Hattiesburg native Miles Doleac’s Mississippi-made, second feature film, The Hollow, is garnering serious critical praise in advance of its Oct. 7 theatrical release in select cities (including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Cleveland, Houston, Orlando, Atlanta, New Orleans, Washington D.C., and here in Mississippi, in Hattiesburg and D’Iberville).
Critics are calling it “a gripping, often emotional film” (David Duprey, ThatMomentIn.com), a film that “refrains from generalizing or just dishing out clichés, (The Hollow) rather tells a multi-layered tale where all the different pieces work well together, thanks to a well-structured and thought-through script, a rich and atmospheric yet subtle cinematic language, and a very competent ensemble cast. (Mike Haberfelner, SearchMyTrash.com).”
Doleac’s own cinematic presence as corrupt sheriff’s deputy, Ray Everett, has been lauded as “commanding … a force to be reckoned with” and is being compared to some of cinema’s most famous dirty cops from Denzel Washington in “Training Day” to Harvey Keitel in “Bad Lieutenant” (Alex Saveliev, Irish Film Critic).
The film has also been lavished with festival honors, winning Best Feature at the 2016 Sun and Sand Film Festival and winning Best Cinematography, Best Actor (Doleac) and Best Supporting Actor (William Forsythe) at the 2016 Long Island International Film Expo.
For his part, Doleac himself is just pleased that people are seeing his film. “The biggest hurdle that we independent filmmakers face is, after all the blood, toil, tears and sweat that we pour out dragging our films into existence, how do we ensure that our films get seen, that they find an audience?” he asked. “The Hollow seems to be destined to do that and that’s a precious thing in our world. It’s incredibly gratifying and humbling to see people responding to the film in such a positive way, especially its atmosphere … people keep commenting on how the setting is a character all its own and that setting is Mississippi.”
Doleac says it was his intention all along to make the Mississippi backdrop an integral part of the film – a living, breathing, smoldering force that folds in on his characters on every side.
“The film was born out of both my desire to write a Southern-noire crime drama and to write a piece set squarely in my home state,” Doleac said. “I had long wanted to write something that harkened back to the work of some of my literary heroes and to Mississippi’s rich literary legacy, to Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and Shelby Foote. Their works burst with the unique, cultural stamp of the deepest part of the Deep South, for well and ill. Their works have such a visceral sense of place. I very much wanted The Hollow to have that as well. I wanted small-town Mississippi to be this behemoth in the room, looming over every conversation and event. I think we succeeded on that score.”
Early on in the film’s development, Doleac’s script caught the attention of Academy Award-nominated producer Lisa Bruce (The Theory of Everything), who saw something special in Doleac’s writing and who was also struck by the script’s imposing setting.
“Having made 16 films, I don’t choose a project lightly,” said Bruce. “I believed strongly in Miles’ script. The Hollow is very well-written, with a gritty attractiveness that movie audiences can’t get enough of. It smacks of “True Detective” (season one), yet with all the allure of a James Lee Burke novel. Better still, it’s set in the always mesmerizing backwater world of small-town Mississippi.”
Bruce would ultimately sign on as The Hollow’s executive producer, her first project since her Best Picture-nominated, “The Theory of Everything.”
In addition to the high-profile Bruce, Doleac pulled together a top-notch cast of actors for the film that included James Callis (Battlestar Galactica’s “Gaius Baltar”), Christiane Seidel (Boardwalk Empire), Jeff Fahey (Texas Rising), David Warshofsky (Taken), William Forsythe (The Rock) and William Sadler (Iron Man 3), who returned to work with Doleac, after having starred in his first film, “The Historian,” also shot in Mississippi, in 2013.
“Ninety percent of directing is casting and this immensely talented cast left it all on the field. They were all deeply invested in the material. None of them was just collecting a paycheck. These characters meant something to them and it shows in the final product.”
Doleac also insisted on hiring actors from right here at home, including Hattiesburg theatre veteran Joseph VanZandt, who heretofore had no film experience. Doleac cast VanZandt in the major role of Lucas McKinney, the local sheriff’s (Sadler) son and partner of Doleac’s “Ray Everett.”
“I just knew Joe was the guy for this. I had worked closely with him on stage in multiple productions,” said Doleac. “I knew his work ethic, his energy. I just had this sense. It helped that he and I come from the same place. We both went to Hattiesburg High. In many ways, our journeys are very similar.”
For VanZandt, the feeling is much to same.
"I was incredibly honored to play such a large role in the film, but to have it be shot in my hometown was particularly special,” he said. “I feel fortunate to have shared screen time with all of the talented and accomplished actors in the cast. I hope that audiences will be able to feel the heat and humidity of this place that I love radiate off the screen."
For The Hollow, Doleac reunited with his self-proclaimed “brain trust” of Lindsay Anne Williams (co-Producer, cast), Ryan Jackson (producer), Mackenzie Westmoreland (producer) and Larry Doleac (co-executive producer). The aforementioned brain trust consists of his wife (Lindsay), two of his closest friends (Ryan and Mackenzie) and his father (Larry), all native or transplanted Mississippians.
Says Doleac, “Making a film is, or ought to be, an incredibly familial experience, at least the way I see it. These are people I trust intimately. I know they’re going to give it to me straight. When you’re wearing as many hats as I have on Historian and Hollow, you have to surround yourself with people whom you can count on completely to deliver and to never blow smoke.”
Although big things may lie in store for Doleac’s filmmaking future, he says he’d be satisfied to just keep doing what he’s doing and doing it his own way.
“I hope the film moves and entertains and makes people think, but, at the end of the day, if The Hollow opens the door for me to make another film, it has succeeded. The objective here is to keep making films and to keep making good ones. And it’s not about big budgets and big stars and becoming the next big thing. It’s about getting to do the thing you love and, in doing so, affecting people in some way. So few people actually get to do that.”
The Hollow was shot in Hattiesburg, Seminary, Sumrall, Lumberton and Hot Coffee during the summer of 2015. It opens Oct. 7 at The Grand Theatre, Hattiesburg (with a red carpet screening the evening of Oct. 6, with Q and A by Doleac and some of his cast afterward). For tickets locally, go to www.thegrandtheatre.com. The film will be simultaneously released on all major U.S. cable carriers through video OnDemand, followed shortly by release on DirectTV and Dish Network.
The Hollow synopsis
When a U.S. congressman’s daughter passing through a small town in Mississippi dies in a mysterious triple homicide, a team of FBI agents descend to investigate. The team’s brilliant, but jaded, lead agent, Vaughn Killinger (James Callis), battles demons, both past and present, as his beautiful, tough-as-nails partner, Sarah Desoto (Christiane Seidel), tries to hold him and the case together. They find a struggling and corrupt sheriff’s department, whose world-weary chief deputy, Ray Everett (Miles Doleac), runs drugs for a shadowy, influential and much-feared figure, “Big” John Dawson (William Forsythe), who seems to be pulling all of the town’s strings from his antebellum mansion on the outskirts of town and a local victim with a strange connection to a number of the town’s most prominent figures.