GREENBRIER COUNTY, W.Va. — A short movie filmed in West Virginia with the 2014 Freedom Industries chemical spill serving as a major plot point gets its Mountain State premiere on Saturday night in Greenbrier County.
“Crick in the Holler” will be shown at Lewisburg’s Lewis Theater, one of the locations for the original casting calls back in October 2016.
Behind the production is Ursula Ellis, the film’s writer and director, whose family roots run deep in southern West Virginia.
Her mom, Gena Ellis, a film co-producer, is originally from Summersville while her dad grew up in the Alderson and Pence Springs area.
“We were lucky enough to shoot in both of their hometowns, so we involved a lot of cast and crew members including members of my own family who never worked on a film before,” Ellis said.
Many of those who participated will be in Lewisburg on Saturday night.
“Crick in the Holler” tells the story of Dawn, a first-generation college student who is charged with the care of her rebellious young sister, Summer, for a weekend.
In the fictional account, Dawn becomes consumed instead by an investigation of the local water supply after witnessing early cleanup efforts at Freedom Industries on the Elk River when the spill is already in progress and the water beings to smell like licorice.
The Greenbrier River Watershed Association, Friends of the Lower Greenbrier River and Indian Creek Watershed Association are sponsoring Saturday’s 7 p.m. screening at the Lewis Theater. There is no charge for admission.
Taking questions at the event will be Ellis, her mom and Ben Gojer, producer.
On Monday, June 11 at 7 p.m., “Crick in the Holler” was scheduled to be screened at the Summersville Public Library.
Additional screening dates were expected to be added later including one in Charleston at the West Virginia International Film Festival’s Underground Cinema.
“We’d like to make it so that everyone who worked on the film or who heard about it on the news or is just interested in seeing it at all can make it to one of the screenings,” Ellis told MetroNews.
Rebeca Robles, the actor who plays Dawn, is now based in Atlanta, Ga. but was born in West Virginia.
Most of the other roles were portrayed by local actors who auditioned or were recruited, including Ellis’ own family members.
The movie was filmed in late 2016 at several West Virginia locations.
The main setting was at Ellis’ late grandfather’s farm near Pence Springs. Additional sites included Summersville Lake Retreat, a water treatment facility in Nallen and Anna’s Country Store located in Keslers Cross Lanes.
In addition to locations, Ellis said many businesses provided food and other supplies during filming.
“We worked with cast and crew members who are from all over,” she told MetroNews.
The short film is the MFA thesis project for Ellis who graduated from Columbia University in Oct. 2017.
It was screened at New York City’s Lincoln Center as part of the Columbia University Film Festival where it was awarded the IFP Audience Choice Award and Faculty Jury Honors.
Other festivals that have shown the film include Woodstock, Citizen Jane, Cucalorus, Beloit International, Green Mountain, Lone Star, Tupelo and North Shore Towers.
Eventually, Ellis said she would like to distribute the short film online.
“I feel good about the finished film but, even more so, I feel like our shoot in West Virginia was so successful and was a really gratifying process in itself,” she said.