About Tomato Republic
A flamboyant restaurateur, a good ol’ boy and a political ingénue, walk into a small town political contest and compete head to head…to head, for a non-paid mayoral seat of the Tomato Republic. What happens next is anyone’s guess. The only thing that could slow this race down is a freight train. Let the takeover begin.
There’s no place like home, and our home is Jacksonville, Texas, (not Florida, which is always the immediate question people ask when we try to describe where we grew up). There is something very special about growing up in a small town where you know everyone, and they know you, and all your business. Being from a small town is like having a whole other family: the good, the bad and the crazy. Honestly, we escaped from behind the ‘pine curtain’ as fast as we could and stayed gone on the road searching – for what was in our own backyard the whole time. Every time we would get together with hometown friends, we were struck by how many incredible people have come out of our small, all but unknown hometown of Jacksonville.
For most of us, the hardest part of change is deciding what traditions define us and which ones hold us back from keeping up in a rapidly changing world. The city of Jacksonville is no different than every small town in America. Progress is needed or the city will die.
When we heard through the East Texas grapevine that there were three challengers for the normally uncontested mayoral race this year – (this has only happened once before in the ‘70s) – and that all three candidates were interesting and diverse individuals, we ran to get there with cameras!
We set out to share a once in a lifetime, up close and personal look at small town politics. What unfolds is the story of small town America. Our team may have thought we were a little nuts when we told them we were shooting a documentary on a mayor’s race down a long country road surrounded by nothing but pine trees. But they never said a word, just started hustling and capturing amazing characters and securing great access.
As one of our favorite people in East Texas says, we are ‘blessed with a rainbow assortment of great country folks.’ It’s our hope that we have captured at least a fraction of how real, quirky, deep and hilariously funny they are.
People may never know where Jacksonville, Texas, is, but hopefully they will have a better idea after this film of just how big this small town really is. And that it is in small towns just like Jacksonville where our real hope for the future of America is born. If we do anything to bring awareness to people that this is a genuinely special place, with great people, who care about the future; then we have accomplished more than we could have ever imagined — that one small group of filmmakers, in one small town, telling one big story could accomplish.
Whitney Graham Carter – Director, Producer – ‘Tomato Republic’
Whitney Graham Carter, a true red dirt girl, wasn’t born in Jacksonville, Texas, but she got there as quick as she could. After attending Jacksonville High School, she escaped the famed ‘pine curtain’ and made it all the way to University of Texas in Austin. Too chicken to major in RTF, she opted for the more stable choice of pre-medicine and economics honors. The big city proved all-inspiring and her studies led abroad to the Sorbonne, in Paris, France. Flash forward 15 years later, Whitney has become a global traveler, vice president of a world renown cosmeceutical company, and has an extensive background in sales and marketing. Her successful partnerships include industry leaders such as Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton and Marriott Corp., Starwood, TRUMP, Rosewood Hotels, and Disney. Some of her most fond memories in Austin, Texas, were working for TEXAS MONTHLY Magazine, where she was exposed to the most creative people in music, film, and writing. Whitney began to volunteer yearly for the prestigious ‘SXSW Secret Service Crew’ (the entity responsible for hosting film directors, critics, and celebrities). Now, passion for film could no longer be satiated by watching them. When Whitney learned about documentary film while spending time with the founder of cinema verite, D.A. Pennebaker and documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles, among others, there was no looking back. (-pun intended). Documentary film of real people, real stories, up close and personal, was now more of a love affair than a high school crush. Pairing up with her childhood friend, Jenna Jackson, and her fabulous team of professionals at P+R Productions, Whitney’s dream is now a reality with the completion of ‘Tomato Republic’. Whitney’s vision for the future, of her hometown, Jacksonville, Texas, is actually more similar to the way it was in the past. She believes with passion, focus, and elbow grease, great things are possible.
Anthony Jackson - Director, Producer – ‘Tomato Republic’
Anthony hails from the edge of the Piney Woods of East Texas. He has his outrageously talented family to blame for his creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, and belief that anyone can become anything (just ask his mom). During the tech boom of the ’90s, he tapped into his inner-geek and became the manager of the guys taking help desk phone calls from the distressed, technically challenged employees of a major telecom giant. Eventually the aforementioned unnamed telecom behemoth sent Anthony and his cohorts packing along with thousands of others as a result of massive layoffs.
This is where the plot takes a turn.
Anthony decided to spend time helping at his church while looking for new employment opportunities (or playing Xbox full time, if you ask his wife.) He quickly found himself learning how to produce, shoot, edit and do just about everything with the video department and began to realize that the wide world of video was way too much fun to really be considered work, but hey if someone will pay you…
He is currently employed full time as a husband to the lovely and talented Suzanne Jackson, the father to six wonderful kids, and a champion of all things good and pure. He loves building teams of people to create videos that tell the stories of our lives and has a special passion for helping others discover and become what they were created to be. He’s also occasionally really good with a video camera, a keyboard, and loves researching the latest and greatest gear for making excellent video for a fraction of the cost of the “big guys.”
As the Director of Operations for P+R Productions, Anthony pretty much gets his hands into everything. Which is what he’s been doing since he was two years old, the only difference is it doesn’t get him into trouble as often now.
Anthony, along with fellow P+R team members Matt Godwin and Nathan Fambro, have won Best Film at 48 Hour Film Fest Austin in 2011 and 2012.
Jenna Jackson - Director, Producer – ‘Tomato Republic’
Jenna grew up in teensy Jacksonville, Texas, and couldn’t wait to get out. She now, as you might expect, goes back whenever humanly possible because the lake is beautiful and peaceful – and it’s the only place she can escape all of her gadgets. She went to college at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville – and there she met her mentor and friend, Dan Rather.
He grew her into a real journalist – and a more courageous individual – and hired her shortly after graduation. She packed a suit case and moved to New York, where she began working for CBS News/48 Hours. She learned a myriad of lessons about the news, people and life – and stayed there for nearly 15 years.
Jenna’s passion has always been telling real stories about real people and she started P+R Productions to do just that. With a team like this one, the stories – whether on television or the big screen – will be beautiful, captivating and one of a kind. She lives in Houston with her twin boys (Parker and Rees, the original P and R) and her husband, who is totally supportive of her craziness.
Jenna won the News & Documentary Emmy Award, “Outstanding Continuing Coverage of a News Story in a News Magazine” in 2012, for her work as Producer on CBS News’ “48 Hours” broadcast “Grave Injustice,” which told the story of a Texas man who was wrongfully convicted based on flawed evidence for brutally murdering a family.
Matt Godwin - Director of Photography – ‘Tomato Republic’
Most children in Texas grow up playing sports, musical instruments, or even raising cattle on a farm. Matt Godwin grew up attached to the eyepiece of a video camera. Wide eyed with a big dream in his heart, Matt’s never met a shot he couldn’t get – just ask his pops how his first video camera ended up in a lake. With seven siblings, he was never short of a full movie cast and crew, and surrounded by some of the most creative storytellers on the planet.
Born and raised in what he affectionately calls the greatest city on earth, he became serious about his trade at the ripe young age of sixteen while attending the esteemed media program at his high school. From shooting while running with the bulls in Spain, to the occasional not your average commercial piece, and of course defending his title as the somewhat disputed best 48 hour film cinematographer, Matt Godwin is living the dream in Austin, Texas (even though he has no permanent address there.) He currently freelances for some major networks and proudly hung from the cockpit of a helicopter to get “the shot” for an episode of 48 Hours Mysteries for CBS. (And one of those he shot won an Emmy…Yay!)
As Director of Photography Matt is in charge of making everything look awesome! Which is what he does naturally anyways.
Matt, along with fellow P+R team members Anthony Jackson and Nathan Fambro, has won Best Film at 48 Hour Film Fest Austin in 2011 and 2012
David Hobbs - Producer, Chief Editor - ‘Tomato Republic’
After narrowly surviving an EF4 tornado and a 100 year flood within a 3 year period in the North Texas town of Wichita Falls, David Hobbs escaped to the laid back capital known as Austin to attend the RTF program at the University of Texas. While escaping the big school with a coveted piece of paper while also having as much fun as humanly possible was undoubtedly his highest aspiration at the time, his valuable education established the foundation from which his “gut” feelings originate even to this day. And his “gut” is rarely wrong when it comes to crafting a believable story. His self-proclaimed motto that the truth is stranger than fiction, or you just can’t make this stuff up – guides his passion to tell stories in an authentic fashion.
Having recently discovered the love of his life, he’s now all settled down with his beautiful wife, Casey, two dogs, and a feisty cat. A true Predator by nature (Producer Editor Hybrid, in case you’re not so hip), most days he is found feverishly pounding away on the keyboard of a video editor. His innate sense of story mixed with a touch of stubbornness and desperation for details, ensures that he always does whatever it takes to get the story just “right”. From commercial pieces to real life projects and everything in between, he hasn’t met a story he couldn’t edit, not yet anyways.
As Manager of Post Production for P+R Productions, Hobbs pretty much tells us all how to make that final product an actual final product ready for release. Which really doesn’t bother him a bit since he was pretty much born to tell people what to do.
Adrian Garcia – Camera Operator
Nathan Fambro – Camera Operator
Pierre Cardenas – Boom Operator
Sam Butler – Colorist, Assistant Editor
Chris “Digismitty” Smith – Sound Editor
Lauryn Sanford – Associate Producer
Matt Wilkerson – Associate Producer
Bryan Martin – Art Director
Marty Merida – Graphic Designer
Foster Carter – Production Assistant
Casey Hobbs – Production Assistant
Suzanne Jackson – Production Assistant
Jacquelyn Matthews – Production Assistant
Judge Chris Davis
Mayor Kenneth Melvin
Dr. Sam Hopkins
Amy Brocato Pearson
“Shamrock” Shelly Cleaver