There I was in the Cancun Mexico airport, hungry, with three hours to kill before flying home after a soul-nourishing Christmas vacation in Tulum. There’s nothing like a loud, fluorescently blinding, over air-conditioned airport terminal to kill the vacation vibe. I felt even sorrier for all the other travelers having to return to a miserable January in Minnesota and Wisconsin (their Packers and Vikings-wear gave them away, along with their sunburns.)
And then I spotted the Bubba Gump Seafood Restaurant near gate C18. It was an attitude check, however commercial, that I was lucky to be returning to a place so lovely it stars in movies like Forrest Gump. I confess it was my first time dining at the chain where you order your food by flipping a license plate sign on your table to signal waiters: “Run Forrest Run.” The friendly, mandatory, “How y’all doing?” was giggle inducing, coming from a young woman with an accent from much farther South. And then it happened. I looked up and saw a faux-country-framed photograph of my good friend, Marlena Smalls, on the front porch of a house on Lady’s Island. It was a publicity still depicting the moment before “Bubba’s mother” passes out.
She still looks the same, almost twenty years later, and so does the house. In fact it’s the location for this Saturday’s Beaufort International Film Festival’s fundraising oyster roast. For the price of two burgers at the Cancun Airport’s Bubba Gump restaurant, you can eat fresh Lowcountry oysters “on location” of one of Hollywood’s most iconic films.
There haven’t been many movies made in Beaufort since then, which is something the festival’s director is trying to fix. Ron Tucker has managed to get every filmmaker whose work is an official selection of the festival to actually come to Beaufort for the screenings. It makes for an incredible Q&A session after each movie, and more importantly, it exposes the most promising new filmmakers to everything that is beautiful about Beaufort. With any luck, and with better incentives from the state, they’ll end up filming future masterpieces here again.
Who knows, maybe one of them will direct my latest screenplay. It’s a romantic comedy called “The Wedding Photographer” and takes place in Beaufort. I won’t give the plot away (you’ll have to come to the screenwriter’s roundtable on Feb 16th to hear actors stage an excerpt) but you’ll get a taste if you come to the oyster roast fundraiser. The band playing as we all shuck oysters and eat chili is a local favorite, Kirk Dempsey and his Side Street Walkers. Guess who I’ve written into the final scene of my screenplay? So come on out and maybe you’ll be able to say you saw them play, at Bubba’s Momma’s house, before they made it big on the silver screen.