Head of DoubleJay Creative, which does high-tech PR and video work, Larsen Jay was once famous for spearheading Market Square's holiday skating rink. But he turned motion-picture producer with last year's release of That Evening Sun. The film starred Hal Holbrook, rising star Mia Wasikowska, Ray McKinnon, Walton Goggins, Carrie Preston, Barry Corbin, and, however fleetingly, Holbrook's wife, Dixie Carter, the well-known television actress who died this past April. It turned out to be her last appearance on film.
Previously seen only in theaters—it ran in Knoxville for more than two months—it's soon to be released on DVD and Blu-ray. Jay, whose feature-film production company is called Dogwood Entertainment, is screening the film one more time at the brand-new Clayton Center for the Arts at Maryville College to celebrate the release, on Tuesday, Sept. 7, at 7:30. Jay will speak to the audience after the showing.
How was That Evening Sun received nationally?
We did a 74-city theatrical release last year. It won 13 top prizes at festivals. SXSW [in Austin, Texas] was our very first festival, where we released the movie. It's a huge festival with a lot of really amazing films. And to have won both the special jury award and also the audience choice award, there, with so many well-reviewed films, that meant a lot. So many people told us what the film meant to them and how well it was produced. It's one thing to get critical acclaim, but it's a great reward to have the audience love it so much.
Are you still in touch with Hal Holbrook?
Yes, we are. He's a workhorse, at age 85, about to start another of his Mark Twain tours. He still rocks it. Of course we think of him and Dixie. I saw the Emmys on Sunday, and they had a thing about her.
How do you remember Dixie Carter?
Sweet Dixie. I remember her on set, how nice she was to everyone, and how special the moments between her and Hal Holbrook were. They acted like school kids in love.
Why are you debuting the DVD release at the new Clayton Center?
We shot 90 percent of the film in Blount County and wanted to say "thank you" to all those local residents who helped make it possible, from farmers to firemen. We're kind of bringing it home at the end. Or not at the end, but a nice next chapter to this.
What was the most interesting thing reaction you got to That Evening Sun?
I remember one woman who came up to us after the Sarasota Film Festival screening. She was crying and gave [director] Scott Teems and me big hugs before telling us, "I have been fighting my mother for three years about moving to a nursing home. I never understood why her home meant so much to her, I never got it until I watched your film. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm going to rush home now and have a real conversation with her for the first time. We're going to figure it out now, thank you." Wow. If that doesn't validate the power of a movie, I don't know what does.
What's next for Dogwood Entertainment?
We're actually working on a second project. It's not really a secret anymore. We've got the rights to Smoke on the Mountain, the musical, to be a feature film for the first time. Of course, it will be shot around here, 2011 at the earliest. It's still in early development.