By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

Seeing a film shoot take place in Corsicana has been a regular part of life around town for the last few years. One of those films, the 2021 thriller Red Stone, directed by Derek Presley and produced by Jason Starne and Robert Johnson, will screen at 7 p.m. Friday Jan. 14, and Saturday Jan. 15, at Schulman’s Movie Bowl Grille, located at 3501 Corsicana Crossing Boulevard. For Friday’s showing, guests can take photos, and join the filmmakers for a Q&A session. Tickets can be purchased here.

The synopsis for the film is as follows:

“A dangerous hitman (Neal McDonough) is tasked with hunting down a teenager who witnessed the murder of his older brother at the hands of a ruthless Southern crime lord (Michael Cudlitz). The hired gun must track down the boy before either the rival henchmen or the F.B.I. find him first. As the hours tick down, the hitman begins to question his deadly ways and must choose which side he belongs to.”

Red Stone was filmed during the summer of 2020, during the height of the pandemic’s first wave, when safety and distancing protocols were still heavily in place for SAG-AFTRA productions. With the film completed and released to all major streaming services, producer Jason Starne wanted to do a showing in Corsicana as “a way to say ‘Thank you’ to the citizens of the city.”

Actor Neal McDonough stars as “Boon” in Red Stone. – Courtesy photo

Through an emailed interview, Starne offered the Navarro County Gazette a behind the scenes look at how the film came about, and how its Corsicana setting influenced production. 

What was your involvement and inspirations for the Red Stone project?

Starne: I’m one of the partners of Muscular Puppy (an independent film production company based in Fort Worth).  This was our second movie together as a company. We were actually in the process of finalizing the audio for the first feature when we started kicking around this idea for Red Stone. Then lo and behold, COVID-19 struck and everything shut down.

We had planned on shooting in Fort Worth and had already begun working on pre-production when SAG-AFTRA basically shut down Hollywood. This is how we ended up in Corsicana.

I was introduced to Robert Johnson through another one of our producers, Austin Williams, and off we went to Corsicana to scout. Corsicana had everything we needed and at the time very low COVID positives. This was a huge benefit and to learn about what Robert Johnson has done in the past it was a win-win. I offered him a Producer role, and he delivered for us.

What was it like doing a film production in Corsicana? Were there any advantages in making a thriller in a small town that offers both natural and city settings?

Starne: Corsicana had all the locations that we needed for this movie. Not only did we have the locations, we had support from the citizens. Bob and Amber McNutt, who I had been introduced to through RJ, actually invited me into their home to stay during the duration of the shoot and we have since become good friends. 

There were so many great little stories. On one particular day, we had a guy drop by and give our G&E crew a 12-pack to share at the end of the shoot day. I just don’t think we would have gotten that kind of love from a big city. Also being able to pack up and switch locations fast was a huge benefit. Time is money, and we could be at any set within a twenty-minute drive.

As Red Stone was your first collaboration with Robert Johnson, what was it like working with him? Had you known him prior to filming?

Starne: I just met him prior to shooting Red Stone. Austin Williams had worked with him in the past. I did hear of him and some of the stuff he was doing in Corsicana through some other mutual friends. I feel like I’ve known him my whole life though. He is as solid a person as they come.

Filming took place during lockdown when distancing protocols were still in place. How challenging was it in making a film where actors were spaced apart without making it look as such on screen?

Starne: Well, we were the first to make shoot a movie after SAG-AFTRA allowed the back to work order. We were developing the protocols with SAG-AFTRA prior to the shoot, and COVID was still a little bit of a mystery on how things could be done. 

We were safe and built a COVID safety bag for everyone. We stayed bubbled and masked up when we were inside.  We had our COVID cleaner and everyone just did their job. I had a great crew. You just have to be intentional about the safety protocols, and we were. 

No one got COVID on the Red Stone production. I have since produced the spiritual sequel of Red Stone, titled Boon, and we also made it through that production without anyone contracting COVID. 

What streaming platforms is Red Stone currently on?

Starne: Red Stone can be found on Apple, Amazon Prime, Vudu, Red Box, Spectrum, Hoopla, Google Play, Direct TV, and will be available this month on Blu-ray and DVD at all the major retailers. 

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