A large portion of the upcoming film series “Grace” will be filmed in the Leesburg area in a series of buildings constructed by Howard Michael Davidson to resemble an old West town.
Davidson decided to make his plans for what he calls Red Oak Old West Town a reality after undergoing heart surgery in 2019. “I’d always thought about it for years and years, but after I had my four-way bypass I thought, well, ‘I’m going to go ahead and do it before I kick the bucket,’ so I went ahead and did it after I got sick,” said Davidson.
There are currently seven buildings in the town, and Davidson is still adding to the project his son, Garrett, has helped him build. “I’m not real fast anymore,” said Davidson. “I had some buildings built by the Amish outside of Maysville, Kentucky, and I’ve probably got about $30,000 in it right now.”
Davidson said the portion of “Grace” taking place at Red Oak Old West Town will be filmed when the project secures its remaining funding. It stars Nancy Stafford (“First Lady” and “Matlock”), Kathy Garver (“Old Man Jackson” and “Family Affair”), Tony Senzamici (“The Advocate” and “NCIS: New Orleans”), Tanya Christiansen (“I Still Believe” and “First Lady”) and Jim Damron (“Nashville” and “Forrest Gump”). It is being produced by Lisa L. Bennett.
“‘Grace’ originated from a story told to Lisa by her beloved grandmother, a missionary, and part of the film’s proceeds will be used to help in the town of War, West Virginia, where Lisa’s parents are missionaries. War is a coal mining town of approximately 900 people. It’s located in McDowell County which has the highest suicide rate in the country from drug overdoses,” according to www.gracethefilm.com. “When the coal mines began shutting down, the lack of jobs took a toll on families. Our goal is to help through furthering education so many can learn a new skill set, if desired, so they don’t have to depend on the coal industry or government to provide for their families.”
Davidson said he became involved in the movie business about seven years ago when he started buying water color paintings from late actor James Best, who played Roscoe P. Coltraine on “The Dukes of Hazzard.” He became friends with Best before his passing in 2015, and Best introduced him to the family-friendly films he was involved in.
“I ended up contacting some people about faith-based movies, so I started investing in faith-based movies,” said Davidson. “That’s how I got in contact with the different producers, and I got to be friends with several of the old ’60s and ’70s actors.”
Davidson has been involved with, either producing or acting in, more than 70 movies or short faith-based films. “They get shown in some of the down South rehabs and clinics,” he said. “Crisis intervention films is what they would probably be called.”
He said many of the films appear on CBS.
Red Oak Old West Town, at 12265 Antioch Rd., will host a free Easter egg hunt Saturday, April 15, and a Civil War re-enactment May 14 and 15. Davidson also plans to stage old West shootouts once a month and a car show in August.
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.