After four years of hard work and dedication, gay Atlanta filmmaker Taylor Ri’chard is ready to unveil his wide-release horror movie, The Final Project.
By Elijah Sarkesian
Even after 12 years of living in Atlanta, out writer-director Taylor Ri’chard is still connected to his native Louisiana. That connection serves as inspiration for The Final Project, his debut feature film that opens in Atlanta on Feb. 12.
The horror film that draws inspiration from The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, follows six college students creating a documentary about a notoriously haunted place: the Lafitte Plantation in Vacherie, La. Locals have taken to heart stories about Lafitte being haunted after a Civil War-era massacre, and the students set out to spend a night recording what, if anything, might happen in the house.
In creating The Final Project’s haunted central setting, Ri’chard drew inspiration from real life close to home.
“It’s a reimagining of a folklore about Chretien Point [Plantation] in Sunset, La.,” he says. “Chretien Point is about seven miles away from where I grew up, and it’s one of the most haunted places in America, according to enthusiasts. Basically, the story is that a part of the Civil War happened there, and some Union soldiers came to the house to seek water and a place to rest and gather themselves. The lady of the house, Felicité Chretien, wasn’t open to that happening, and they got into an altercation. It was a small mass murder. Apparently, these people now haunt the plantation.”
Ri’chard originally wanted to film at Chretien Point, but The Final Project ultimately filmed in and around Covington, Ga. Among the more time-consuming parts of the production was finding a local house that resembled Chretien Point.
“That took six months, believe it or not,” Ri’chard says. “[During the Civil War,] Georgia lost a lot of plantations, so a lot of things we were finding didn’t work. Finding a place that looked like Chretien Point, because it had to have four columns in the front with a door in the middle – the only way I could use [a house] was if it was all-white, so I needed it to look similar.”
Thanks to a suggestion from people involved with The Vampire Diaries, Ri’chard ultimately found a place that came shockingly close to Chretien Point.
“There are people in Louisiana who don’t even realize that I did not actually use Chretien Point, because the houses look so alike,” he says. “I ended up running into some people at Warner Bros. who work with The Vampire Diaries, and they were like, ‘We have a house that maybe you might like.’ I just happened to be in the neighborhood. It’s the same house they use in The Vampire Diaries, season one, as the witches’ house. I saw the house, and I fell in love with it.”
The six-month process to find a location for the film’s Lafitte Plantation was just part of a four-year process that’s finally drawing to a close with the film’s release.
“It’s been a very long process,” Ri’chard admits. “I always knew that I wanted to tell this kind of story. The issue was generating the funds to get it made. So that took a while. And then, after we got the money, finding a home for the film and getting it into theaters. It’s a very daunting process. There are hundreds of filmmakers out there in the same position I was in just a few years ago, just trying to get someone to pay attention enough to give it a push and get it to an audience.
“I’m blessed now that I have a team around me,” he adds. “In the beginning, it was a lot of doing it myself. Eventually, as you start to work, people notice what you’re doing, and they want to be a part of it. Now, I can say we have a full-fledged engine behind us.”
With The Final Project now arriving in theaters, Ri’chard hopes that audiences enjoy what they see.
“When people see this movie, I want them to keep an open mind and have fun with it. It’s a labor of love. It’s something that I did from the bottom of my heart, paying tribute to a movie that I love – The Blair Witch Project. Just have a good time, enjoy the movie, and let it scare you!”
The Final Project opens in Atlanta-area theaters on Feb. 12.