‘Brian Banks’ movie showcases Memphis’ ability to produce top-notch film

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The new film “Brian Banks” opens this weekend across the country, and it has some close Bluff City ties.

“Brian Banks” is directed by Memphis filmmaker Tom Shadyac, and all the film was shot in Memphis, though the movie takes place in Southern California.

“It doubled really well for Long Beach, California,” Shadyac said. “If I took you to certain parts, and I just shot down a street, I’d say, ‘Where is this? Is this New York? Is this downtown Long Beach?’”

The movie hired 149 local cast and crew members and used local vendors for production, bringing a great economic impact to the city of Memphis and experience to people starting in the film industry, according to the Memphis and Shelby County Film Commission.

“Trainees were brought in to work on the project, who may not have had that type of feature film experience otherwise — many of whom have or will go on to work in other productions in Memphis, Shelby County or the Mid-South,” said Sharon Fox O’Guin, deputy film commissioner and project specialist with the film commission.

Shadyac said he partnered with LeMoyne Owen College and the University of Memphis to mentor 30 students during the shooting of the movie.

Shadyac left the movie spotlight after his last film “Evan Almighty” in 2007, and Brian Banks represents his first film back on the big screen. He’d previously been involved in directing “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” “The Nutty Professor” and “Patch Adams,” among other films.

“I’ve been trying to get work on a film together for quite a while,” Shadyac said. “And these (social justice) themes just became really important to me.”

The movie is about Brian Banks, a high school football star whose life was altered when he was convicted of a crime he did not commit.

“Brian’s story moved me,” Shadyac said. “It reminded me of a story that I was in relationship with here in Memphis, Tennessee. A lot of kids face a justice system that, once it gets its hooks into them, they can’t get out.”

The movie follows Banks’ fight to prove his innocence.

“It’s a school-to-prison pipeline,” Shadyac said. “That’s what happened to Brian; he was accused of a crime he didn’t commit, but he was strong in the middle of his darkness. He chose light. I wanted to tell his story so everybody can tell their story.”

The film features Aldis Hodge as Brian Banks and Greg Kinnear as Justin Brooks of the California Innocence Project.

“Brian Banks” isn’t the only production to utilize Memphis for the setting of filming. NBC’s “Bluff City Law” filmed its pilot in the Mid-South, and “Christmas at Graceland” has been filming around the city for the Hallmark sequel.

O’Guin said the “Brian Banks” filming is notable because Memphis isn’t “playing” Memphis in this one, but standing in for Southern California.

The movie premiered at Malco Paradiso Thursday night. Click here to see where you can watch the film in Memphis.

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