Making movies in West Virginia

The Mid-Ohio Valley, and for that matter West Virginia, is not considered a mecca for movie making.

And this area and state may never become a place filmmakers turn to first to shoot a movie.

But local residents and natives are trying to position West Virginia favorably for producing films here. The state is assisting in these filmmaking efforts by offering incentives.

Since Steven Soderbergh filmed “Bubble” in Parkersburg and Belpre in 2005, it seems as if efforts to produce films in the Mid-Ohio Valley have increased. Many of these local films and filmmakers have won awards at the Colony Film Festival in Marietta in October and have received high marks at other film festivals.

I recently received information from Jason Brown, who formerly worked in sports at the Parkersburg News and Sentinel, about the short film “Miracle Boy,” which he produced and premiered at the Venice Film Festival in Italy in September. The film has had screenings in Lewisburg and Charleston in December.

Brown, a native of Poca, W.Va., is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Arts at Valdosta State University in Georgia. He wants to see quality films made in West Virginia.

Brown said a lot of people liked “Miracle Boy,” which features Ripley Middle School sixth-grader Carter Taylor in the title role.

Taylor’s character is seriously injured in a farming accident and is bullied by boys. But one boy realizes the meaness toward the miracle boy is wrong and tries to right that wrong, said Taylor’s mother, Gina. “It is a coming of age thing,” Gina Taylor said of the movie’s plot.

The film is based on the story “Miracle Boy” by West Virginia author Pinckney Benedict, is directed by Jake Mahaffy and filmed in Williamsburg, W.Va. Benedict and Mahaffy were professors at Hollins University in Virginia when Brown got his master’s degree there. “I’ve been bugging them for a while to come back to West Virginia to make a film,” Brown said.

“It tells a good story and looks good,” Brown said. “The film is about the good values of young people. People will want to see it.”

Brown said his goal is to have “Miracle Boy” seen by as many people as possible, especially in West Virginia. The 17-minute film showcases the beauty of Greenbrier County.

Brown believes “Miracle Boy” presents a positive and more realistic portrayal of his home state and the people who live here than the MTV reality show “Buckwild,” which was also filmed in West Virginia.

Gina Taylor found “Miracle Boy” to be a fantastic movie, with beautiful scenes and quality filming.

What did Carter Taylor, 12, think about the movie and his first acting role?

He said it was exciting to be part of the filmmaking process and was pleased with the way the film turned out.

But Carter said he didn’t want to make a career out of acting.

Jeffrey Richards of Parkersburg is president of the nonprofit West Virginia Filmmakers Guild, which sponsored “Miracle Boy” in helping to secure a state grant. A filmmaker himself, Richards called “Miracle Boy” an amazing film.

Richards is trying to bring more attention to Parkersburg filmmakers and the advantages of making movies in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

The West Virginia Film Office, part of the state Department of Commerce, Division of Tourism, is offering tax credits and other incentives to attract filmmakers to the state, Richards said.

Brown is asking people to go to Twitter.com/MiracleBoyMovie or www.miracleboy-movie.com/ to see how they can financially support the film in covering the cost of festival submission fees.

Plans call for the film to be submitted for inclusion in film festivals, including the Colony Film Festival.

Contact Paul LaPann at plapann@newsandsentinel.com