BY JOSH HAGY
Local News Editor
CLIFTON FORGE – New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci visited the Alleghany Highlands Tuesday as part of a production crew scouting potential locations for the film adaptation of his novel, “Wish You Well.”
“We traveled around a lot,” said Baldacci. “We saw a lot of great places that really fit in well with the script. It was a really worthwhile trip.”
The Alleghany Highlands is competing with Botetourt County, Giles County and Smyth County to be the primary location of the film’s production.
Baldacci, along with production coordinators Sara Timmins and Chinah Jewell of Life Out Loud Films, spent the day touring the Highlands with Teresa Hammond, executive director of the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, before ending up at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College for a brief reception.
“We visited local icons and historic locations, and beautiful venues,” said Hammond. “We hope that they will select us as the site for their future film locations.”
Many of those sites seemed to fit Baldacci and Life Out Loud’s requirements for the film.
“We had a great day today and had some terrific guides. We have very specific requirements that we need to make this film and make it right. You have many of them here,” said Baldacci.
“Wish You Well” tells the story of Louisa Mae Cardinal coming of age after a family tragedy rocks her life in New York and forces her and her family to move to rural southwestern Virginia in the 1940s.
The novel, which is more than a decade old, has its roots in Baldacci’s own family history.
“‘Wish You Well’ is a very personal book for me,” said Baldacci. “I wrote it about 11 years ago and a lot of it is based on my personal recollection of my mother growing up in southwest Virginia.”
This is not the first time that “Wish You Well” has been considered for the big screen.
“I originally intended it as a screenplay and it was actually developed as a film many years ago,” said Baldacci. “I decided that it was best suited to be a book at that time and took it out of the movie making progress.
“I spent the next year of my life writing a 400-page novel from a 100-page screenplay. And I’ve thought that the time has come for it to be a film. I’ve met some wonderful filmmakers. This is the time to do this movie,” he said.
Once Baldacci made the decision to put “Wish You Well” onto the big screen, he and his filmmakers began the search for the primary shooting location.
“We needed a place to shoot and we started a search across Virginia. There was never a doubt that this was going to be filmed here in Virginia because it’s so much about Virginia,” said Baldacci, who is a Virginia native that makes his home at Smith Mountain Lake.
The Alleghany Highlands was one of 15 communities that hoped to lure Life Out Loud films to their backyard for filming.
“We had a lot of presentations from a lot of different localities in Virginia. A lot of them were really good,” said Baldacci. “Alleghany did a fantastic presentation.”
The effort to have a movie filmed in the Highlands began last year when Life Out Loud contacted the chamber.
“They had contacted me about a year ago just inquiring about future possibilities for films. They didn’t even know then what book or movie it might be,” said Hammond. “In late fall they asked us to send a packet of information and pictures. We sent the PBS documentary along with historical information and a lot of photos. Our area photographers have been great to help us out with pictures.”
The community’s support for the project has continued through posts on the company’s Facebook page and a large showing at yesterday’s reception.
Baldacci has found that type of support from citizens across the commonwealth.
” You could tell there’s a lot of energy out there and a lot of people want us to be out there,” he said. “We want to be in a place where people want us to be. It makes it a lot easier to film and a lot more of a high energy film.”
Baldacci’s visit to the Alleghany Highlands was only the beginning of the research process that will determine where the movie will be filmed.
“We will continue our search, obviously. We have other localities that we need to research,” he said. “It may be that one place doesn’t have everything we need, but certainly today was very successful and very productive and hopefully we can come down and make a great movie.
“I want to thank you for your support. The people here have been incredibly behind this project and very enthusiastic about it,” Baldacci added. “That means a lot to me and that means a lot to my filmmakers.
“Hopefully we can make a movie that’s worthy of everybody.”
ABOUT DAVID BALDACCI...
David Baldacci made a big splash on the literary scene with the publication of his first novel, Absolute Power. A major motion picture adaptation followed, with Clint Eastwood as its director and star. In total, David has published 24 novels, all of which have been national and international bestsellers. Those novels have been translated into more than 45 languages and sold in more than 80 countries; over 110 million copies are in print worldwide. David has also published two children’s books. He has received numerous accolades for his writing; most recently, he was inducted into the 2011 International Crime Writing Hall of Fame and received the 2012 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award.
A lifelong Virginian, David was born in Richmond in 1960. He received his Bachelor’s degree in political science from Virginia Commonwealth University and his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, after which he practiced law for nine years in Washington, D.C.
While David is involved in several philanthropic organizations, his greatest efforts are dedicated to his family’s Wish You Well Foundation®. Established by David and his wife, Michelle, the Wish You Well Foundation supports family literacy in the United States by fostering and promoting the development and expansion of new and existing literacy and educational programs. In 2010 the Foundation partnered with Feeding America to launch Feeding Body & Mind, a program to address the connection between literacy, poverty and hunger. Through Feeding Body & Mind, nearly 1 million new and used books have been collected and distributed through area food banks. David explains, “With this program, people go home with food, which they need to live, as well as with books, which they need to change their lives.”
David and his wife are the very proud parents of two terrific teenagers and the generally proud owners of two not-so-well-behaved Labradoodles. They live in Northern Virginia.
Causes Virginia Campbell Supports
I live in a very small town with few job opportunities. I would love to be employed in a position which allowed me to promote literacy and put books in the...