Filming is set to begin next week in New Iberia for a Lifetime Christmas movie starring Jana Kramer, of "One Tree Hill," and Percy Daggs III, of "Veronica Mars."
The film will also feature Barry Bostwick, who is best known for portraying Brad Majors in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and Mayor Randall Winston in "Spin City."
"This is a multi-generational love story," said the film's producer, Daniel Lewis. "This is a movie that's based in New Iberia, and it's a very sweet, uplifting movie about New Iberia."
The plot of the movie, which has a working title of "Christmas on the River," follows Kramer's character as she returns home to New Iberia for the holidays. The young woman attends the 50th annual Christmas Sugarcane Festival, where an 18-year-old male and female are recognized as royalty each year. For the milestone anniversary, all of the former kings and queens return to the festival, where a multigenerational love story unfolds.
The movie will be shot almost entirely in downtown New Iberia and along the Bayou Teche, which flows through the city.
Lewis, a native of Prairieville who currently lives in Madisonville, attended a wedding in New Iberia about 10 years ago. It's been in the back of his mind as a potential shooting location ever since.
"I remember it being a very charming town with people who were very welcoming and proud of their town," Lewis said. "That's always sort of been imprinted in my mind, so if I ever had a project that made sense for New Iberia, I wanted to bring it here if I could."
The look of the Main Street and the oak trees with moss are what stood out to Lewis.
The film's screenplay was written by Emily Moss Wilson, of Lake Charles, and Alys Murray, of Baton Rouge. Wilson is also the film's director.
"We've done a little bit of massaging to the script to make it more of a bayou as opposed to a river," Lewis said. "And now we're here."
Out of a film crew of about 50 people, about 30 to 35 will be staying overnight in area motels and hotels. The stats are similar for the cast.
The movie won't be set in a fictional town. It will be set in the actual city of New Iberia and will feature downtown businesses by name.
Last year, three Christmas movies were filmed in the Lafayette area. "The Christmas Contract" and "Hometown Christmas" aired on Lifetime. "Christmas Cupid's Arrow" aired on ION. Movies like these brought attention to filming locations such as Acadian Village and Le Barn Rouge.
"This is something that will be positive for the city of New Iberia," Lewis said. "It shows off the good we have to offer here. And I'm just happy to be a part of that endeavor to show off New Iberia in a positive light to the world."
Lifetime Channel begins airing holiday movies Oct. 25 and continues airing them through Christmas Day.
"These are feel good family movies that take you along for a ride and always end with a positive message and good feelings," Lewis said. "The world needs more of that, so that's why I love making these movies."
Lewis and his team at Active Entertainment are seeking the community's help with a few key parts of the filming process.
One of the most elaborate scenes in the film will be a Christmas boat parade on the Bayou Teche. The film crew is hosting a Christmas boat decorating contest to decide whose boats will be featured in the film.
Lead actors and actresses, including Kramer and Daggs, will be judging the contest.
A total of 10 boats will be picked for the scene, which will be filmed overnight Aug. 23-24. The winning entry will receive a grand prize of $1,000. The runner-up will receive $500. The remaining eight of the winning boats will receive $250 each.
Those interested in entering can submit photos of their boats along with contact information to email@example.com.
Those interested in being considered as extras in the movie can email firstname.lastname@example.org with full name, phone number, head shot, date of birth and availability.