Look for a little Lucedale in new horror film, ‘Royal Jelly’

The latest buzz says a bunch of bees and a cinematographer have put George County in a movie.

Royal Jelly, released mid-September, is the story of a shy high school bee enthusiast from a broken home. A substitute teacher takes the girl under her wing, grooming her to become a hive’s next queen. It’s a low-budget indie horror film released just in time for Halloween.

Benndale Elementary principal Sean Riley wrote and produced the flick. And yes, viewers can easily spot familiar places such as George County High School’s entranceway. You’ll recognize the building, but the school’s name was edited from the film clip. Also, classrooms at the high school set the scene for some of the shots. However, most of the movie was filmed in Gulfport with a few shootings taking place in Diamondhead and Biloxi. Royal Jelly can be viewed via a host of streaming platforms including Amazon Prime, iTunes, Vudu, Xbox, and DirecTV. The trailer is available on YouTube. The film, suited for ages 17 and up, could appeal to anyone but has especially caught the attention of bee enthusiasts and the horror culture.

Riley drafted the initial script in 1999 but sat on it for years before beginning production.

“I keep a mental vault of story ideas, and they tend to incubate over time. Sometimes, you get to a point where it all comes together, and that is what happened with Royal Jelly. It has a similarity to Cinderella, and when I made that connection, it triggered something in me,” Riley said.

Just as Cinderella was a happenstance princess, a hive’s queen bee is randomly selected. The movie’s name comes from the honey bee secretion used in the nutrition of larvae and adult queens in a beehive. During the process of creating new queens, the worker bees construct special queen cells. The larvae in these cells are fed copious amounts of “royal jelly.”

Ironically, Riley is not a die-hard horror fan.

“I just like good stories whether they are scary or not. I’m just a fan of a good storyline,” he said.

A native of Baton Rouge, La., Riley earned a bachelor’s degree in film from the University of Southern Mississippi. He has a master’s degree in educational administration and a specialist degree in educational leadership. He and his wife, Candy, live in St. Martin. They’ve been married 20 years and have a son who is a junior at USM. Riley has been with the George County School District for seven years and is in his third year at Benndale.

Filming took place over the course of a year beginning in September 2019 and concluding in September 2020. Friends and film colleagues, who believed in his project, pitched in to become producers. The film was shot in 16 days with much of it done on weekends as Riley was working full time and continuing his education. In post-production, he edited the clips and landed a deal with Uncork’d Entertainment to distribute the finished product. It’s received a significant number of critic reviews especially considering its budget constraints. Riley said he became committed to fulfilling his lifelong dream of developing a feature film as he neared his 40th birthday. He hopes to serve as an inspiration to others to follow their dreams and passions.

To find out more about Royal Jelly, visit the movie’s Facebook.

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Written by Nancy Jo Maples

Nancy Jo Maples is an award-winning journalist who has written about Mississippi people and places for more than 30 years. A former daily staff news reporter for the Mississippi Press, she currently writes for various media and teaches communication at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Reach her at [email protected]

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