By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — September 25 was an important night for the Newkirk community, as they were treated to a real Hollywood experience, with the red carpet rolling down the front stairs of the Kay County Courthouse. At the top of the steps were cast and crew members of an upcoming series, “Hunting Jessica,” to be set and filmed in Newkirk for the next few weeks. A large crowd met in front of the steps to get a glimpse of those would be part of the series.
“It’s always exciting when companies come to town,” said Chamber of Commerce President Debbie Leaming. “You always want to put your best foot forward, but we want them to leave feeling like family.”
“Hunting Jessica” is an upcoming television series based on a fantasy-horror book series of the same name, written by Elizabeth St. John, who once lived in Newkirk, and set the series in the community.
“I’m super excited, it’s mind-blowing. I never expected something like this to happen to ‘Hunting Jessica,’” she said.
“Hunting Jessica” combines elements of romance and horror to tell the story of Jessica, a local bartender, who realizes she is immune to vampires, and sets on a quest to fight against them. The idea came out for a set of poems that, over time, evolved into the novels.
“I was writing poetry, and that started turning into a book, and I just decided to continue it on, and a year later, before I knew it, I was published,” St. John said.
Movie producer Lisa Martin read the books, and saw an opportunity for it to be re-written as a television program. It also helped that Martin and St. John are sisters, making that connection that much easier.
The show will be set in Newkirk, although under a different name, Devil’s Bend. The Char-Ron Lounge will serve as a primary filming location, but won’t be alone. The Cline Building is also serving as a setting, and private citizens have volunteered their property for the filming.
“There fire department is going to be doing all of our fires, starting them and putting them out,” she said.
They are also working to have an all Oklahoma cast to keep the production true to the state.
“We are using local (residents) as extras, and we have invited an opened up our cast and crew to them,” Martin said. “We want Newkirk and the surrounding area to feel like they are part of “Hunting Jessica.” We want them to be proud of what is happening in the community.”
Filming will finish in a few weeks, and is tentatively planned for a showing in 2020. Although Netflix initially showed interest, they are still working to find a network to air the program.
“There are several distributors I am speaking to, and we’re also going to have distribution with Walmart, Target and online.” Martin said. “We’re putting it everywhere.”
It is exciting for St. John, who never thought the book series would be translated into film.
“This is every author’s dream, to have their book turned into a movie,” she said.
There is no mistake the community is taking notice, and some have shown a pride for Newkirk.
“It’s so fun and exciting for the town,” Coralee Boswell said.