Ascension Parish attracts more independent film makers

Halen Doughty
Director Daniel Lafrentz (right) poses with co-writer Stephen Peltier on the set of "The Long Shadow."

Another group of filmmakers is taking over Ascension Parish. Crews are currently at work filming a new murder mystery in Donaldsonville, St. Amant, and other cities in the Capitol Region.

Cameras rolled at Peter Lemann's Palo Alto Plantation in Donaldsonville, as well as DeeDee DiBenedetto's Lake Martin home in St. Amant.

DeBenedetto played a huge role in bringing the film crew to Ascension Parish. She works as a private investigator who specializes in historical sites. She works with movie scouts who find filming locations for upcoming productions, which is how she came to meet director Daniel Lafrentz.

"You couldn't help but fall in love with them," said DiBenedetto. "They're a young crew, and they're so sweet."

After speaking with Lafrentz, he brought his crew to Palo Alto and to her residence in St. Amant as well. She encouraged the crew to film as much of the movie as they could at Palo Alto, which saved them some production money in the long run. Crews filmed in every room of the bed and breakfast, as well as the barn, the sugar cane fields, and the office. DiBenedetto added the crew enjoyed interacting with the spirits at the Donaldsonville plantation home.

"Some of the crew captured paranormal figures in some photos. We have a lot of paranormal activity here," she said. "It kind of freaked them out, but they enjoyed it."

Lafrentz said the movie, "The Long Shadow," tells the story of a newly-minted female deputy who is in a secret relationship with a female attorney who is trying to protect homeowners from a deal that could displace them from their homes. Things go south in a big way when the attorney is found murdered.

Last week's snow storm interrupted filming in D'ville. Lafrentz said they even had to rework an entire part of the movie after the cold killed the sugar cane fields at the plantation. The winter weather shut down production for a few days, and the team had to get creative to make things work when bridges were iced over, preventing much of the crew from getting to the set.

This is Lafrentz's third movie to be shot in Louisiana, as the California native has ties to Lafayette. He said he loves working in the Bayou State, which is home to some of the best crews anywhere in the South. Some of the cast and crew are Louisiana natives themselves, including co-writer Stephen Peltier, who spent his summers in Donaldsonville when he was growing up.

Louisiana served as inspiration for the film, which delves into the paradox of being both progressive and traditional. Set in the small fictional town of Pont Minou, the story examines the rippling effects an event can have in a town where everyone knows everyone. The film deals with themes of identity, inequality, and desperation. Peltier said the goal was to create a feeling of empathy for both the protagonist and antagonists in the film, as nothing is black and white even when race is involved.

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