Lights, camera, smoke.
In other words: A Netflix movie about barbecue begins shooting Saturday in Memphis.
Starring Emmy winner Courtney B. Vance as the owner of a successful barbecue restaurant that is seeking to expand, "Uncorked" will be in production in Memphis for 24 days, with another five days on location in Paris. (Yes, Paris, France, not Paris, Tennessee.)
The film will mark the feature directorial debut of Prentice Penny, who is the writer, director and showrunner for the successful cable series "Insecure." Presented by HBO, "Insecure" is a Los Angeles comedy-drama starring Issa Rae that focuses on what press materials describe as "the awkward experiences and racy tribulations of a modern-day African-American woman."
Wednesday afternoon on Twitter, Penny commented on his plans for "Uncorked." "Very blessed and excited to be directing my first movie with such an amazing cast!" he wrote. "Time to see the beauty of our life and not just our struggle."
Penny expanded on that idea in a statement released Wednesday: “It’s rare that Black people get to tell a father-son story without the father's absence serving as the catalyst for the story. That was never my experience, and I think it’s more important than ever that art reflects our humanity and who we are as regular people, rather than just being defined by the color of our skin or the trauma that has happened to us."
Originally set to be shot in Nashville, in part because of that city's larger base of veteran film crew workers, "Uncorked" relocated to Memphis — a more logical location for a barbecue story — thanks in part to an aggressive campaign by local location scouts and the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission.
"Nothing can surpass shooting in the city where the story is set," said Veronica Nickel, one of the film's executive producers, during an event at this weekend's Indie Memphis Film Festival.
Courtney B. Vance attends a post-screening event For "Ben is Back" During the Toronto International Film Festival. (Photo: Owen Hoffmann, Getty Images for Audi)
"What you lack in crew, you make up in enthusiasm," she said, citing the eagerness of city officials, local business owners and others to cooperate with a film production. Nickel also was a producer on the recent Best Picture Oscar winner, "Moonlight."
Budgeted at about $7 million, the film chronicles the ambitions of a young man who is expected to take over the barbecue business founded by his grandfather but who is more interested in grapes than pigs: He dreams of becoming a master sommelier.
In addition to Vance, who earned an Emmy as attorney Johnnie Cochran in the mini-series "The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story," the film's cast will include Mamoudou Athie ("Patti Cake$") and Niecy Nash ("Claws").
Some of the film's behind-the-scenes motivators are stars, too, although not in the movie business: Executive producers on the project include NFL veterans Drew Brees and Derrick Brooks and NBA notables Tony Parker and Michael Finley.
Although much of the film will be shot on location, a set is being created to function as the barbecue restaurant that is key to the movie. Producers scouted several Memphis eateries, including the Cozy Corner, Payne's, the Bar-B-Q Shop and A&R BBQ, but the production's need for constant access to the site made shooting inside a working restaurant impractical.
Set to debut next year, "Uncorked" is one of many feature films being produced for Netflix, some of which have lured major filmmakers, including the Coen Brothers ("The Ballad of Buster Scruggs") and Alfonso Cuaron ("Roma"). On a Memphis note, Craig Brewer this year directed the Netflix production "Dolemite Is My Name," a comedic biopic that stars Eddie Murphy as the unlikely 1970s "blaxploitation" hero Rudy Ray "Dolemite" Moore.