By Donna Thornton/News Editor
Steven R. Satterwhite wrapped principal shooting on his independent film “Survive the Innocent” at Noccalula Falls Sunday (Jan. 27), but he said it is just one step in a process that he hopes will bring more film production to his home state.
Satterwhite and a crew of almost-all Alabama folks have been working for months shooting the film in some very recognizable locations: Noccalula Falls, Turrentine Avenue and Broad Street.
Satterwhite is director and his son, 11-year-old Lucas, is the star of the film, set in the 1940s. After a life-altering virus affects everyone in Lucas’ hometown except him, the boy is left to fend for himself.
The scene filmed at Noccalula Falls has Lucas hiding beneath the falls, thinking he’s safe. Satterwhite used a remote-control “helicopter”-mounted camera to film a shot that rises up from the gorge from Lucas’ hiding place over the edge of the falls to show that virus-infected townspeople are looking for him just overhead.
Satterwhite is a Gadsden native, and when he set out to make his first feature film – based on an idea Lucas proposed – his goal was to come home to make the movie and to use as much local talent as he could.
“Most of the people I’ve worked with haven’t worked on a film before,” Satterwhite said. “I’ve had to teach them as we go along.”
Still, he said, he’s found remarkable talent locally and has been pleased with the work he’s been able to do and with the cooperation he’s received in filming.
Bill Rodgers, from Steele, built helicopter set up that made the shot rising out of the gorge possible. He said he’d flown remote control devices for about eight years, but this is the first time he’s worked on a film.
About 60 extras were at the falls, dressed in 1940s-style clothes to portray the infected townspeople stalking the film’s protagonist.
In addition to Lucas, Belle Rae of Oxford, is one of the principal actors in the film. She plays the sister of Lucas’ character.
“It’s been great,” Belle, 10, said of her experience. “All the cast is like family now. I can’t wait to see the movie.
“Steven has taken his generous time to teach me about acting,” Belle said, “because this is my first film.”
Belle said she’s been taking acting lessons by Skype with Irene Dreayer, an executive producer with Disney/ABC Family. Her goal now is to work on more movies and to get an agent in Atlanta. She said she became passionate about acting a few years ago.
“I can sing, and I saw all these people who sing and act and decided I should act, too,” Belle said.
Belle said in the course of filming, she was “covered in sticky blood, trying to get out of a door with my ponytail stuck in the door,” for one scene, entering an abandoned, unheated house with her brother in another and running through Gadsden, chased by bullies in yet another.
“It’s been really great,” Belle said.
Her grandmother, Lisa Waschko said it has been a great experience for the aspiring actress, being part of a movie without bad language or objectionable material, filming so close to home.
She said the film tells a compelling story, of whether a child’s innocence can survive the extreme situation he is forced to face.
Satterwhite said many talented local people interested in working in film leave the state because there are no jobs here. He said ultimately, his goal is to see a film studio in operation in Alabama, so that talent can be put to work here.
Completing the film is an early step in that process, Satterwhite said. Quite a lot of work remains to be done, he said. The film must be edited and there is a good bit of special effects work to be done, especially for a film of this size and budget.
Satterwhite said his goal it to have the film finished by September in time for the Sundance Film Festival, but said that might not be possible. If not, he said, there are other options than taking the film to festivals.