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Two Saltillo filmmakers say Mississippi film scene is growing

Avidity
A scene from “Avidity.”

Dylan Barnett
Oxford Stories

With many people practicing “social distancing” because of the coronavirus, it isn’t difficult to think about the many dystopian films that have been released over the years.

Two friends from Saltillo are contributing to Mississippi’s film scene with sophisticated films and a passion for the art, and one of their first was about “a boy looking for water in a post-apocalyptic world caused by drought.”

Dylan Craig McCalla, 22, and Patrick Raiford, 21, have made films for their YouTube channel, the Robigo Bros. Their first film “Drought” won an Audience Favorite Award at the Tupelo Film Festival.

They have made many more films since its release, such as their newest “Avidity.” McCalla describes it as “four people who are pulled into a robbery by different agendas.”

“Back in high school, my brother was as a big inspiration because he started out making dumb little videos on YouTube and stuff like that,” McCalla said, “and it looked like a lot fun, so we decided to get into it.

“Then he started making more serious films, and I’ve always had a love for movies growing up. That was 90 percent of what I did was movies and video games. There was a lot of character building and emotional attachment.”

He said Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplain, Jim Carrey, and Robin Williams have been his biggest inspirations. Seeing “Drought” on the big screen was a huge “gotcha” moment, he said.

Raiford’s passion for filmmaking started similarly. He cites directors, such as George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright, the Russo Brothers and actors like Brad Pitt, Harrison Ford, Chris Evans, and Johnny Depp as inspirations. His connection to God, however, provides the most passion and inspiration. 

“I’ve always loved going to the movie theater, and in 8th grade, I started making stop motion films with my dad’s camera and a bunch of Legos. From there, I started making short films with my best friend, Dylan McCalla, for local film festivals and our YouTube channel,” 

A scene from "Drought."
A scene from “Drought.”

McCalla said the two had a small start with only a few people helping produce their films and minimal equipment. However, they have improved their craft and met met many people who help in their endeavors, especially from the Itawamba Community College Film Club.

“It kind of depends on your job, but for us right now, the biggest thing about making short films is that you have to do 90% of the work yourself,” said McCalla. “On a film set, you have to have the script written so everybody knows what is going on.

“You have to have the locations and stuff, and once you find the location, you need actors. You need somebody to hold the camera, to hold the microphone, and a bunch of other jobs that sell the film that we did not have at the time when we made ‘Drought.'”

There were five characters and only three people working on the film, McCalla said, so two of the actors played two characters each.

“We all took turns holding the camera, so none of us were on the screen at the same time,” he said. “We did not have a microphone, so we just had to use the audio from the camera, which is awful.”

Today, the process has evolved. Their film “Avidity” was 30 minutes long instead of less than 10. They collaborated with other writers on the script and revised it many times before scouting film locations.

“We had four characters, so we had four actors,” McCalla said. “Therefore, nobody had to repeat. We had a camera person. We had somebody doing the audio, which is holding the microphone. We had lighting. We had an assistant to the camera. We had a friend there just to help with the process and another friend dump the footage from all the SD cards for the next scenes.” 

They have acted in several other films made by ICC Film Club members. McCalla recently auditioned for a Western and said he would love to play a cowboy or superhero.

Raiford also has film goals. He wants to evoke feeling in viewers.

“Whether that’s happy, sad, excited, scared, inspired, or even confused,” he said. “I want them to go through a whole range of emotions throughout a showing.

“I want people to enjoy all the things I make, but I also want all of this to honor and make the Lord happy in the process – to do the best I can with the abilities he gave me and made me with. So even if I don’t impress people or find anyone who likes what I make, as long as I can make him proud, I’ll call it all a success at the end of the day.” 

While some might say Mississippi is slow to change, others believe the many artists who live and create here defy that idea.

“There is some truth to that,” said McCalla. “. . . A lot of people that I grew up around are the type of people to just get a job and provide for your family, or join the military, or whatever you got to do to get by.

“That’s a noble thing, and I admire people who do that, but I think it is also noble to find art that you are really passionate about and to change the world in that way as well.

“So I think Mississippi can be slow to change, but that change is being made because film is becoming more of a prevalent thing in Mississippi. I just auditioned for 12 feature films that are being shot right here in Mississippi for a couple of film challenges.”

While the film scene seems to be growing in Mississippi, Raiford said he believes many also move away to seek more opportunities.

“I am an example of that,” he said. “I am moving to Georgia to live in Atlanta, which is the biggest film hub in America. Most films are shot in Atlanta.

“Maybe someday, we can bring our operation back to Mississippi, but I feel like what we are doing is what most artists are: ‘I really want to be an artist. I really want to be a painter. I really want to be an actor, or a writer, or a novelist, so I need to move to New York or Los Angeles or Orlando, or something or somewhere like that.

“They want to be anywhere but here, so they move away rather than trying to change the place where they live – because change takes a long time, and it takes a lot of people, so it is very hard to do it by yourself. It’s scary, so people move to places where it’s already established and get in on the action rather than establish it somewhere it is not.”

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