Filming under way on 'More Than Conquerors' movie in Brownwood

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
Dennis Williams of May, portraying the first mate on a 17th-century English ship, waits for the director's call for "action" during the filming of a scene from the movie "More Than Conquerors" in Brownwood.

Quiet on the set ... roll sound ... mark it.

Rolling!

On the set of a movie that's being filmed partially in Brownwood, Jessica Munger called out those commands as the cast and crew of the faith-based movie "More Than Conquerors" prepared to film a scene. The setting: the deck of an English sailing ship in 1622 as the ship nears Jamestown, Va.

A large section of a warehouse behind Wes-Tex Printing on Stephen F. Austin has been transformed into a movie set — three sets, actually: the ship's deck, the hold of the ship and the admiral's cabin. The scenes filmed in Brownwood will comprise about 10 minutes of the entire movie, which will also be filmed in Virginia.

Munger and her husband, Eric, of Winston-Salem, N.C., are the unit production manager team as well as the first assistant director team.

Daniel Nuckols, executive producer and director of the movie "More Than Conquerors," walks on the Brownwood set.

Daniel Nuckols is the film's executive producer and director. "Show me anger," Nuckols urged Dennis Williams of May, who portrays the bellicose first mate on the Jamestown-bound ship.

"You clumsy brute! What ails you!" Williams, attired in the fashion of a 17th-century sailor, bellowed as sailors struggled to carry heavy loads across the ship's deck. "Get a move on, man!"

***

"This is a project I’ve been working on for almost five years," Nuckols said. "It’s something God gave me back in 2017. I feel like God led me to write a story about Jamestown."

Nuckols and his company, Nicol Films, have had help from local residents including Steve Blake of Wes-Tex Printing, Nick Ewing and the Howard Payne University theatre department, Joe Dennis of May and his son Caleb, and Dennis Williams Justin and John.

The Arts Council helped secure a $2,000 grant which paid for lodging for the cast and crew at the Heart of Texas Baptist Encampment., KXYL-Radio reported.

“The story is set in the 1600s and it’s a faith based movie on Romans 8, and it’s to help Christians with the theology of suffering – why do bad things happen, how we can become more than conquerors through Chirst," Nuckols said.

Eric and Jessica Munger are the unit production manager team and first assistant director team. Eric Munger also plays the role of a sailor.

Nuckols explained the film's connection to Romans 8, noting the scripture's theme of overcoming.

In the storyline, the leading character, Susannah Atwood — played by Kristin Mathis of Tennessee — is a passenger on the ship and she is sailing to be reunited with her parents in the New World. She is accompanied by her cousin, Bekah, played by Sophia Marie Hart of Virginia.

"There’s a love interest, and a romantic story, where there’s a man who proposes to Susannah," Nuckols said. "The hook in the story is  that she rejects him and he’s actually enslaved by the Barbary pirates for four years. She actually frees him by selling her ring that he gave her. So there’s suffering in his past where he’s enslaved by the Barbary pirates, but there’s also going to be a theme of African American slavery in the colonies, where they came  in 1619 and we want to show that slavery’s evil."

•••

After months of pre-production work, filming began for the first time Monday.

A visitor stepping inside the warehouse-turned-movie set will encounter a fascinating vista of equipment, tripods, lights and cameras, with sections set aside for activities including makeup, hair and costumes. The atmosphere was relaxed, and crew and cast members, while focused on their jobs, took the time to be friendly.

Mathis, the Tennessee actress who plays Susannah Atwood, said her movie character comes from England but has no hometown.

Cast and crew members gather for a meeting and prayer before beginning another day of filming Wednesday.

Mathis said her background is theatre, which is performed live and brings “a totally different type of energy" from film acting. "In theatre you get to be a lot more expressive, a lot more exaggerated," Mathis said. "Film Is a lot more subtle, subdued, internal. You still get to do a lot of the same things, just pivoting to be a little bit more subtle."

Kristin Mathis (left), who plays Susannah Atwood, and Sophia Marie Hart, who plays Susannah's cousin Bekah, prepare for the filming of a scene.

But there are similarities, Mathis said. "There’s a lot going on backstage that nobody sees. Here, there’s so much going on behind the camera that you never see and focuses on this one little area."“

Hart, the Virginia actress who plays Bekah, agreed, saying film acting is “so different from stage acting because all he focus is on this one little moment. I don’t think people realize how much goes into one scene. It can be four seconds of the movie. But you have to film those four seconds from six different angles and then each angle can take anywhere from one take if you’re lucky to, I think, we’ve gone up to 12 takes before getting something.”

She said the crew goes "back and forth" between referring to the cast by their characters' names and real names. That can be confusing because the film's sound mixer is named Bekah. “When someone calls 'Bekah,' are they calling for sound or character?" Hart said. "And we have a Kristin and a Krista.”

•••

Nuckols said filming should be wrapped up in Virginia this fall. He isn't yet sure how the film will be distributed.

 “If a big name were to come on board, it could be widespread release," Nuckols said. "But if not, it could go kind the indie route of church showings, and more online. It really depends on where God takes it.”

•••

"Quiet on set ... roll sound ... waiting on train ..."

From the train tracks near the warehouse, the rumble of a locomotive prompted a short delay in filming.

Through multiple takes of his scene, Williams, playing the ship's first mate, bellowed his lines, never losing his voice.

"Now get this picked up, you slow brute!"

"Cut," Nuckols called out. "That's good. Very good."

More information about the movie is available at www.mtc the movie.com