Newlywed filmmakers make fudge in Vicksburg
Heath and Alyssa Padgett should have been happy. The 23-year-old couple had graduated college, gotten good jobs in their hometown of Austin, Texas – Heath at a software company and Alyssa at a nonprofit – and was getting married soon. But something felt just a little bit off.
“We were both good at our jobs, they just weren’t fulfilling,” Alyssa said. “They weren’t bringing us any meaning, just a paycheck.”
That was almost a year and several thousand miles ago.
The Padgetts have since found their meaning and are now on the final leg of a cross-country filmmaking journey covering all 50 states, including a stop in Vicksburg last Wednesday to shoot the Mississippi portion of their documentary “Hourly America.” The documentary, which is slated to premiere August 2015, features hourly-paying jobs in every state and the people who work them.
“Our mission is very positive, to highlight the different types of work across the country, but mostly the types of people across the country and why they do the type of work that they do,” Alyssa said.
This undertaking brought them to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory at the Outlets of Vicksburg to work their 45th job.
Alyssa, who operates the camera, and Heath, who works the job, contacted owners Brady and TyAnn Ellis out of the blue Tuesday to see if they would be interested in letting them try their hand at making chocolate and film in their shop.
“They called us Tuesday afternoon after searching for local businesses in Vicksburg with a strong Facebook presence and good local reviews,” Brady said. “The first thing I said was ‘Are you serious?’ Then I thought no one in their right mind would make something like this up so we might as well help them with their adventure.”
That adventure started with Heath and Alyssa’s notion to possibly live somewhere else after getting married. Alyssa suggested they visit all 50 states in their quest to find the right place, and that evolved into their current mission. The couple hooked up with job-finding website snagajob.com for sponsorship, turned in their notices at work, and updated their wedding registry to all the things they’d need for life on the road.
“I think the thing that really differentiated us was that we made the big steps that forced us to go,” Heath said. “We told everyone so we would have social pressure to go.”
Four days after saying their nuptials, they were out the door. The trials they’ve gone through on the road inside their 232-square-foot RV has strengthened their marriage, Alyssa said.
“Every bad thing that happens to us along the way and every awesome thing that happens to us along the way, it happens to both of us together,” Alyssa said. “When you experience those highs and those lows together, you just grow together so much faster. We always joke that we’re married in dog years.”
The couple chooses the jobs partly by trying things they’ve never done before, they said. While on the trip,Heath has worked jobs ranging from Buffalo Wild Wings to farm work to a martial arts studio. They chose Vicksburg for their Mississippi stop because of a suggestion from Alyssa’s mother, Heath said.
“We were going to go to Jackson, but we decided to come here,” Heath said. “Alyssa’s mom said it was a cool place.”
Once they got to Vicksburg Heath got to work dipping cherries and making fudge while Alyssa filmed in the chocolate shop. The fact so many employers are willing to allow them to come into their stores and work always surprises them, Alyssa said.
“We’re strangers to Brady and TyAnn, but they let us come in and just make fudge, which is a coveted thing as a chocolatier,” she said.
The Padgett’s fudge-making skills were good, but their passion was what left an impression, Brady said.
“When TyAnn and I started we were young and ambitious,” Brady said. “They remind me of us when we first started.”
From Vicksburg the couple was heading west to Shreveport then Arkansas before a holiday break in Texas to visit family. Once they’re done shooting, Alyssa will handle the heavy lifting of video editing then their future is up in the air.
“This trip has made us resilient enough to not be scared of what’s next,” Heath said. “If nothing else we can go get a job at one of the places we worked.”