Friday, September 30, 2022

Delta Magazine: Your Cinematic Delta


My typical Delta Friday lunch: I am dining at Ground Zero Blues Club with Mayor Bill Luckett (co-owner of this classic juke joint with his longtime-friend and business partner Morgan Freeman), and Bill is “holding court,” as I often call it, “connecting good people” that work with each other, know each other, or that will after Bill connects them. It’s a wonderful thing about the Delta: good people doing good things for each other, over a great meal.

I’m a transplant Mississippian, though my father was raised in Gulfport. However, that’s not why I live here, nor why my family remains in Mississippi. Before I was heavily involved in any entertainment projects in Mississippi, I simply wanted a better quality of life for our family. It has now become my mission to entertain and perhaps educate many who may not truly understand the beauty and culture that is Mississippi and the Delta.

Not surprising to any Delta Magazine readers, I choose to spend much of my creative and productive time now in the Delta—Clarksdale, Greenwood, Yazoo City, and Cleveland are just a few of my favorite places in and around the state. Upon further reflection, I realize that it may be because three of my closest longtime friends and colleagues in Mississippi are some of the Delta’s finest: Hayes Dent, Dr. Will Pepper, and of course, Bill, all three are clear reasons I feel so at home here. For me, it isn’t just the places, or the music, but the people that define the best of the Delta.

Back to our lunch. I am sitting in GZBC at quite a long table with mismatched chairs. Along with the Mayor, I am joined by the following cast of characters: two musicians, an actress, a film director, a world-famous author, an international banker, and a Texas “oil man.” Quite an eclectic bunch to be sure, but all were assembled with a significant common thread—the Film Business.

On this occasion, I prefer to listen more than talk, as I am the executive producer of the film. I work to find the best way to fit the pieces together, blending the wants and needs of everyone into what should hopefully be a profitable movie deal for us all, for the Delta.

As we enjoy our meal we continued to discuss the finer points of making our film here, and what needs to be done, in what felt like a comfortable, honest, and truly genuine way. As we finish our meal and make our deals, I am acutely aware that something special has just happened. Making a movie isn’t easy; it can be a rare and illusive thing. However, we can now produce movies in Mississippi like never before, and the magic of the Delta is a great place to make it happen.

Steven Tyler Sahlein is a former Walt Disney Studios executive and film and television executive producer from Los Angeles, now based in Oxford. He lives with his wife of 23 years Emeline, an Oxford native, and his son Erik, a junior at Oxford High School, and misses his daughter Rachel, a sophomore at Emerson College in Boston.

Story courtesy Delta Magazine September/October 2015

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