By Al Quartemont, Special to the Message
PINEVILLE - "Green Acres is the place for me..."
It was those words that Eddie Albert sang at the beginning of every episode of the hit 1960s television series. And now it could be that Green Acres will be the place that launches Louisiana College into the movie industry.
During a campus visit by Green Acres actor Tom Lester (Eb Dawson) and Beverly Hillbillies star Donna Douglas (Ellie May Clampett), LC Vice President of Institutional Advancement, Tim Johnson, announced that the college, which is also actively pursing the development of a film school, has entered into an agreement to produce and market "Green Acres, The Movie," a feature film adaptation of the original comedy series.
"We are concerned about the culture," Johnson said. "We believe that if we will ever impact the culture, we will do it through the media."
That message struck a chord with Lester, now 72, who has seen the entertainment industry change dramatically since the abandonment of the Motion Picture Protection Code (also known as the Hays Code) which governed the industry until the late 1960s.
"So many times when I talk to people, they ask me why we don't have any clean entertainment anymore," Lester said. "The great thing about Louisiana College is that it has that vision that America needs to make America great again."
Lester, who grew up and still lives in Mississippi, was drawn to talk with LC when he heard about the college's pursuit of a film school. During a meeting with Johnson and LC President, Dr. Joe Aguillard, Lester asked if LC had any specific projects in mind. When the two of them told him they had nothing concrete, Lester suggested the Green Acres movie script.
That script is currently under the ownership rights of long-time Hollywood director Richard Bare, now 97. Bare, who directed all 168 episodes of Green Acres, acquired the creative rights to the show from the widow of series creator Jay Sommers. Lester is now involved in helping to finalize the script along with an editor /writer who also worked on the TV show.
In its most ambitious timeline, the Green Acres movie would begin shooting this summer with outdoor scenes shot in Central Louisiana, indoor scenes filmed in one of the studios in Shreveport. Lester said that Louisiana College students would be used to help film produce the movie and that "extras" would be selected from the area as well. Johnson noted that the movie would need to be filmed and edited in Louisiana to take advantage of the state's aggressive tax breaks for filmmakers.
There is one major factor before all this can become a reality: money. According to Johnson, the film project will cost $10 million, what he admits is an "ambitious goal."
"We're getting a lot of verbal support," Johnson said. "We have not been quite as successful with the financial support, but we have talked with many people who have expressed an interest, and we are optimistic because of the history of Green Acres."
And Lester noted that LC would have a distinct advantage in the marketing of the movie - the fact that the Green Acres name would already sell itself.
"The potential is incredible for Louisiana College," Lester said. "The have the room, they have the vision, and God is blessing this college. If it's God's will for this to work out, there's no telling what could happen."