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About The Production

Steven Rogers' original screenplay was set in Arkansas, but Obst and Bullock, both of whom enjoy strong Texas ties, decided to film HOPE FLOATS in the Lone Star State. The majority of filming took place in Smithville, a small town about an hour outside of Austin.

   Bullock explains the reason for choosing Texas as the production's home: "I wanted to find a place where the people had a sense of pride and honesty about who they were. Texans have a great sense of humor about life that I haven't quite figured out, but which I nonetheless find very appealing. There is a special atmosphere that is almost palpable and an energy that says 'Home'. I wanted that feeling in the film. It's certainly not something that could ever be created in a studio."

   Location scouting was an almost eerie experience, for Smithville was laid out just as it read in the script. "It was remarkable how we found the various locales " a haunted house, retirement home, school and bar " just as they had been written," says Obst. "It was almost as though we had been there before."

The central location was Birdee's family home. Her father had been a taxidermist and the character's house subsequently was filled with stuffed animals, a constant embarrassment to Birdee during her youth. "I think Ramona could only accept the stuffed animals in the house by making them fanciful or unique, so she dressed them in ways that made them acceptable to her," explains production designer Larry Fulton, referencing the bizarre collection of animals seen adorned in various costumes.

   Not only did Smithville serve as a spiritual haven from the stresses and strains of the modern world, it also seemed to be an oasis of calm during some turbulent Texas weather. When filming began in early May amid some of the worst storms in recent history, Smithville somehow remained relatively unscathed. In fact, the filmmakers were shocked to find, when returning to Austin after a trouble-free day of filming, that the city and some adjacent towns had been hit by some of the worst storms ever: the town of Jarryl was obliterated by a devastating tornado, electricity was out, roads flooded and television stations were off the air.

   Everyone on the film was deeply disturbed by the tragedy. Led by Bullock, they collected money and provisions to help the survivors.

   The bad weather continued throughout May and June, with abnormally high rainfall and cool temperatures. Flooding became a serious problem, and there were many days where the crew drove through blinding rain and winds only to find the sun shining when they arrived at the location.

The uncertain weather was evident during a key sequence in which Birdee and Justin kicked up their heels at a traditional dance out in the beautiful Texas hill country. To prepare for the scene, both Bullock and Connick had spent many hours learning the two-step with choreographer Patsy Swayze. Connick, for one, really needed the practice. "I had lied to everyone when I did the audition," he jokes "and told them I was one of the founders for the two-stepping association of America, so I could get this gig. In reality, I had never done it before in my life. So I was pretty awful when I started the film, but I practiced a lot at different bars and dance halls around town " and of course working with Patsy was sensational."


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