Filmmaker turns fascination with Mississippi culture into feature films

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JACKSON, Mississippi (WLBT) – From runaway juke co-owner to the stories of the Dixie Mafia operating on the Gulf Coast, Mississippi has plenty of stories to tell, and director / filmmaker Travis Mills helps tell them .

Mills’ latest feature film, “Texas Red,” opens locally on February 5 at the Cinemark Theater in Pearl. Tickets are sold out for the February 5 and 6 screenings, but are still available for the February 12 screening.

Driving screenings of Texas Red will also air on February 25 and 27, ahead of the Oxford Film Festival in March.

The film is one of 12 westerns Mills shot in 2020, and one of many films the Ecuadorian-born director has shot in Magnolia State. He co-wrote the film with DMM Simonton.

Mills says he was drawn to the Texas Red legend because it’s a real Mississippi story.

“I was immediately captivated by the story of outlaws and lawyers in a different era than the Old West,” he said. “You can see the side of African Americans who are on the run, and also the white lawyers, some of whom are just trying to do their jobs.”

Texas Red is the true story of a co-owner of a black juke who was charged with multiple thefts in Frankin County.

“His cabin was raided by white citizens who weren’t happy with him,” Mills said. “They raided his cabin that night without a warrant, a fight broke out, someone was injured and from there a giant manhunt started for this guy.”

The chase eventually passed through several counties and many local lawyers, the FBI, and the National Guard became involved.

“It is still unconfirmed whether Texas Red and his partner, the Oklahoma Kid, were stealing venues or not,” Mills said. “Who knows if the people who were angry with him made the right accusations?

“We’ll probably never know at this point. Many stories like this are lost, ”he said. “It was not confirmed then and it cannot be confirmed now.”

“Texas Red” is the second film released as part of the Mills’ 12 Westerns in 12 Months Project, a project its production team undertook in 2020, before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“None of us saw COVID coming,” he said. “When we saw it, we must have changed dramatically. Faced with the pandemic, some projects have completely changed. Some were pushed aside and replaced.

“I am very proud that no one got sick on our sets. Not a single person has been confirmed infected on any of our 12 western sets. “

In January, Running Wild Films and 12 Westerns LLC released the first movie “Bastard’s Crossing”.

Four of the films were shot in the state of Magnolia and most of them feature local actors.

“I try to pitch locally as much as possible. I really think that’s one of the problems with Hollywood movies shot in the South. They are mainly actors from New York and LA playing characters from the South; no matter how good their accents are, it’s not authentic, ”he said. “(We) really try to be authentic to these characters.”

This year, Mills will be spending his time editing the films – a process almost as intense as filming the films – and working on other projects, including a western television series and a film focused on the rock-n-roll scene in the 1960s. Brookhaven.

“My mother is from Mississippi. She was born and raised in Brookhaven. My grandparents lived in Brookhaven and were from Monticello, ”he said. “So I have deep Mississippi roots.”

Mills’ first film on the Mississippi was “Porches and Private Eyes,” a 2016 Brookhaven-based film where three women work to solve a local disappearance, according to the Internet Movie Database.

“It turned into an independent hit and got me doing more movies,” he said. “I’m just fascinated by the culture of the South.

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