Credit: Courtesy of Peacetree Productions
Casting call goes out for $8.5 million movie filming in Macon this fall
A Hollywood production team is setting up temporary offices in downtown Macon to film a major motion picture backed by big names and benefactors that bankrolled the $8.5 million project.
NBA champ Stephen Curry’s Unanimous Media company and Marvel’s “Shuri,” Letitia Wright, signed on as executive producers for Possum Trot — which is not the secret code name for the project, but the actual title.
Writer/producer Rebekah Weigel sees the film not as just a movie, but it’s a movement to reverse the “foster crisis in the child welfare system.”
Curry’s multimedia company aims to tell important, family-focused stories through diverse voices so it’s easy to see how he and Wright wanted to amplify this true story.
Rob Morgan, on the New York Times list of the “The 25 Greatest Actors of the 21st Century (so far)” is expected to play the lead role of Bishop W.C. Martin, who with his wife, Donna, changed their Possum Trot, Texas, community and launched the church-to-child mission.
Those celebrities, Curry, Wright and Morgan follow Oprah Winfrey, People magazine and Good Morning America in telling the powerful tale of 22 families in a small Black church congregation who adopted 77 of the area’s hardest to place foster children.
It was that story that uprooted Weigel and her co-writer and director husband, Josh, from their Hollywood home and planted them in East Texas last year. They started going to church in Possum Trot, just outside of Center, Texas, to capture the essence of the people who agreed to love and care for some of the most vulnerable in their society.
Rebekah Weigel wants the message to inspire the audience to do the same. She sees the film as more of a movement than just a movie.
“Our goal is to raise awareness for the foster crisis and let the film be used as a tool… to inspire people to get involved,” Weigel said. “A lot of the story is about the power of community, the power of faith, and ‘Look, we can all do something.’”
The Weigels’ own experience of fostering and adopting extended family members gave them a passion to devote their lives to saving kids across the country.
The couple advocates for CarePortal, a technology platform that links churches to children and families in crisis. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has already implemented it in his state and Gov. Brian Kemp recently urged Georgians to get involved with CarePortal.
Casting call Saturday at the Tubman
In addition to finding Middle Georgians of all ages for extras and small speaking parts, casting director Mary Vernieu is still filling lead roles – including one that is sure to make a star out of some pre-teen girl of biracial heritage.
“It could be a breakout performance for a local,” Rebekah Weigel said.
Although there are young ladies auditioning from as far away as London, Weigel would love to find someone close by. She’s also scouting for a rural, old white wooden church in an open field and small family homes and trailers as they film during October and November.
“We really would love for the Macon community to get really involved,” she said. “We want it to be a fun experience.”
Those interested in renting out their homes should email photos to email@example.com.
Families are encouraged to join in the local casting call Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Tubman Museum at 310 Cherry St.
“No acting experience needed,” is written in bold red letters on the flyer.
While the cast is predominantly Black, they are looking for children and adults of all ages and do have a few roles for other races. Auditioners are encouraged to wear '90s attire.
“This is a huge opportunity for local Macon and vicinity actors to break out. We really want authenticity,” Weigel said. “We will give preference to people in Macon, but they have to act.”
The Greater Macon Chamber literally rolled out the welcome mat to the Weigels’ Peacetree Productions. Interim president Ron Shipman postponed the chamber’s move from near the Coliseum to the old Historic Macon office at 338 Poplar Street to accommodate the crew and their production headquarters.
The Weigels, with their son Judah, are temporarily moving into a downtown loft and the rest of the crew members is looking for short-term leases.
“I love Macon,” she said. “It’s a beautiful city.”
Like some others who have filmed here, she entertains the idea of opening a studio nearby.
Visit Macon film liaison Aaron Buzza sees Possum Trot as evidence to other production companies that an entire film can be shot out of Macon.
A long list of films have shot scenes in Macon, including major motions pictures 42, Trouble with the Curve, Black Widow and most recently the musical adaptation of The Color Purple. But the city has not had this much screen presence since the late '70s when director John Huston made Macon the backdrop for the screen adaptation of Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood.
Buzza has been assisting Peacetree Productions with logistics and sees the value of hosting this film.
“The story is fantastic,” Buzza said. “It’s super exciting and an honor to pick Macon because we get to be part of telling an amazing story about a real cool community, and the benefit of the film being released to help kids is a thread that weaves through it. Not only the theatrical elements, but it benefits the foster system.”
All proceeds from the film and any backend compensation typically granted to the core production team of producers, writers and director are being donated to organizations serving children in crisis. Financiers passionate about the cause raised the $8.5 million to make the film.
“To our knowledge, it’s the first major film to be done all on donations,” Rebekah Weigel said.
Upon hearing it the first time, the Weigels’ Peacetree Productions is likely to be mistaken for Peachtree in these parts, but their company name speaks to their desire to create life-changing work, like this screenplay they wrote.
While Rebekah Weigel described Possum Trot as “too faith-based for Hollywood” and too gritty for the typical evangelical Christian audience because of its harsh reality and traumatic events, she believes it will have crossover appeal with major distribution in theaters.
The couple’s acclaimed short film The Butterfly Circus won more than 35 film festival awards including Carmel’s Clint Eastwood Filmmaker award handed over by the legendary actor/director himself. In his two decades in the industry, Josh Weigel also has worked as an art director and production designer for award-winning promotions and national commercials including Super Bowl ads.
Rebekah Weigel desires the film to be a catalyst for communities of faith to step forward with a means to unite a fractured society.
“It’s a movement to care for kids and that’s our passion,” Weigel said. “We can all do that. It’s one thing in our divided nation that we can care for, the most vulnerable.”
Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government news and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with Macon Newsroom.