Hollywood is coming back to downtown Covington, this time in the form of feature drama “Selma” about Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1965 voting rights campaign in Selma, Alabama, which is regarded as the peak of the U.S. Civil Rights movement.
The movie, which is being co-produced by Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt among others, will be filming in Newton County from May 20-22 and will close down some roads during that time so the crew can re-create the “feel of Selma, Alabama circa 1965,” including period cars and 60 extras, according to the filming permit filed by the production.
Here’s a breakdown of the filming schedule:
Tuesday, May 20:
- Filming will take place inside and outside the Historic Courthouse on the square from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Portions of Monticello and Clark streets near the courthouse will be closed for exterior filming; part of Monticello and Hays streets will be blocked off all day for trucks and crew.
- There will also be intermittent traffic control during interior filming.
Wednesday, May 21:
- The production will conduct driving shots on:
o Flat Road Road, between Cornish Trace Drive and Baker’s Lane
o Airport Road, between Poole Booth Road and Ga. Highway 142
o Gregory Road, just off Flat Rock Road
- There will also be filming on Conyers, lee, Brown, Ivy and Emory Streets.
- There will be intermittent traffic control for all of this filming between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Thursday, May 22:
- There will be filming at the exterior of the home at 2222 Lee Street.
- There will be interior night filming at the Townhouse Café at 1145 Washington St.; Washington Street will be closed between Hendrick and Monticello streets during filming.
- Filming will take place between noon and 2 a.m.
The Covington City Council approved the filming request and road closures at Monday’s meeting.
Paramount Pictures is backing the project, which will be directed by Ava DuVernay, who was the first black woman to win a Sundance Film Festival Best Director Award for her 2012 film “Middle of Nowhere,” which starred David Oyelowo, who will play King in “Selma.”
Deadline Hollywood, which first reported Winfrey’s involvement, said “Selma” is the second MLK Jr. project Winfrey is involved with, noting her Harpo Productions company is behind a seven-part HBO miniseries “America: In the King Years.”
In a Feb. 26 piece in the L.A. Times, Oliver Gettell wrote:
“It has proved difficult for films about race to get financed in Hollywood, but after the commercial success of ‘The Butler,’ which grossed $116 million domestically and an additional $51 million overseas, and the art-house success of ‘12 Years a Slave,’ which grossed $128 million worldwide and is a strong contender for the Oscars' top prize, things could be changing. It certainly will help to have Winfrey, a billionaire media mogul and ‘The Butler’ co-star, attached to ‘Selma.’”
City Manager Leigh Anne Knight said in an email that the crew members who met with city officials “indicated they were drawn to Covington because of the look of the shops around the square” which Knight said has changed very little over the years.
Selma was the site of fierce Civil Rights battles for equal voting rights for African-Americans in the early 1960s, which culminated in three planned marches from Selma to Alabama’s state capitol of Montgomery in March 1965, only the last of which made it all the way to Montgomery.
The first march was met with force by Alabama troopers, including firing tear gas. King led the last two marches personally, including the successful march which spanned the approximately 50-mile distance in four days. The march started out with 8,000 people, but had to be reduced to 300 by a court order; however, 25,000 people made the final leg of the march to State Capitol, where King delivered the speech “How Long, Not Long.”
The marches stemmed in part from continued unequal treatment of African-Americans but was spurred on by the fatal shooting of Jimmie Lee Jackson by an Alabama State Trooper after Jackson had tried to flee from a local protest when state troopers rushed them.
The filming location will echo some of Covington’s own history, as some of the city’s most prominent Civil Rights movement took place on the town square in the late 1960s and early 1970s.