Mark works on movie "Get Low"

February-March, 2009

Mark signed on as construction foreman for the movie "Get Low" with Curtis Crowe as construction coordinator. The movie stars Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray and Lucas Black. "Get Low" implies being put in the ground, and the movie is based on a true story of Felix Breazeale, a Tennessee recluse, who planned his own funeral while he was still alive so he could enjoy it.The movie was filmed partly at Pickett's Mill west of Atlanta, and partly at Crawfordville and Warrenton east of Atlanta. Mark had to chase around getting materials for the construction, and in the process ran into Bill Murray in the hardware store in Crawfordville.

The first big job for Mark's crew was to build what they called a "pole barn" on the grounds of a historic house at Pickett's Mill. You can see that every effort was made to get it to look like an authentic old barn of the period of the movie.

Pickett's Mill is a Georgia state park and a historic Civil War battleground site. We have taken the Scouts and the RA's there for outings.

Here is the notice that was placed on the Pickett's Mill website during the filming project:

NOTICE: Pickett's Mills will be closed to visitors from Tuesday, 2/24/09 through Thursday, 3/5/09 for a film project. Site is scheduled to reopen Friday, 3/6/09. Contact site for further information.

Here is part of the description of the location on the website.

"Pickett's Mill is one of the best preserved Civil War battlefields in the nation. Visitors can travel roads used by Federal and Confederate troops, see earthworks constructed by these men, and walk through the same ravine where hundreds died."

"On May 27, 1864, the Federal Army, having been stopped in its advance on Atlanta two days earlier by the Battle of New Hope Church, attempted to outflank the Confederate position. Some 14,000 Federal troops were selected for the task, and General Howard was given command. After a five-hour march, Howard's force reached the vicinity of Pickett's Mill and prepared to attack. Waiting were 10,000 Confederate troops under the command of General Cleburne. The Federal assault began at 5 p.m. and continued into the night. Daybreak found the Confederates still in possession of the field. The Federals had lost 1,600 men compared to the Confederate loss of 500. The Confederate victory resulted in a one-week delay of the Federal advance on Atlanta."

Mark probably worked 60 days straight on this movie, and his approach to the construction foreman position was to do everything he couldn't get anyone else to do. So one of his tales is that of running a bobcat in the rain at midnight in Crawfordville with the Sherriff looking on to remove the layer of dirt that they had put on a downtown street to make that section of town look authentic for the period setting of the movie (the 1930's).

The movie plot has the main character, played by Robert Duvall, leaping out of a burning house and rolling in flames on the ground. So they had to have a "burn set", which of course couldn't be the historic house at Pickett's Mill. So the house they had procured for the burn set was over a hundred miles to the east in Warrenton. This gave rise to our favorite story of this project.

The "burn set" in pouring down rain

As they were coordinating the process for the burn set, Curtis Crowe got called out of town for a funeral, so he called Mark to meet the crew at the burn set at Warrenton on his behalf. Mark asked him "Where's Warrenton?", and the reply was "I don't know.", and he asked "When am I supposed to meet them?", and again the reply was "I don't know.". Mark called about a dozen people in the organization, and nobody knew. So he hopped in his truck and drove to Warrenton."

He showed up in Warrenton without a cell phone because his had gotten soaking wet in his raingear pocket while working in the rain, and was no longer working. He stopped at a small restaurant in Warrenton and the lady in the restaurant kindly let him use her cell phone to call a dozen people on the crew to find out where they were, but no one answered their phone. So he thanked the lady and commented to her that he was looking for a place where they were setting up a house to burn for the movie.

The lady exclaimed "Oh, youall are going to burn Miss Mary's old house!" And she turned to her husband and said, "Go show this guy where Miss Mary's house is!" So he did, and that's how Mark found the burn set and met up with the crew that was there to coordinate the project.

That was by no means the last of the challenges of the burn set. As you can see from the picture, the crew is there in pouring down rain during the first week of March - it was one of the longest sustained rains we have had in a long time. So Mark was still involved on the burn set on March 8 when we returned from California.

When they did get things dry enough to touch off the fire, it went rather quickly. At right above are a couple of firemen on the burn set. Note that they had cleaned up the area of the house considerably before doing the burn.

Mark might have had a day off, but as soon as he finished with "Get Low" he got a call to come to Blue Ridge to do some welding on a railroad bridge for another movie.

Bridge across the Ocoee River

Movie jobs are not your usual 9-5 jobs. Mark wound up out on this bridge over the river, welding steel horizontal members and vertical posts alongside the present bridge structure, and doing it in the rain! With the wet steel, he got a couple of jolts from the welder by touching the non-grounded piece of steel, but he couldn't afford to let go of it, because it would fall in the river. Another adventurous movie job.

The railroad bridge was part of the scenic railroad out of Blueridge, Georgia up into Tennessee. The bridge was across the Ocoee River near McCaysville, almost on the Tennessee-Georgia line.

Rod and Brenda to California

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