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Locally filmed ghost story to screen next week

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The film crew works on shooing a scene for the short film ‘Learning Man’ on March 4, 2017, at the Rocky Mount Mills.

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A short movie filmed at Rocky Mount Mills last year is set to be screened at the historic site next week.

“Learning Man,” about a ghost haunting the mill, will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19. The free showing at the mill on Falls Road will serve as a fundraiser with a recommended $5 donation going to help promote the production.

The short movie — featured in its first film festival, “Suspenseful Shorts,” in Mebane this coming weekend — was directed by award-winning North Carolina filmmaker Evan Kidd with a screenplay by local playwright Marilynn Barner Anselmi.

Rockset Productions was in town in March to film the short movie at the mill on the Tar River. The film tells the haunting story of modern-day construction workers who encounter the ghosts of slaves who were forced to work at the textile mill prior to the Civil War. One of the ghosts wanders the mill waiting on a promise. She believes a young construction worker is her long awaited teacher.

The mill, already home to a successful microbrewery, is being refurbished to serve as apartments, shops and restaurants.

Barner Anselmi said the mill really sells the story. She said the mill, “a real industrial cathedral,” is a great location in terms of cinematography.

“The impetus for writing the screen play came to me while working at our warehouse at the mill and looking across and wondering if I would ever see the face of a ghost of a former mill worker,” Barner Anselmi said. “I learned that many mills used slave labor, and the story grew from there.”

Daphne Trevathan, making her film debut as the main ghost, is the star of numerous local plays. She said filming at the mill before it was renovated makes the production special, like the movie is part of history.

“Learning Man” features several local actors in key roles, including Jayson Cross of Tarboro, who now lives in Atlanta and has several film credits. Actor Chris Powell, who once lived in Nashville, is also staring in the film. Besides the movie's lead roles, the production involved several local actors including Marion Stoga of Rocky Mount, Eric Hartley of Wilmington, and several local extras included children and volunteers from the Conetoe Family Life Center. Brooke Edwards, theatre director at the Imperial Centre, is a SAG member with numerous film and television credits.

Barner Anselmi collaborated with Kidd on her first short movie, “You Wouldn't Expect,” which has been in several national and one international film festivals. The movie, shot in Wilson in 2015, was named Best Film on Matters Relating to the Black Experience or Marginalized People at the 2016 Black International Cinema Festival in Berlin.

The play on which the movie is based, which recounts the experiences of four of the almost 8,000 victims of the N.C. Eugenics Program, is set in the backdrop of the 1960's America South. “Expect” was presented recently at the 2017 DC Black Theatre and Arts Festival in Washington, D.C., at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum. The D.C. version was the 17th production of the play, which has been performed in 10 states.

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