The new year is scheduled to bring a $12 million Hollywood movie starring Burt Reynolds into town.
"The Ruby McCollum Story" is scheduled to be filmed in Newberry and Gainesville in spring of 2011, according to Newberry City Manager Keith Ashby, who announced the news at the City Commission meeting on Monday night.
The Springtree Studios film stars Reynolds, who has been acting in movies for decades, as well as Matt Lanter ("Vampires Suck" and "Sorority Row") and is directed by Bill Duke, who is also known for directing "Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit" and starring in "Predator," among other films.
The film is set in Live Oak during the early 1950s and is based on a bestselling book "Ruby McCollum: Woman in Suwannee County Jail" by William Bradford Huie.
It is a true story about a murder of a white Florida state senator-elect by a wealthy African-American woman, who was denied her First Amendment right of free speech and sentenced to death in an electric chair by an all-white jury.
According to a 1954 Time Magazine article, the judge for the case did not allow any reporters to talk to McCollum after her arrest.
After Ashby broke the news Monday, Newberry resident Joy Glanzer, a location scout for the film, confirmed that she searched for possible locations in Newberry for about week with eight other filmmakers.
Barbara Hendrix, the director of Newberry's Main Street Program, said that filmmakers were scouting the Kincaid building, which Main Street is trying to renovate - something the filmmakers could possibly help her with.
Jude Hagin, a co-producer for the film, said that most of the film is scheduled to be filmed in Newberry starting at the end of March. But she said the locations are not completely finalized yet, and filmmakers are looking at locations in two other states, Louisiana and Georgia.
"There are very few places that can duplicate the late 1940s, early 1950s," Hagin said. "Newberry has that magnificent old world charm, which is intricate to the story. By in large, we pleased our director, and he was overjoyed with [Newberry]."
Patricia Crawford, the screenwriter and one of the film's producers, is known locally for proposing to construct a movie studio in Newberry about seven years ago but failing to raise enough funds.
One of the film's co-producers, Hilary Saltzman, is the daughter of a well-known producer, Harry Saltzman, who worked on the James Bond movies.
Glanzer said the filmmakers decided to not film in Live Oak, which is about 65 miles north of Newberry, because the events of the Ruby McCollum case are still fresh on the minds of the people who live there.
The filmmakers are also simultaneously working on a documentary about Ruby McCollum and have interviewed some of the family members of people who were involved in the case, Hagin said.
"When you do a film, you certainly tell your story," Hagin said, adding that the documentary could be aired on HBO. "But you can't tell the whole story. We want to tell the truth."
Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2010 10:12 pm | Updated: 10:47 pm, Thu Dec 16, 2010.