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Entertainment: Pawleys Island spirit gets new life in debut film

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

One of Pawleys Island’s most famous local legends, the Gray Man, is heading to the silver screen this month in Georgetown. But it’s not the benign spirit locals have been telling tales of for generations.

For “Documenting the Grey Man,” a new movie from Reserve Productions of Charleston, writer/director Wayne Capps wanted something that would leave spines tingling.

“We had a hard time with it in the beginning,” he said. “The whole purpose was to take the whole ‘Paranormal Activity’ found footage genre and localize it. We looked at all the local legends we could think of from Savannah up to Myrtle Beach to see if we could set a story line around one.”

Reserve opted for the Gray Man because it’s so well known, but a movie hadn’t been done before. They decided to build the movie loosely around the legend. Capps said there’s no reason why the traditional spelling of Gray Man was changed.

“Documenting the Grey Man,” which runs just over an hour, will be screened at the historic Strand Cinema on Front Street at 7 p.m. July 20 and 2:30 p.m. July 22. Capps and several members of the cast will travel up for the Friday show to talk to the audience about the film and sign copies of the DVD, which will be handed out. The film was signed to a national distribution deal with Camp Motion Pictures/POP Cinema and will be available for purchase on DVD or digital download on Tuesday.

It’s is a big deal for Reserve, which has worked on the likes of “Army Wives” and Kathy Griffin’s Bravo reality show, but hasn’t had a film nationally distributed before.

“A lot of filmmakers try in vain to do that,” Capps said. “We’re excited to get this out in front of the public. And so far the reviews have been pretty good.”

Like “Paranormal Activity” or “The Blair Witch Project,” “Documenting the Grey Man” is shot in a home video style. The premise is that what viewers are watching is footage found by police investigating multiple homicides at a historic Pawleys Island home.

The movie was actually shot at The Wedge plantation in McClellanville, with some additional filming in Mount Pleasant.

“Documenting the Grey Man” follows a five-member ghost-hunting team out to document strange happenings at the plantation home. The couple who recently moved in claim the Grey Man haunts their new home as well as the beach, where he’s usually said to be seen, whispering into people’s ears before a storm. The Grey Man appears to be tied to the couple’s daughter, who gives vague but eerie descriptions of a friend no one else can see.

The legend of the Gray Man isn’t very exciting, as people tell the ghost hunters in the movie. But Mitch, the mastermind behind the documentary, decides the team can amp up the legend on film.

“I can fix it to where it’s scary as hell,” he tells his team.

They show up at the house not really believing it’s haunted and planning to make their own ghostly activity but things take a surprising turn that leaves their documentary equipment as the only witness to what happens in the house.

The filming was actually done about two years ago, though it’s only just now making it to audiences on a large scale.

“We had a blast doing it. It was such a fun film to shoot.”

But they had the plantation house, which is owned by the University of South Carolina, for just a short period, so they had to make the most of that time.

“I think for several days the cast and crew felt like they were living there,” he said.

The Strand Cinema was able to fit the film into its schedule because the Swamp Fox players, which share the theater space, are starting their next play a week later than originally scheduled. Tickets for the movie are $7 ($5 for Strand Cinema members) and are available only at the box office on the day of the show. The box office opens 30 minutes before showtime. For information, visit strandcinema.org.

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