Watsons Go To Birmingham
Newnan streets close for Hallmark film about church bombing
by Sarah Fay Campbell
Newnan Presbyterian Church on Greenville Street in downtown Newnan stood in for Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church Thursday during filming of the Hallmark television movie “The Watsons Go to Birmingham.”
Filming will return to downtown Sunday and large portions of parking in downtown Newnan normally used by churchgoers will be blocked off Sunday morning.
Intermittent road closures will occur during filming, but no on-street parking will be allowed in the area because the movie is set in 1963, and period cars will be parked on the street.
Parking closures will begin around 7:30 Sunday morning. Closures include both sides of North Court Square, the south side of East and West Washington Streets for one block off the square, and both sides of Greenville Street near Spring Street.
North Court Square and East and West Washington Street parking should open around 12:30 or 1 p.m., according to Location Manager Dodd Vickers. Greenville Street parking should open by mid-afternoon. Movie crews will then move to Sprayberry’s Barbecue for the rest of the local filming.
Two areas in downtown Newnan were used Thursday for the filming of some pivotal scenes in the movie — the infamous bombing of the church by four KKK members. The bombing killed four girls, injured many others, and marked a turning point in the Civil Rights movement.
Newnan Presbyterian bears an uncanny resemblance to 16th Street Baptist.
“It’s amazing. What a find that was for us,” said Executive Producer Tonya Lewis Lee, who also wrote the screenplay for the film, based on the book of the same name.
A built set on the corner of East Broad Street and Perry Street beside the Coweta County Administration Building was used Thursday afternoon for filming of the aftermath of the bombing. There were smashed cars with broken glass arrayed on Perry Street, as well as a vintage fire engine, for the filming of people running to the bombing site and carrying away the injured.
Sunday’s downtown filming will be some “walking and talking scenes,” said Lee, and Sprayberry’s will be used as a lunch counter.
“Newnan was a great find,” said Lee, who is the wife of director Spike Lee.
“We kind of stumbled upon it at the last minute, but it really has proven to be a really great find and, I think, a wonderful substitute for us for Birmingham.”