RIPLEY - Carter Taylor, 12, of Ripley is the lead actor in the short film "Miracle Boy," which premiered at the Venice (Italy) Film Festival in September.
How does a young boy from Jackson County without any acting experience land a major role in a film?
In Taylor's case, his mother, Gina, was a friend of filmmaker Morgan Spurlock at Woodrow Wilson High School in Beckley. Spurlock, who was born in Parkersburg and became famous for his 2004 documentary "Super Size Me," put a notification on Facebook that director Jake Mahaffy planned to film a short movie in Greenbrier County and needed help, Gina Taylor said.
Carter Taylor on a tractor with miracle boy’s father, played by Dean Devic. (Photo Provided)
Carter Taylor of Ripley is filmed by “Miracle Boy” director Jake Mahaffy in Greenbrier County during the summer of 2011. (Photo Provided)
Spurlock referred people to a website that listed the types of support that Mahaffy needed.
"I saw that he needed four boys ages 10-12 to serve in various roles in the film," Gina said. "I sent in my son Carter Taylor's information/photo and decided to take him to an audition at the Greenbrier Valley Theater (in Lewisburg, W.Va.)."
Gina said Carter had never acted or auditioned before.
"So I sent a black and white photo of him that I took at his end-of-year awards ceremony," Gina said. "I told him (Carter) that I was taking him to audition for a movie, but until we actually reached the theater, he did not believe me. He thought I was playing an elaborate practical joke on him."
Gina said the film director asked Carter questions, such as "Where are you from? How old are you? Have you ever acted before? Why do you want to be in this movie."
Because Mahaffy had not asked the other children more than two questions, Gina said she felt Carter had gotten a part in the film.
That evening, the Taylors received an email from producer Jason Brown stating that all the parts had been filled. But the next day, Gina said she received a telephone call from her mother in Summers County telling her there had been a mix-up and that Carter had landed the title role in "Miracle Boy."
Over the next several days in the summer of 2011, Carter, who was 10 at the time, began filming as the lead actor "miracle boy." Most days, there was a lot of waiting while various scenes were filmed, Gina said.
Brown described the film's synopsis as "a boy risks his life to apologize to one he bullied." The miracle boy is injured in a farming accident and is a victim of bullying.
The film is based on the story "Miracle Boy" by West Virginia author Pinckney Benedict.
From watching the filming process in rural Greenbrier County, it was difficult to conceptualize how the film would come together, said Gina, who is a Jackson County extension agent.
During the filming, Gina filled the time taking still shots so Carter would have something to help him remember the experience, she said. Mahaffy used some of Gina's photographs in a photo book that is being distributed to raise money for "Miracle Boy" entry fees to film festivals.
Carter, a sixth-grader at Ripley Middle School, said he had a great time being a part of "Miracle Boy." He was the only child not from the Greenbrier County area to appear in the film, his mother said.
Carter thought the film turned out well after all the pieces were put together.
In December, the Taylors attended the West Virginia premiere of "Miracle Boy" at the Greenbrier Valley Theater.
"It was magical seeing it on the large screen," Gina Taylor said. "When the film premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, we had bought a ticket so that we could stream it, but watching it on a LCD projector did not do the film justice."
DVDs of the film are not yet available as the producer and director seek to enter "Miracle Boy" at film festivals, including the Colony Film Festival in Marietta, Brown said.
"We encourage people to go to Twitter.com/MiracleBoyMovie or www.miracleboy-movie.com/ to see how they might be able to support the film," Brown said.
The film is sponsored by the West Virginia Filmmakers Guild and received a grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council.