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Faulkner Movie-Maker Supports Oxford Film Festival

Lee Caplin is founder and chairman of Picture Entertainment Corporation, co-owner of Keystone Studios and author of the book The Business of Art.

Lee Caplin at Rowan Oak/ photo courtesy of the Wall Street Journal
Lee Caplin at Rowan Oak/ photo courtesy of the Wall Street Journal

In Oxford, however, he is best known as the Executive Producer of the literary estate of William Faulkner. Caplin says, “Being executor for Mr. Faulkner’s estate is a fiduciary responsibility, so not only must I try to maximize opportunities for revenue but I must take care to protect his legacy and aesthetic.”
Caplin’s relationship with Faulkner dates back to the 1950’s when the two were neighbors. Faulkner used to watch Caplin play little league baseball. Having such a personal connection to the family, Caplin takes the writer’s name very seriously. “People who want to license quotes must use them in proper context,” he said. “Nothing can diminish or depreciate his reputation. Even the issue of whether or not to have a gift shop at Rowan Oak was a long, thought-out decision.”
Caplin has been involved with the Oxford Film Festival for five years and was asked back this year as a judge. This time he was most impressed with the great turnout and excited to see that the festival had more than 500 entry applications. Today, most festivals only get around 80 to 100.
“I think out of all the judges I have an unusual position in the community because I represent the literary estate of Oxford’s most famous son, William Faulkner,” says Caplin.
Caplin added that most of his trips to Oxford involve Faulkner in one way or another. “Even while I was here as a judge for the feature-length documentary division of this festival, I was also doing work for the Faulkner family, helping it organize its affairs and solidifying the relationship that the Faulkner family has with the Oxford community.”
In the past, Caplin brought several Faulkner-related films to Oxford and to Mississippi.
Caplin is responsible for producing William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, starring James Franco. He is currently filming The Sound and the Fury in the Carrollton/Greenwood area, also with Franco. The next project that the pair is looking forward to is the film adaptation of Faulkner’s short story, The Bear.
Until then, Caplin will be working on a film in China based on a political event that took place in World War II. He is also involved in the production of the current HBO series filmed in New Orleans called True Detective. “The series is inspired by a World War II-era film style detective magazine that I’ve owned and published for years,” Caplin says. “HBO and I struck a deal to collaborate in this some time back and I’m very pleased with how it turned out.”
In the future, Caplin has hopes of remaking the movie Intruder in the Dust, based on William Faulkner’s 1948 novel.
Intruder in the Dust premiere at The Lyric theater in Oxford, Miss.
Intruder in the Dust premiere at The Lyric theater in Oxford, Miss.

“Several years ago, I arranged for the screening of the movie called Intruder in the Dust, which had been filmed in 1949 and hadn’t been seen since then,” Caplin says. “We wanted to have it screened at The Lyric theater where it first had its world premiere. It was an actual Hollywood premiere at The Lyric back in 1949!”
Warner Brothers, the production company and owner of Intruder in the Dust, wasn’t agreeable to releasing a print of the film at first, but Lee Caplin made it happen.
“It turned out my cousin is the general counsel of Warner Brothers,” he says. “So, I was able to call and beg him to give us a print, which they released and sent down here. We had a filled theater and showed the print and raised money for Oxford Film Festival.”
Caplin hopes his good friend, Morgan Freeman, will be the star of the film because Freeman has such a love for the novel. It was the first book he read after graduating high school, before joining the military. Caplin says it would be a great honor to work with him on this project.
However, the recreation of this film has proved a difficult task for Caplin and his partner in this effort, Clarksdale Mayor Bill Luckett. One of the main concerns regarding the making of this movie is finding the best location to film. Authenticity is of great importance when it comes to a Faulkner film. Caplin says that he would love to use the Oxford Square, but the modern parking spaces make it difficult to hide it’s contemporary style.
“Making an independent film is harder than making a studio film in some respects because you have to follow a certain budget,” he says. “You also have to go out and find investors. Finding the investors proves to be the hardest part sometimes because the movie business is not as sure fire a business as some other businesses. They love the movie and you may make the movie, but you still have to sell tickets to that movie so you have to market it.”
Nevertheless, Caplin is working to pursue this project in hopes of recreating a remarkable moment in the history of Oxford.
Rachel Vanderford, Staff writer at HottyToddy.com, rmvander@go.olemiss.edu

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