It all started when I got a text message from an unknown number one night in mid-August.
“Hi Shelby. Paul and Missy Duley introduced me to you [grain farmers from down the road]. I’m a local filmmaker looking for a few locations for a feature film production in November. I would love to add Robin Hill Farm to my list of places. Can we arrange a call to discuss this possibility? ”
Oh yes, I thought, because my brain instantly lit up like a Christmas tree, lighting up ideas. It’s fitting because, it turns out, they wanted to do a Christmas movie of the Hallmark and Lifetime series.
What started as a phone call between producer Cadell Cook and myself turned into more phone calls, emails, farm visits, family discussions, and culminated in a signed positioning agreement and liability release. we are at.
My Aunt Susan is in charge of all the outdoor locations on their farm: the vineyard, fields, and barn, as well as their on-site staff’s needs for hair, makeup, wardrobe, and craft services.
My mom and dad provided their house for interior needs: kitchen, hallway, living room, and their bedroom (for the bedside scene with sick mother).
My Aunt Connie and Uncle Joe let them use the pier by the river for “Miller Riverside Cookout – Day 12 – Night Shoot – Scene 41”.
A couple of other relatives gave permission to shoot quick scenes using their locations: a one acre wildlife food plot my cousin planted (a scene at the edge of the woods, with an old scarecrow) and another cousin, aunt and uncle have a common The driveway where “Scene 39 – Country Road” was filmed.
I became the official trainer for my horse scene, where the main character would be in the film for three minutes, but it took four hours and three different angles to shoot.
Our family quickly became familiar with the lingo of the film industry, swapping in and out of props, putting our phones on airplane mode, and getting quiet on set. The new family texting chain buzzing throughout the day includes a film director and a set manager. My dad planned to prepare catfish fry for the crew on the night of the long filming, a tasty way to pass a 14-hour day.
I was happy; my grandmother thought we were all crazy.
“I wrote the film with Maryland locations in mind; I knew I wanted it to be shot locally,” Cook said. “My great-grandfather had an old tobacco farm not far from here, and it was his farm that I had in mind when I wrote the script. It was great to find Robin Hill Farm and Vineyard as an actual location.”
“Our first day on set, I went into the barn to shoot the first scene and I burst into tears,” said lead actress Melan Perez. “I felt overwhelmed because of this The location was so perfect for our movie. The barn is real and I can feel it. Worked hard for over a year to bring this movie to life, even before the actual filming started, and walking into such a perfect property, I am simply overwhelmed and blessed to be with such a hospitable family.”
She added with a laugh, “Cadr saw me in tears and he said, ‘Girl, don’t you ruin your makeup, we’re about to start!'”
Cook and Perez met a few years ago at a film festival. She heard him reading one of his short stories, which she told me she knew was what she was looking for. “He created these beautiful, intelligent and thought-provoking stories.”
So the pair paired up to produce a web series called Second Hand, which was shortlisted for the 2021 Black American Film Festival, and co-produced a political drama called Four Points.
Watching Cook, Perez and their crews come together to bring this family drama called “Forget Christmas” to life has been fantastic. The film tells the story of a daughter who returns from the big city to a farm after her mother dies.
There she realizes that her father has been hiding signs of dementia, that several other family members have problems, and that there is a bigger question of what will become of the farm.
These themes hit my heart immediately. I don’t know of a farm family that hasn’t at some point struggled with aging parents and grandparents, generational alternation, and an overall identity crisis. To think that someone is telling that story through this movie makes me excited.
Cook, an independent writer and producer, will work on a project from start to finish for about 18 months before presenting a full-fledged film to networks and streaming services for purchase. His plan is to show “Forget Christmas” to Hallmark and Lifetime first, with the hope that one of those networks will air it during the 2023 holiday movie season.
The idea that I might see my horse, our farm, and oh my god, my parents’ real kitchen and bedroom in a Hallmark or Lifetime movie is surreal!
Our farm paid a few thousand dollars in site fees, not a lot of money, but still a joy!
I can see other small farms interested in getting involved in something like this and earning some extra income with something fun to do. Smaller filmmakers are always looking for locations, Cook said, and most states have a statewide film office website where landowners can enter their properties for consideration as locations. Talk about taking agritourism to the next level!
Feel free to contact me with any questions about our experience as a farmer. I’m happy to help. In my opinion, this intersection of art and agriculture should be nurtured.
Watson-Hampton and her family farm on their fourth-generation family farm in Brandywine, Maryland.