Filmmaker chooses Salisbury as location for short film “Purpose”

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 3, 2016

By Amanda Raymond

Michael Lee Denny said any interaction between people, no matter how big or small, can change someone’s life.

“We should not assume that because it’s a short moment with somebody or that we’ll maybe never see them again that our interaction with them is trivial,” he said.

He decided to base his movie on that concept.

“Purpose,” a short movie, will begin filming on East Fisher Street this month. The film will focus on a fake bus stop in front of Mambo Grill and Tapas.

According to the movie’s Facebook page, it is about the interaction between a young woman and an older man at a bus stop. The woman, a character named Amanda, is described as “troubled and disheveled,” and is confused by the enthusiasm and kindness of the older gentleman, William. She then runs into William again the next morning, and begins a conversation with him, during which William asks her caring but personal questions.

The teaser goes on to say, “Does she run from this deranged man with unknown secrets or bare her soul taking a chance he is sincere?”

Denny, writer, producer and director of the film, said the movie is a “positive, heartfelt tearjerker.” It is the first short film that Denny is doing all of the work for, as well as starring in.

“I think it will take the audience on a nice, meaningful journey,” he said.

He said because every moment with a person matters, the interactions should make people feel “welcome and wanted and validated as a person.”

“Right there, that’s the heart of what we’re going for,” he said.

The movie also stars Nicole Cardamone Cannon and Courtney Duncil.

Denny, an independent film maker originally from South Carolina but now lives in Charlotte, said he got started with theater by taking a theater performance class at a local theater during high school. When he got to Winthrop University, he first double majored in computer science and theater performance, but eventually dropped theater performance down to a minor.

“I’m kind of kicking myself now,” he said, laughing.

After college, he worked in the corporate world for a while, but around 2005 he found that something was missing in his life. He got back into theater by working on independent films and started his own production company.

Although the company was a great learning experience, Denny decided to go in another direction and shut the company down.

Now, Denny is focused on producing and writing his own work and is hoping “Purpose” will be the start of his own production company.

Denny has worked as a director of photography and post-production editor for different films and has done editing work for commercials. He also has experience with CGI and special effects.

Denny said he wanted to set boundaries for himself with ‘Purpose,’ so he decided to have the movie filmed at one location. He wanted that location to be a place that anyone could relate to.

“My original concept was for a nice city street that you could almost see being anywhere,” he said.

Denny said Salisbury was great as a location because of the look of the area, and because the people of the city have been welcoming and friendly towards him.

“I started meeting people and I thought, ‘wait a minute, this is not only a great location for the look of it and everything, but the people here, the vibe I’m getting is the vibe of the film,’ ” he said.

Denny said Captain Melonie Thompson from the Salisbury Police Department was “instrumental in helping guide us through the process for bringing ‘Purpose’ to Salisbury.”

Denny also thanked Communications Director Linda McElroy, City Urban Design Planner Lynn Raker and the business owners on East Fisher Street, including the owners of Mike and Paula’s Eatery and Mambo Grill & Tapas.

“There are so many more people from the businesses on East Fisher Street and in the surrounding area that have treated me so warmly and have been so helpful that I could go on and on with my list,” he said in an email.

He said he hopes to have a mutually beneficial relationship with the city. He plans to hold different activities through his production to draw more people to the downtown area.

Denny said it is not about getting famous for him, it’s about creating something positive and useful for the world.

He said if he can help teach people lessons through his films so that they do not have to learn them the hard way, he wants to do it.

“It would be great to somehow take someone through an experience in the film and have them learn something from it and not have to go through the pain that comes from actually experiencing those things,” he said.

“Purpose” is not the only production being filmed in the area. “Shots Fired,” a new television series from 20th Century Fox is being filmed in downtown Kannapolis. According to an article from the Independent Tribune, City of Kannapolis Director of Communications Annette Privette Keller said 20th Century Fox plans to film in the area through July.

The show features Helen Hunt (“As Good as it Gets,” “Mad About You”) and Richard Dreyfuss (“The Goodbye Girl,” “Jaws”). Sanaa Latham, “Love & Basketball” star, is also attached to star in the show.

According to McElroy, “Purpose” will begin filming on April 3 from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. on East Fisher Street. It will film on various Sundays at around the same time through late August. Residents will receive specific dates in advance. The street will be closed to vehicle traffic during filming, but businesses that are usually open will remain open and can be accessed on foot.

Denny said he hopes his movie can showcase Salisbury in a positive way and bring more people from the film industry to the area.

“There’s a beginning to everything, and maybe this film coming out and being made here will make people realize, ‘Oh, we saw it on camera, we liked it,’” he said. “It was filmed in Salisbury and they go, ‘You know what, let’s think about shooting something here.’”

Since the film will take place over a long period of time, Denny said they are looking for extras.

Those interested can send a head shot, full length shot and resumé to Dani Gulledge at

For more information about the film, visit

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.