WAYCROSS, Georgia — Camera crews filming a big screen movie is not a common site in the little town of Waycross. Yet, the town's charm was enough to convince a director as the right place to make his movie.
"Our whole town is excited," Waycross salon owner Jamie McQuaig said. "It's surreal."
McQuaig is how director Randall Emmett, best known as the producer of Martin Scorsese's "The Irishman," was familiar with the small Georgia town.
"Years back, my fiancé, Lala, had been invited to a hair salon that was in Waycross to make an appearance. We went and she did this appearance. I just remember the town is you know, very unique and very small and very, very welcoming," Emmett explained. "Two years later, I had this movie, and we were going to originally shoot in Columbus, Georgia, and the town was just too big. It wasn't kind of how I imagined it. We were there scouting. I said to everybody, why don't we fly over to Waycross. I remember this town, let's go see it."
He decided Waycross was the perfect spot to finish the movie, which was also filmed in Puerto Rico. He got a warm southern welcome when he arrived.
"We landed the plane in Waycross and the mayor was there, and the political leaders and all types of people. It was so perfect, and they were so kind. They had a welcome reception," Emmett said. "It's such a beautiful town and has all of the little things that matter in life. You know, the little mom and pop shops, and the people are welcoming and the town square and all those things that you don't get to see as much today in the United States."
The movie, called "Wash Me in the River," is a dramatic thriller starring Robert De Niro, Jack Huston, John Malkovich, Quavo and Willa Fitzgerald, but not all of the stars have scenes in Waycross. The film crew has been in town for about two weeks. Saturday will be the third and final day of filming.
Each day locals have come to watch the action, and some will even appear on the big screen.
"We had all local extras," Emmett said. "We even gave some of the people from Waycross speaking lines. We shot at a fun park with go karts and roller skating, and we gave a bunch of local people one line or two lines, so it was a lot of fun. People were really, really excited to be part of the whole thing."
The goal he said is for the movie to hit theaters this fall, and he wants to come back to Waycross for a screening.
"I want to bring more stuff back here. It's really nice to shoot in a community where everybody's excited," Emmett said. "I think this is a good jumping off point for Waycross. I see much more film in the future, and I've even discussed possibly building a studio here, so we'll see."
A potential economic boom for city that McQuaig said has already seen a big impact.
"From rental companies to dry cleaning, all the hotels are full, you know, restaurants are booming. It looks like this, you know, the city is just alive. And everybody's so excited," McQuaig said. "Everything fell together because the whole town has just helped out so much. It definitely affected the city in a great way."