Richmond Hill: Coming Soon to a screen near you

Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 11:54 AM EDT
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RICHMOND HILL, Ga. (WTOC) -Buck Meeks is the curator of Myrtle Grove in Richmond Hill and has seen Oscar gold captured once on the property. He’s hoping to see something similar when a new series debuts on Amazon Prime.

“The Underground Railroad” will be released May 14. Academy Award winner Barry Jenkins directed the series shot on the property in Richmond Hill. The Civil War-era series harkens back to the first time Myrtle Grove appeared on screen.

“For us, it started with “Glory” in 1989, and that was of course the Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman picture,” Meeks said. “I like to say Denzel Washington earned his Oscar on my front lawn.”

Washington won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance as Pvt. Trip in the 1989 film, “Glory.” Jenkins arrived at Myrtle Grove to shoot his Civil War-era series 30 years later.

“We’re having lunch, and I was telling Barry [Jenkins] about, you know, Denzel [Washington] working here,” Meeks said. “He pulls out his phone, scrolls through and hits dial. ‘Brother Washington, you’ll never guess where I am.’”

The location may be the same, but Meeks has learned a great deal about the movie industry and how much he has to offer.

He’ll be sharing his insights into filmmaking on location and the impact these productions have local communities during a dinner lecture hosted by the Richmond Hill Historical Society. Meeks will be speaking at the dinner Monday, May 17 from 6:00-9:00 p.m. The dinner and lecture will be held at Bubba’s Bistro in Richmond Hill. Tickets and more information are available here.

“I remember the first time I saw the front facade of the old house here on a big screen and it literally took my breath away,” Meeks said.

The house made appearances in “Glory” in 1989, “The General’s Daughter” in 1999 and “Four Senses” in 2012. Everything for Meeks and Myrtle Grove changed in 2015 when Nate Parker chose the property to shoot his film, “Birth of a Nation.” The film tells the story of the slave rebellion led by Nat Turner in 1831.

“What Nate [Parker] did was he took about 200 photographs of the house, the grounds, the oak trees, and the space,” Meeks said. “When he made his pitch he said ‘This is what I want to say and this is where we’ll say it,’ and the checkbooks opened.”

These days, Meeks markets the entire 700 acre property: the roads in the woods, oak groves with no modern intrusion, and swampland a short walk from a parking lot for a production company.

“Sometimes I get a call, ‘I hear you’ve got a really spooky swamp,’” Meeks said. “Yes we do. Let me show it to you.”

Meeks says productions like “Birth of a Nation” and “The Underground Railroad” make a significant investment in the local economy.

“The lumber for this set that we’re in, was milled in Pooler at Shearouse Lumber Company,” Meeks said in reference to slave cabins built for “Birth of a Nation.”

“You’re going to feed, sometimes 400 people, two meals a day out here,” Meeks said. Caterers are going to work and that means that the grocery money gets spent Richmond Hill, Georgia.”

Myrtle Grove has been home to more than a half dozen projects in as many years and Meeks has plans to see that level of activity continue in the future.

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