For a decade, Conway’s Justin Blake Crum has been working on a script close to his heart.
Now, years later, the writer and filmmaker is finally able to put action to words.
The family-drama narrative, “Papaw’s Land,” is a coming of age story about a 17-year-old boy on the verge of adulthood who visits his grandfather for the summer after a trying year.
Crum said throughout that time he’s there, the young man learns things about himself and his family’s past that he didn’t know before. Through this, he said, he’s forced to look at his family and look at the path ahead of him and decide his next step into the future.
Crum said the story the story started developing when he was living in Los Angeles, California, in his early 20s after moving there to attend film school.
Originally from Stafford, Virginia — population 4,320 as of 2010 — Crum is no stranger to the natural beauty of small-town life and, after a while, started growing nostalgic toward his upbringing and those summers he spent with his grandfather.
He started writing the story, which evolved over time and also ended up as a second-round selection for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, doing fairly well there, he said.
“It was one of those things where I’d come back to it every few years,” Crum said.
About a year ago, he said, he picked it back up after feeling like God wanted to pursue the story more.
“For a long time, the ending just wasn’t there and [it] always bothered me,” he said. “I really thought this project was dead a few years ago so it was totally something that’s come roaring back to life unexpectedly and it’s been a nice surprise.”
Crum said the ending finally came to him last summer and now, after months of seeking, said they’ve been able to secure a local cast, with the desire of authenticity to the story, natural-state locations for the film, crew members from the area and more.
“I feel like people will see this and see their own family members in these cast members and hopefully relate to them in a way they wouldn’t with a typical actor,” he said.
To finally be on the path to making something 10 years into the making, Crum said, is a little unreal.
“I don’t have much time to think about it right because it’s so busy, but when I do take a minute to step back it’s pretty amazing that it’s come this far and everything’s pointing toward the direction to be able to do it,” he said.
Crum — he spent years in Hollywood and realized his desire wasn’t to make the big blockbuster type movies — said the ultimate goal is to make one film after the other and hopes to do that locally.
“There’s more stories and more scripts and plenty of talent around here to support it so we’re hoping to just keep kind of giving people a window into this area,” he said.