuler Hensley, Christopher-Lawson Palmer and several Knoxville actors.

It tells the story of the Civil War's Battle of the Wilderness and how a Confederate soldier (Hensley) and Jeremiah (Palmer), a young slave boy, learn from each other during the war.

It filmed at James White Fort, Fall Creek Falls State Park, Elkmont, RiverView Family Farm, David Hall Cabin in Clinton, Island View Schoolhouse in Seymour and the Coke Ovens in Dunlap.

In a previous News Sentinel story, Candela said the film's team plans to have invitation-only screenings of the movie in Knoxville for everyone who helped make the project happen before they start sending it to festivals.

"No Time to Run" is from Elevating Entertainment in Nashville with producer Dave Moody.

It features a coming-of-age story for protagonist Melanie (Christina Marie Karis), who's concerned about the condition of America and its government, and uses time travel to speak with Founding Fathers Ben Franklin and George Washington.

"No Time to Run" was filmed at Ramsey House, Crowne Plaza, Lincoln Memorial University's Duncan School of Law, OliBea, the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial, Boyd's Jig & Reel and Alex Haley Heritage Square.

The film's team is working on shooting b-roll and beginning post production for the film. Moody said they hope to have it finished in 2019 and to hold a premiere in Knoxville.

"Purity Falls" is from Stargazer Entertainment in Louisville, Kentucky, with producers Shane and Zach O'Brien and Anthony Del Negro.

Its story involves Nicole (Kristanna Loken) and her two children, who move to a new town, Purity Falls, after the death of her husband. While rebuilding their lives, the family meets their seemingly perfect next-door neighbor, who runs illegal businesses and is blackmailing several people in the town.

"Purity Falls" was filmed at Pellissippi State Community College, Cool Spring Estates neighborhood in Farragut and the Big Ponderosa Cabin at KT Rental Cabins.

Shane O'Brien, who is from East Tennessee, said the film is in post production, and they hope to have it done by mid-February. It will receive a limited theatrical release and then will hopefully go on TV or Netflix, according to O'Brien.

"Flirting with Azrael: A Psychedelic Rock Musical" is from Knoxville-based Storyhaus Media and is written and directed by Stephen Zimmerman and Doug McDaniel.

The film is based on John Tod Baker's 2015 album "Flirting with Azrael" and features Rabi Xaler (Kelly Shipe), who murders her abusive husband. When her husband dies with a smile on his face, Rabi is unsatisfied, and she tries to find a way to bring him back to life, so she can kill him again.

"Flirting with Azrael" was filmed at FrightWorks, Remedy Coffee, Relix Variety Theater, Williamswood Castle and Sassy Ann's.

Zimmerman and McDaniel said the film is in post production, and they hope to have it done in February. They are working on marketing for the film in the U.S. and Europe.

'Next year is going to be nuts'

In terms of feature films, 2019 is shaping up to be busier than 2018.

Producers from Into the Wilderness LLC, Elevating Entertainment and Stargazer Entertainment want to bring future projects here, and Stargazer is coming back in 2019, according to Willis.

"We're talking about them coming back for five films next year, bringing in millions of dollars ... and what we want to get to is hopefully ... they'll set up just a separate Knoxville group to run a slate of films here, and they're still going to do their thing in Kentucky and work wherever else they want to go, but that's huge. Five films just from that group alone," Willis said.

Willis added that Knoxville's Whitener Entertainment, which produced "The Last Movie Star," also has projects in the works.

"So next year is going to be nuts. This year was great. This year was the busiest year we've had feature film wise, but next year looks even better so the future is bright," Willis said.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Maggie Jones

The East Tennessee Economic Development Agency markets and recruits business for the 15 counties in the greater Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. Visit www.eteda.org


Published December 28, 2018