The Devon Theater in Attica was packed with fans of “The Andy Griffith Show” on Saturday night.
The theater was the home of “Mayberry Man,” a crowd-funded independent film that pays homage to the television series and what it means to people today.
A native of Attica played a role in the film and met members of the audience, as did others from the film as well as tribute artists.
Attica’s Jeff Gossett was instrumental in the film and was also instrumental in the film’s release in Attica. People could watch the film from November 5 to 7, with the special event on November 6.
Gossett plays Rayfield in the film.
“It’s not a big part, but it’s a nice little part,” he said. “I got involved in the Mayberry affair over 20 years ago. I met the Howell brothers about three years ago at Mayberry Days in Mt. Airy, NC, and we have become good friends. After Stark Howell made his first trip to Mt. Airy, after spending a week with us, he said “I think I have an idea for the script for the film”. A few months later he called me and said “check your email”. He had sent me a script for ‘Mayberry Misdemeanor’, which because ‘Mayberry Man’.
“It happened in 2018. In 2019, we started doing a Kickstarter fundraiser for the film. The film is fully funded by the fans. There is no Hollywood money in there. Everything is supported by the fans. We started filming on Labor Day 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic.
“About 85% of this movie was shot in Indiana, in the Danville, Fishers, Indianapolis area. The rest we spent about four days in Mt. Airy, NC, Andy Griffith’s hometown, filming there and they shot a few days in LA.
“We were done in about a year. We had our red carpet premiere in Danville, Indiana at Bill Wright’s Royal Theater for all movie fans in that area. Then they did a red carpet for funders in LA and we did a red carpet for funders in Mt. Airy. I didn’t go on the red carpet in LA. Now we are traveling the country making the film screenings on one screen.
“Attica is my hometown. I was brought up here in Attica. Robie Criswell, the owner of the Historic Devon Theater, did all he could to get us in here. It’s awesome. We are here tonight. We have the group that was in the movie here and about seven cast members here and producer Cort Howell.
“It’s kind of a tribute to their father and the fans. It all revolves around the fans and the Mayberry spirit.
Gossett’s son Coy was a production assistant for the film. His wife, Stéphanie, “beat me on set many mornings. She was one of the people who checked in for COVID at 6 a.m. every morning. She did all kinds of things, run around, sell merchandise and stuff like that, ”he said. Daughter Carlie, helped in several ways while they were in Danville on site.
Berachah Valley, the bluegrass group featured in the film, were on hand to perform for the audience. They performed a few songs and blackmailed the audience on several. Dixie the Praying Dog was also in Attica on November 6. Dixie plays Lucy in the movie.
Cort Howell, producer of the series and son of actor Hoke Howell, who played Dud Wash on ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ said, ‘So’ Mayberry Man ‘was a fan-funded movie. It was inspired by a trip my brother, Stark Howell, took. He is a screenwriter and director. He took a trip to the Mayberry Festival and in fact one of the people he has met and become friends with is Jeff Gossett.
“Jeff was one of the people he met and was inspired to write the film that celebrates the fan community and ‘The Andy Griffith Show’. This is not a remake of the series. It is a tribute. And, it’s filled with tribute artists who entertain at festivals. It’s a script that would come straight from “The Andy Griffith Show”. It’s an original story with original characters. Even the character who appears to be Barney and Gomer are tribute artists. We are not trying to reproduce these characters from ‘The Andy Griffith Show’. These are fans who dress like Barney and Gomer and so on. So no one has to show up and try to be Don Knotts.
“It celebrates the fan community as much as ‘The Andy Griffith Show.’ We knew we couldn’t do ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ again. This is one of the best shows ever and if you ask a Mayberry fan this is THE best show ever.
“We tried to treat him with respect and to have people involved who were related to the show. My brother, Stark Howell, wrote and directed it. I produced it. Our dad was on the show for a few episodes as Dud Wash. Dixie Griffith, daughter of Andy Griffith, supported the project and is an executive producer. Karen Knotts, Don Knotts’ daughter, is in the film. She plays herself. George Lindsey Jr., “Goober”, son of George Lindsey, supported the project. We’ve had a lot of people involved who relate to the show.
“Another thing that we don’t talk about enough is the music for the film. Much of it is taken straight from “The Andy Griffith Show”. Earl Hagen was the composer who made the music for ‘The Andy Griffith Show’. He passed away but his widow said we could use his music for the film. If you are familiar with the show, you will hear some familiar tunes. We don’t use the “The Whistle” theme, but a lot of the theme, like Barney and Mayberry March’s, I think fans will recognize and it really gives the movie some authenticity.
Howell has stated that his father was a character actor who has played many roles throughout his career. Dud Wash “was one of the good parts he had. He’s in some very popular episodes.
Their father has appeared on “hundreds of shows” throughout his career. “Some, we watched them. Some we haven’t, ”he said. “It’s always interesting to be the child of a character actor. We also had a connection with the Howard family, Ron and Clint. They were friends with Stark and my other brother who is not on this project. They used to hang out with Ron and Clint when they were kids. Our fathers were best friends and writing partners. We were just always around it a little bit.
“Mayberry Man” aired in a dozen different states, he said. “Mostly old-fashioned single-screen movie theaters. We do all of this ourselves. Howell said showing the film in theaters was a way to “spread the Mayberry spirit”.
The film is available on DVD, which can be purchased at mayberryman.com and also online streaming on Amazon.
Audiences were able to ask a few questions after the film was screened as well as mingle with the cast and purchase DVDs, posters and other items if they wished.