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Spring Hope is focus of new feature film: Native directs love letter to town

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Mark Cone, cousin of writer, director and producer Stephanie Laing, shoots a scene for Laing’s feature film during Saturday’s Great Pumpkin Commonwealth Weigh-off in downtown Spring Hope.
Mark Cone, cousin of writer, director and producer Stephanie Laing, shoots a scene for Laing’s feature film during Saturday’s Great Pumpkin Commonwealth Weigh-off in downtown Spring Hope.
Lindell J. Kay | Enterprise
Posted

In perhaps a case of taking the girl out of a small town but not being able to take the small town out of the girl, a Spring Hope native who left for Hollywood is making a movie about her roots.

Emmy Award-winning Stephanie Laing is directing “Shoot the Rooster,” the working title given to an independent feature film based on her life in southern Nash County. A first for the movie business: Laing directed principal shots with a cellphone and sent two dozen cameras to cast members’ homes. The actors were able to set up the cameras and shoot their scenes earlier this year during the coronavirus pandemic and shutdown.

The cast includes Henry Winkler (“Waterboy,”) Margo Martindale (“Justified”) and Judy Greer (“Arrested Development”). Many of the actors, like Winkler, are accomplished writers and producers in their own right. They were able to set up their shots beautifully, Laing said.

To capture the richness of Spring Hope, Laing enlisted her first cousin Mark Cone — owner of SouthernNashNews.com and a contributor to The Enterprise — to film exterior shots around town. Cone also filmed at other locations in North Carolina.

The drama tells the story of a family matriarch who wants to reunite her estranged family before she dies. Laing said she wrote the film as a love letter to her family, to the South and to small-town, main-street America.

“I grew up in a really small town in North Carolina called Spring Hope, which we joked is a one-stop-sign town. We have a family farm there that has been in my family for generations and generations, complete with a family graveyard that frankly scared the hell out of me. A couple of years ago I wrote this with Brad Morris, based on me taking my kids to the farm when my grandmother was dying. She was 90 and we spent a week with her at the farm and it struck me how different we were as a family, how different I was compared to my cousins in this quite large family. I’d initially written this story about saying goodbye to the matriarch of the family and are we going to come back together as a family, and how will this affect us,” Laing told Deadline last week as part of its ongoing series, “Reopening Hollywood.”

Laing has written, directed or produced several hit television shows including “Eastbound & Down,” “Veep” and “Vice Principals,” according to the Internet Movie Database, which lists more than 50 film and television credits. She won a 2015 Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series for “Veep.”

All that work kept her from making “Shoot the Rooster,” but she found the time during this year’s shutdown due to COVID-19.

Originally titled “Spring Hope,” “Shoot the Rooster” is in post-production with a possible opening by the holidays.

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