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May 12, 2016Crew shoots film at Lancaster County's Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve

An independent film crew from Winthrop University was recently at Forty Acre Rock Nature Preserve in Lancaster County filming scenes for its production of author Dustin Michael Hoffman's short story "Touching in Texas."

When the script called for a backdrop that's rocky and arid with low brush and trees and no cacti, Forty Acre Rock provided the perfect setting, said director Chris O'Neill. He came across Forty Acre Rock while researching possible sites on the S.C. Film Commission website.

"We needed something that didn't scream South Carolina," he said. "The story takes place at a specific location in Texas, so we thought the rocky terrain would be a good substitute."

Johnny Stowe, S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) heritage preserve manager, said the crew agreed to specific environmental stipulations in order to shoot footage at Forty Acre Rock. Producers, he said, worked closely with the S.C. Parks, Recreation and Tourism's Film Commission, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, the Katawba Valley Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy to get permission to film the scenes there. Details to work out included filming only in designated areas and limiting the number of vehicles.

"We were happy to help with this collaborative project," Stowe said. "I could not have asked for more conscientious people to work with than the folks at the S.C. Film Commission, Winthrop University and Shakespeare Carolina."

With a diverse array of wild plants, including at least 20 national and state endangered species, Forty Acre Rock is one of five worldwide habitats for the wild Amphianthus pusillus (pool sprite). Stowe said the plants, which grow in vernal pools on "The Rock," are among the rarest of their type on the North American continent.

"The work needed to be carefully planned and implemented since the rock has some extremely rare and sensitive plants," he said.

The other issue, Stowe said, was making sure that filming would not interfere with hikers, who are especially numerous at Forty Acre Rock during spring weekends. He sees using the preserve as a great opportunity to promote Forty Acre Rock.

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