Action/adventure movie filmed in Southampton

Published 4:05 pm Friday, March 8, 2024

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Southampton County resident Marshall DeBerry helped raise the profile of his home county by making it a site for filming on the new action/adventure movie “Gold Raiders,” which was recently released on Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube TV and Microsoft.

DeBerry served as executive producer on the independent, feature-length film, which follows treasure-hunting sisters Hera and Athena as they embark on a journey to find the legendary treasure of Blackbeard the pirate. 

As the movie plot summary reads on, “along the way they encounter shadowy figures and mystical relics. The sisters begin to believe that they aren’t alone in trying to find the treasure, and they have to use their wits and brawn to outwit and outmaneuver their murderous rivals.”

DeBerry’s small company, Dream Catcher Productions LLC, filmed “Gold Raiders” in June, July and August of 2019, first shooting in New Mexico, then in Virginia and then back in New Mexico.

He noted that in Southampton County, scenes were shot on the Nottoway River, at the Bronco Club, the Franklin Municipal Airport and in the South Quay/Forks of the River area.

Several local business’ services were utilized, he said, such as The Village at Woods Edge for catering, Blackwater Outfitters for river scenes, and the Quality Inn and Suites for lodging. 

“In addition, several landowners were gracious in giving their permission to us to allow access to their land or exterior buildings,” he said.

He explained how part of “Gold Raiders” came to be filmed in Southampton.

“A lot of that’s due to me,” he said. “I’m the executive producer, and the executive producers generally are the ones that fund development.”

He grew up in Southampton County, then left for a while, going to northern Virginia, and then came back and retired. Then he became interested in doing something locally in connection with film production.

“I always had an interest in film, and I felt that this area had a lot of rich history that wasn’t really being brought to the forefront, and I felt that doing something historical, because there’s such great locations here in the county, would help bring some attention to the area,” he said.

DeBerry is the connection that brought together a Southampton County-New Mexico production.

“Most all of our other cast and crew except for a few were out in New Mexico, and the reason for that is, when I was in northern Virginia, I knew someone that knew someone that was doing some film work in New Mexico, and just one thing led to another, and I was the one that said, ‘Hey, maybe we could do some sort of film work,’ and that’s why so many of the people are out there in New Mexico,” he said. “Because I had friends out there.”

He noted that New Mexico has also become quite active in the realm of filmmaking.

“There’s been a number of series, for example, a little bit of “Yellowstone” was filmed out there, as I understand it, and of course “Roswell, New Mexico” was filmed out there. There’s been a number of different movies and things, so that’s become quite a film production area, but there’s still a lot of independent-type film being done out there, so that also made it kind of useful to work with those people out there to try to do something in Virginia.

“Virginia, it has a film community as well, but it’s a bit more scattered around the state, and it’s still, I think, developing somewhat in its own form,” he added.

Joining DeBerry to talk about “Gold Raiders” with The Tidewater News in February was Jessica Jones, who served as a producer on the film.

“She’s been very integral to our small company, Dream Catcher Productions LLC,” DeBerry said. “We also produced a couple of other short films as well, and Jessica’s been actively involved in that as well.”

Jones, who was calling into the interview from New Mexico, explained that the independent film community allows for exciting growth and opportunity, and DeBerry’s visit to New Mexico served as a catalyst that drew the production team together.

“Me, for instance, I was catering on set prior to becoming part of the team, so it’s just really cool how that works out for the independent community out here,” she said.

Around 40 to 50% of “Gold Raiders” was filmed in Southampton County, and while Jones was not able to be on hand in Virginia during production, she did come out for location scouting.

“That was really inspiring to me,” she said. “I thought that was just really neat, the rich history out in Virginia. Some of the locations that we were able to see were just so beautiful, and it really brought out the sense of why we were making the film on Blackbeard, because there’s just so much rich history out there.”

DeBerry added, “And from my perspective, since (the film) was about Blackbeard, Blackbeard was the pirate that went up and down the coastal areas of Virginia and North Carolina in the early 1700s, and so the (film’s) premise was, of course, everybody thinks his treasure is buried like somewhere on the coast, but what if he sailed up the Albemarle Sound and then up to either the Nottoway or the Blackwater and buried it there, which is a what a lot of people don’t think. 

“Of course, growing up here, I knew, ‘Oh, these would be perfect locations to film that aspect of treasure hunting that we could do,’” he said.

He indicated that a house in Southampton that the film used for one of its shots had an exterior built around 1850 and an interior built around 1740-50.

“So there’s a lot of really old structures, really old things here that have withstood the test of time, but also make very good location settings for filming movies,” he said. “And of course, obviously, the whole swamp area, you don’t see that too much in movies. There’s been some movies that have done it, but a lot of this area looks very much, I would like to think, as it did back in the 1700s period of time.”

Prior to “Gold Raiders,” Dream Catcher Productions produced a short 15- to 20-minute film called “Sierra Sisters and the Hunt for Red Hand’s Treasure” that was filmed entirely in New Mexico.

The one-hour, 28-minute production “Gold Raiders” was originally titled “Sierra Sisters and the Hunt for Blackbeard’s Treasure,” but DeBerry noted that once his company found a distributor for the film, the distributor decided to make the change to the film’s present title.

“A lot of that’s due to the brevity of the title, so that it makes it easier on a streaming platform to quickly search for something,” he said.

Asked to describe the film to pique the interest of prospective audience members, DeBerry said, “It’s characterized as an action/adventure, but our distributor felt it reminded him of ‘Thelma & Louise.’”

Jones said she always thought of it as being similar to “National Treasure,” starring Nicolas Cage, indicating that there is mysticism, symbology and the hunt for heirloom-type treasure.

“It does have that lighthearted play to it, too, even given the gloomy scenes, which I thought was neat,” she said.

DeBerry said that the makers of the film aimed to delve into treasure hunting and cryptology.

“So in other words solving a puzzle, kind of thing,” he said. “And there’s a little bit of mysticism in it as well, but (those were) sort of the topic areas we were trying to get at.”

He noted that the film does leave room for a sequel down the road, if there is interest.

“Gold Raiders” is directed by Josh Relic and written by Casey Powers and Relic.