Filmmakers aim to cast state in good light

Terrell/Peterson photo shootMany artists around the country call Mississippi home, but the rest of America doesn’t necessarily look at Mississippi as an artist’s haven.

Ariel Terrell and Erisse Peterson are on a mission to “alter the image of the state” with their upcoming art documentary, “Dark Horse MS.”

Focusing around the concept that Mississippi is an underdog state in the artistic world, the documentary will feature up-and-coming Magnolia State artists from all walks of life — rappers, dancers, singers, songwriters and visual artists — all with a story to be heard.

“You can look at the artwork and just tell they’re from Mississippi,” Terrell said. “There’s something a little Southern about their work. You can tell by the environment and warmth — it’s so genuine.”

While the co-directors were both transplants from the west at an early age, they spent their formative years in southwest Mississippi and studied theatre at Mississippi School of the Arts in Brookhaven. There they saw a strong focus on the arts and were surrounded by classmates who had a similar appreciation for the beauty of vocal, performance and visual art.

“We want to showcase the artists here,” said Terrell, of McComb. “We want to show the rest of the world that we have something down here, that we are talented and that there’s a reason so much started here.”

The Mississippi State University students started filming Saturday in Gulfport and will spend the next two weeks traveling to Columbus, Starkville, Meridian, Jackson, Vicksburg and Brookhaven.

Two of the artists in the documentary are from Brookhaven: Cassidy Simmons, a rising senior at MSA, and Helen Le, who graduated in 2011. Le specializes in vocal performance and is scheduled to have surgery this month that could abruptly end her promising career as a singer.

“She’s at that point as an artist in her life where she can decide to keep pushing on and pray for it to come back or be forced to abandon her dreams,” Terrell said.

Dark Horse filmingThe film crew recently raised $1,200 at a fundraiser in Magnolia, leaving the crew only $800 shy of their production goal. Originally Oxford resident Sam Haskell, who has had a successful film and movie career, and his son Sam Haskell Jr. funded the production, but Terrell said scheduling conflicts ended the partnership.

“We thanked him immensely for the support because they were the first people to really look at us and say, ‘Y’all are really trying to do something, and I believe in what you’re trying to do,’ ” Terrell said. “Their support opened a lot of doors for us, and although they weren’t able to finance the documentary, they did a lot to help us get where we are now.”

Despite the lack of funds, the crew is very optimistic about the venture. The co-directors plus fellow Mississippi State University student Johnathan Laidler will film and edit the documentary, and they have enough funding to cover the expenses so far, including two video cameras.

“Even if we can’t get to that $2,000, we’re still gonna push out Saturday because we figured if all else fails, we’ll make it happen along the way,” Terrell said.

Terrell and Peterson have a task ahead of them, but the drive and the passion both possess will take them further than that missing $800 ever could.

“It takes a generation to make a change, and if it’s gonna be the two of us to start it, we don’t mind,” Terrell said. “We’re ready to do that because this is where so much art started.”

For more information on the project or how to donate, visit

@ Enterprise-Journal — McComb, Miss.


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