A collection of Baton Rouge film artists will show their film at Louisiana’s most prestigious annual film festival. Shrimpers Row was recently accepted into the Louisiana International Film Festival, an event that routinely only selects a handful of films worldwide each year.
The idea for the film began with the film’s director William ‘McCray’ Sutherlin, who previously worked for DIG Magazine, and Cassie Goldring, an author from Duke University. The two met at United Talent Agency in Los Angeles, and Goldring, who was fascinated with Louisiana, handed over her script for Shrimpers Row to Sutherlin as she wanted Louisiana filmmakers to be behind it. Sutherlin then got together a crew of 15 students for his production team and started a Kickstarter. Along with that, the film was also awarded a grant from Duke University and with that combined money, Shrimpers Row became a reality.
“Everything just fell into place,” said Caroline Hoogland, the film’s production manager. “We did everything. We did SAG, contracts with our actors and actresses. We have a great cast. The crew is phenomenal as well, it was 90 percent LSU students. The most important part of the film was the work ethic of everyone.”
It is the number of involved students that Hoogland finds as one of the most special things about the entire project.
“We’re in the limbo at this point in our life where we’re not really professional, but kind of exiting the lifestyle of a student…We’re in the middle of finals, we’re busy, but at the same time we’re executing this project, and it felt very handcrafted. I think it gave everyone the chance to rise together as a team.”
Another special element for Hoogland in the filmmaking process was the location scouting. The film was shot over the course of one week in three locations, including Baton Rouge, Ponchatoula, and Roseland. One of the crucial locations was a convenience store that many from Louisiana would recognize with “stickers all over, the ‘best boudin in the state’ and live bait.”
“We had a vision and finding that store was the top priority,” Hoogland said. “And McCray found this convenience store in Roseland, LA in the middle of nowhere. It was funny, on the day we shot we all were scrambling around on set trying to get cell phone reception to call other crew members. That experience was so unique. The owner of the store was so kind to us, we cooked hot biscuits with him and ate boudin, it felt so perfect and it helped put our actors in the right mindset for what we were aiming for and most things like that I think can only happen in Louisiana.”
Shrimpers Row follows troubled protagonist Jake, who should be on the cusp of graduating high school and beginning college. Rather than be bogged down with books, Jake finds himself constantly working on the boats in Louisiana, not really going anywhere and dealing with his alcoholic mother and protecting his little sister.
“The whole film symbolizes his loss of hope that he’s experiencing, which has him make a decision that is doing the right thing for the wrong reasons,” Hoogland said. “I don’t want to give the story away, but he’s faced with a decision to protect his family for the wrong reasons and it, in turn, opens up his eyes.”
Hoogland hopes people outside the state that see the film will take the time to put themselves into the shoes of the young adults from impoverished or degenerate families and lifestyles.
“So that they can understand decisions that are made by people that are not necessarily given the best opportunities…it’s a moment to realize that it’s inexcusable to do the wrong thing for the right reasons, but it sheds light on why people would turn to do something like that.”
Shrimpers Row will premiere at LIFF on Saturday, April 16 at Perkins Rowe.
“We’re so excited,” Hoogland said. “We’re thrilled to premiere it in our home state. That to me couldn’t be more exciting.”