Mississippi Son

an award winning documentary feature film lending a voice to the people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (93 min.)


'Mississippi Son' Comes Home
Documentary will explore culture, human spirit
in THE BAY PRESS, 2 June 2006

By Gene Coleman

While Don Wilson has spent the past 25 years as a filmmaker, editor, director and producer in L.A. he has not forgotten his roots in Mississippi.

When Hurricane Katrina struck, Don came home to take his 80-year-old mother away from the devastation. When he arrived, he was shocked by the destruction he found in his original hometown of Gulfport and the rest of the Coast. Gone were the restaurants he knew and other familiar landmarks from his youth.

In the mid- to late-1970s, Don served as a weekend director at WLOX, where he gained experience and began experimenting with production, in this case giving the local newscast a “national” look and incorporating music into the closing news segments. Don’s success at WLOX gave him confidence that he could pull anything off.

“We started making money,” Don said. “Our news department started selling a lot of advertising. It started getting profitable and I said, ‘I’m going to ride this wave all the way to L.A.’”

Along with his confidence, Don carried with him to L.A. morality and manners, which he credits with helping him make headway in his new surroundings. “My Southern roots and my morality were large factors in my success because I treated people with respect and people responded to it,” Don said.

Don didn’t end up at a news station in L.A., but instead landed a job producing, directing and editing major league sports events. His venture into new areas would continue into major television shows such as “Barney Miller” and “MadTV.” It would also lead him into a format that he never could have envisioned taking off the way it did – the music video.

Here Don found his niche, at least for the time being. Don’s background as a rock and roll musician (he was the drummer for the local bands Witchwood and Star) gave him insight and vision for shaping this new music video format. The first video he made was Jefferson Starship’s Winds of Change. One of his most groundbreaking videos was for A-Ha’s Take on Me in which a sketchily drawn cartoon character seduces a girl, bringing her from the real world into his black-and-white comic book realm.

He would go onto make many more videos and win multiple awards for his work. The star-studded list of performers he has worked with includes Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, Duran Duran, INXS, Alanis Morissette, Pearl Jam, Sting, Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, Bon Jovi, David Bowie, Billy Joel, Mariah Carey and more. But the peak of his video career would be making Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror video, for which Don traveled around the U.S. collecting footage that gave imagery to Jackson’s warning that man and his selfishness are destroying the world.

Fast forward to 2006 and Don is once again tackling an issue of humanity – the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina – in his new documentary “Mississippi Son.” One of the questions that resurfaces throughout his interviews with leaders in the art community: “What will become of the Coast?” He asks whether the Coast’s plethora of artists, musicians and writers will continue to remain on the Coast. And, will they have an environment that allows them to thrive or will it be a setting dominated by casinos and new development?

Don, along with his wife, Leslie Wilson, who is also producer of the film, will continue to interview residents, volunteers, and casino representatives in the coming weeks. Don said that his documentary will open the eyes of those who see it to what has really happened on the coast, as opposed to other national specials that have focused on New Orleans.

don wilson
leslie wilson
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