David Roop, right, looks over a scene with one of the “Muddy Waters” crew members.
David Roop has decided to create a film with some local friends based on a piece of literature he read about 10 years ago.
The film, titled “Muddy Waters,” is an adaptation of Dudley Randall’s poem “Ballad of Birmingham,” which is based on the Birmingham, Ala., bombing tragedy of 1963. The explosion killed four African American girls at 16th Street Baptist Church during a time when racial tensions were high as a campaign was under way to register more African Americans to vote in Birmingham.
“I read the poem about 10 years ago and just really loved the story, so it’s based on that poem,” said Roop, who is originally from Blountville. “It’s just a really tragic story.”
Roop said a major difference in the movie and the historical event is the combination of all four victims into one main character.
“We’ve taken a lot of liberties with the story,” Roop said. “It’s based more on the poem than it is based on the actual event.”
Research was conducted for about a month and a half, he said.
“Some of the victims are still alive, which is why we’ve changed some of the facts out of respect for them,” Roop said.
Although the original script was written by Roop, he said making the film is a group effort.
“I wrote it and then we had different people edit it,” he said. “It’s been going on for about six months now. It’s been in pre-production.”
About 20 people, including actors and a production crew, are involved in making the film.
“Most of the people involved are local but we also have some people from Knoxville as well,” he said. “We’ve had great luck with getting actors and almost everyone we’ve went after to act in this has worked with us. We’ve got a really great cast.”
Roop said the film’s production requires support from local establishments and many hours of volunteered time from crew and actors.
“We’re not going under a film production name for this one,” Roop said. “A lot of people are volunteering their time and they have their own production companies.”
On their second day of filming recently, volunteers helped set up loads of bricks behind Trinity Taxi on South Boone Street to create the scene after the bomb exploded.
“This is going to be the rubble site after the bomb has gone off,” Roop said.
With scenes lined up for spots throughout the Tri-Cities, Roop said Johnson City offers locations necessary to create the film’s aesthetic.
“There are a lot of buildings that match with the time frame and texture we are shooting for,” Roop said. “We’re shooting all over the Tri-Cities. We shot some scenes in Elizabethton last week.”
Roop said filmmaking is currently a hobby he hopes to turn into a full-time job.
“I’m trying to make a career out of this,” he said.
For now, Roop and his crew aim to gain recognition by entering “Muddy Waters” into national and international film festivals as well as a Knoxville-based film festival.
“We’re hoping to gain notoriety on the festival circuit and win some awards with it to help secure funding for future projects,” Roop said.
After the “Muddy Waters” final cut is complete in September, Roop said he is already brainstorming an idea for the next endeavor, which is expected to be a romantic drama.
“I want to make films that are based on a good story,” he said.
For more information about the film, visit www.muddywatersmovie.com.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Roop has previously lived in Los Angeles. Roop has been in Tennessee for the past three years.