Fuquay-Varina gets a taste of Hollywood

aramos@newsobserver.comAugust 9, 2013 

— A little girl walked along South Main Street with her great-aunt, popped open a medicine canister, smiled and pulled out an M&M candy.

With a smile of her own, the older woman delivered her line: “There’s nothing a little fresh air and chocolate can’t fix.”

Yards away, a cameraman captured the actresses as they strolled past Elmo’s Mens & Ladies Clothing and the old Elliotts Pharmacy building.

Over the course of four days last week, Fuquay-Varina’s quaint downtown streets and historic homes got the Hollywood treatment, complete with onlookers snapping pictures with their cellphones.

The town was the backdrop for a 15-minute independent film with the working title “Junebug,” produced by North Carolina-based ContinuousTake Productions.

The film is about 10-year-old Juniper “Junebug” Rose, who became mute after the death of her mother. The girl is sent to a small North Carolina town to visit her eccentric great-aunt, Mabel, and the White Glove Society ladies’ group.

During her stay, Juniper comes to grips with her loss and finds her voice, said writer-director Hannah Sink, 29, a graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Sink, of Raleigh, was inspired to write the movie after losing her mother five years ago to gall bladder cancer. Where Juniper lost her ability to speak, Sink felt like she had lost her creative voice.

She turned to her childhood memories of visiting her grandmother in Waynesville and drew from prominent figures in her life to create the women of the White Glove Society.

At the recommendation of a location scout, Sink and her business partners Michelle McGrier and Alisha Hawkins visited Fuquay-Varina. They decided its downtown, framed by houses built in the early 1900s, was perfect.

The crew set up shots at Anna’s Pizzeria and the Walter Aiken House, owned by Fuquay-Varina Commissioner Ed Ridpath and his wife, Jeanne. The house, built in 1913, is a historic landmark and once was home to the town’s first mayor, Walter Aiken, when the town was called Fuquay Springs.

“It’s small town, main street USA,” Sink said. “I think it sets you down in town where everyone knows each other. It instantly brought me back to the memories of my childhood.”

Ridpath said he couldn’t be more pleased to host the film crew in his home.

“We should just call the town Fuquay-Varinawood,” he said.

Mayor John Byrne said the movie was another sign of how much Fuquay-Varina has grown yet managed to retain its historic charm. “It’s a big day for Fuquay-Varina,” Byrne said.

It will take about four months to edit and prepare the movie for the independent film circuit including Tribeca, South by Southwest, Berlin and Toronto, to name a few, Hawkins said. Local groups are pushing for an in-town screening once the movie is complete.

This isn’t Sink’s first film. In 2007, her five-minute trailer for the film “Fire in Fallujah” won her a spot on reality show “On the Lot,” produced by Steven Spielberg. She was one of 50 aspiring filmmakers chosen from 12,000 to compete for a $1 million development deal with DreamWorks.

Sink since has won awards for her 2006 PBS documentary “Fighting Traditions,” about women’s roles in a Thailand village, and for her documentary “Lost and Found,” about the 2004 tsunami that hit southeast Asia.

But for a little while, Sink and ContinuousTake Productions found themselves at home in Fuquay-Varina.

“You can be a filmmaker anywhere, and you don’t have to be in New York or LA to do it,” McGrier said.


Ramos: 919-460-2609

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