It was a mild August afternoon as Ron McPeake sat beneath a pavilion behind his Evans home overlooking the placid Euchee Creek.
As he purposefully spoke to Arline Swanson, he raised the sandwich to his mouth.
The sandwich was tempting, but McPeake could not bite it. It was a prop.
McPeake, bearing the sheriff's badge of the fictitious county of Uchee Creek on his chest, and Swanson are were filming a scene for a film written by McPeake titled The Ballad of Uchee Creek .
"This is Uchee County," McPeake said surveying his Hardy Pointe property. "It starts at the curb and goes back to the water."
McPeake, who moved to Evans from San Antonio five years ago, fell in love with the view on the property before the home was built. That view, McPeake said, was the inspiration for the movie's screenplay, which recently wrapped up filming in Columbia, Richmond, Edgefield and Aiken counties.
"I tried to write a song for Euchee Creek and I ended up with this movie," said McPeake, who was into acting and writing songs and screenplays before his move from Texas. "Everybody dies in the original story. I used to call it the perfect country and western movie, because everybody died."
McPeake, who was going to make the movie himself, said he couldn't because an injury left him with impaired vision. He teamed up with Evans filmmaker Chris Forbes, of Forbes Film, to edit the screenplay and get the movie made.
The film follows Uchee County Sheriff Sam Carter, played by McPeake, and his family's troubles. Carter's son, Tommy Lee, is in love with Stella, but is shipped off to Iraq with his National Guard unit.
While he's gone, Carter's other son, wild child Bobby Jack, who is asked to watch over Stella, gets drunk and rapes her, resulting in a pregnancy.
When Tommy Lee returns to Uchee County, he finds his love has married Bobby Jack. Drama ensues when a friend sees the former flames kissing and numerous characters end up dead or close to it.
Forbes said the film, set in some tranquil areas of Columbia County, shows the turmoil that often goes on below the surface of such serene environments.
"I was attracted to the story because of the characters," Forbes said. "Any time you've got good characters and good dialogue, in a lot of ways, that is the reason to do the movie. Not so much because of the type of movie it is or whatever. I'm attracted to the story. I'm attracted to the characters."
The Ballad of Uchee Creek is Forbes' ninth feature film, following many Civil War epics shot across South Carolina, so being able to film close to home on a quick 45-day shoot was nice, he said. Forbes said he also enjoys the flexibility that comes with independent filmmaking, as opposed to Hollywood films.
Filming for the movie started in early July and included shooting at the courthouse in Evans, a Columbia County Sheriff's Office substation in Evans and at McPeake's home and property.
As with most independent films set in suburbia, Forbes said the sounds were the hardest to get right -- avoiding constant distractions, including barking dogs, planes, neighborhood basketball games and ringing wind chimes.
"Most of the film has been shot in Columbia County," Forbes said.
Additional scenes were shot in a Beech Island biker bar and at a hospital in Edgefield County in South Carolina. "Everything is coming along really well. ... We were able to review all the footage. I am really pleased with what we have."
With shooting wrapped, Forbes is taking on the editing of the movie with hopes for a fall or winter premier.
Most of his other films have premiered at the Imperial Theatre downtown. But Forbes said he hopes the first showing of The Ballad of Uchee Creek will take the big screen at a closer venue, such as the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center in the Columbia County Library.
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