SUMNER — Workers with Big Woods Production Services are in Sumner preparing for the filming of scenes for the first season of the ABC miniseries, "Women of the Movement," which chronicles the story of Mamie Till, the mother of Emmett Till.
The Tallahatchie County Courthouse in the center of the town square was the setting for the 1955 murder trial of two men charged with the kidnapping and murder of the 14-year-old Emmett Till. The men were acquitted there by an all-white, all-male jury but later confessed to the crime. Till's murder and subsequent miscarriage of justice proved to be major catalysts for the civil rights movement.
On Wednesday, production company workers, using paint colors appropriate for that period, were observed painting exterior doors, door frames and window frames of both occupied and vacant storefronts on the north and south sides of town square. Two men painted "Kantor Motor Co." at the top of a building on the south side of the square, where a car dealership operated in 1955.
Filming in Sumner is scheduled to begin this Saturday, with shots of the exterior of town square buildings and the inside of the Tallahatchie County Courthouse planned.
In a Feb. 17 letter to townspeople, Kapital Productions location managers informed Sumner residents about what to expect.
"The majority of our filming will take place in and around the Tallahatchie County Courthouse and the town square. The story is set in 1955 and we will be transforming many of the storefronts to reflect this. In addition, we will be parking a number of vintage cars in the square. We will have to make use of surrounding areas such as the parking lot by the post office, the lot behind The Sumner Grille and much of Wayne St. in order to 'hide' our equipment, trucks and production vehicles and anything that isn't period appropriate.
"We have been working with Mayor Webb, Chief Brooks, Tallahatchie County and the Sumner Town Square businesses in order to make all of this work for everyone. The Sumner PD and Greenwood PD will help us during filming to maintain the safety of vehicular and pedestrian traffic. ...
"Please keep in mind, especially for exterior scenes, there will be many background actors and period-appropriate cars moving about the town square. There will be production assistants that will help you go about your business without interfering with the shots."
From Feb. 27 until March 9, filming is scheduled to take place inside and outside various Sumner buildings, including the Emmett Till Interpretive Center and First Choice Homemakers Services on the north side of the square, the Tyner Law Office on the east side and The Sumner Grille on the south side.
The bulk of local filming is planned for March 3-9 inside the courthouse, where the courtroom has been restored in recent years to look very much like it did at the time of the Till murder trial.
The "filming times are approximate and may change," the letter noted, adding that the town's WhatsApp and emails will be utilized to provide needed updates.
In their letter to Sumner townspeople, the film's location managers said, "Thank you, again, for allowing us to tell this story in your beautiful town."
Jay-Z and Will Smith are among a large group of A-listers who are executive producers of "Women of the Movement," intended to be an ongoing anthology series to chronicle the contributions of women to the civil rights movement.
The Till story is scheduled to be told in six episodes that will comprise the first season of the miniseries. No air date has been announced.