A Phenix City native living on the west coast is bringing the film industry to the area.
Meredith Riley Stewart, daughter of the late Mary Jane Riley, recently finished working on a movie that was filmed in Columbus. Stewart played a lead in the movie, was a producer, and helped get the movie to the area for filming. The movie also included extras Mayor Eddie Lowe and his wife Deborah. A former Central High School student, Trey Walker, was the photographer behind the scenes.
Stewart said she read the script for the movie The Inheritance between two and three years ago. The movie was a light-hearted, faith-based film.
“This script felt very southern,” Stewart said. “I thought ‘what if I start asking around my hometown and get some support for this movie.’”
Support came from the area, but it happened that Columbus and the entertainment industry in Georgia worked a little quicker, Stewart said.
“I realized that even being gone from Phenix City for nearly 20 years, I still definitely had a web of relationships due to my parents’ long-standing reputation and community involvement,” she said.
The script turned into raising funds from donors, all but one Stewart said came from the area, and finally a film crew and location for production. The crew, set back by the coronavirus pandemic, began filming in late July.
“Our production was pretty tight and a number of us wore multiple hats. The crew was small and we didn’t have huge crowd scenes or multiple locations,” Stewart said.
In fact, the crew filmed on one location in Upatoi. She added that they were really blessed because they were able to social distance and film safely—any other script wouldn’t have worked.
The crew filmed for six weeks, but post production will take many months. Stewart hopes the movie will be released next year. The film, by Mustard Seed Entertainment, is about four estranged siblings who have to work together to find the inheritance their late mother left.
“Our goal is for people to finish the movie and want to call their momma,” Stewart said.
She is thankful that so many people in the area used their resources to help the film come to life.
“I’ve already told the writers to get cracking on the one to be set in the area. I don’t think it’s too much to promise to be back soon,” Stewart said. She added that Mayor Lowe and economic development are anxious to bring more films to Phenix City.
This is the first feature-film Stewart has produced. She has produced short films and web series in the past.