Georgia film industry gave local medic opportunity to start business

Paul Lowe died on May 27, 2017, while on a medical trip to Uyo, Nigeria. He will be remembered for his dedication, professionalism and selflessness.

Paul Lowe picEighteen years ago, a one-time job on the set of “Remember the Titans” left Paul Lowe thinking, “I just got paid for this?”

Today, Paul, an award-winning paramedic and Registered Nurse with 30 years experience, is not only still getting paid for the film industry work he loves, he’s built a business that serves the film industry, too.

Epic Safety Systems, based in Paul’s hometown of Rome, is one of the 2,700 film film-related businesses now operating in Georgia. His business, started in 2005, provides medical equipment and medic training.

Paul, a warm and energetic personality, has a passion in life — helping people. “I get lots of satisfaction from helping crew members on set and training the amazing medical professionals who work in the industry,” he says.

Paul’s film career began on the set of “Remember the Titans,” shot in Rome in 1999. He was the medic for hundreds of extras on the set. He immediately fell in love with the energy of the film’s dynamic blend of creative people working together.

“It was a great experience,” Paul says. “It was amazing to see how every department was optimized to make this complex operation come together.”

After working on several films, Paul realized there was an opportunity to start his own company providing resources to the medical professionals who provide first aid and safety for the film industry. “I was able to start my company because the film industry in Georgia is booming,” says Paul.

Medics are the first ones on set and the last ones out. “If someone’s on set, we’re there,” says Paul. “We are there in case of emergencies and to help optimize medical response from 911. We help with small issues, too, like first aid and minor medical issues.”

In addition to medical care, Paul handles injury reports, safety assessments and paperwork for productions. He also steps in to help explain medical benefits to the crew when necessary. Sometimes crew members who have medical problems don’t know about their insurance benefits. “These are charismatic and skilled people. They don’t have time to read their contracts and know their benefits,” says Paul. “I get lots of satisfaction helping crew members discover what they need.”

Paul still works every other weekend as a paramedic for Floyd Emergency Medical Services in Rome. In 2009, he was awarded Georgia’s EMT of the Year for his outstanding work as a medic, including one memorable day when he and other medics pulled an unconscious woman from a burning house to safety. For these medics, it was just another day helping people in their community.

There’s no shortage of work in the film industry, Paul says, and he’s grateful for the flexibility and additional income this work allows him and his family.

“It’s been fun for the last 17 years,” says Paul.

Lifecycle Building Center helps productions spread value in Georgia communities

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When production on a movie or TV show is over, the sets are taken apart and the raw materials – chiefly lumber – are often taken to landfills.

Rather than let hundreds of tons of good materials go to waste, Lifecycle Building Center has found a way to make the wood and more available for re-use by homeowners and small developers in the community.

Now its success is showing a new way for the TV and film industry to enrich the lives of ordinary Georgians by helping people improve their homes, organizations and energy efficiency.

The film and TV industry is “feeding the engine that is transforming communities,” says Shannon Goodman, Lifecycle’s executive director.

The non-profit aims to reduce solid waste disposal, promote energy efficiency, and stimulate economic development.  It takes materials from existing buildings that can be reused and saves them from the landfill, making them available to be reused in the community.

With the film and TV industry, Lifecycle takes apart movie sets and stages and then recycles the raw materials – chiefly lumber – by selling them at a deep discount to homeowners and contractors.LBC Warehouse Interior

The public can shop at the 70,000 square foot store five days a week. Pricing is between 50 and 85 percent less than new material costs.

The organization also gives away supplies to other charities, schools, and religious organizations, and teaches homeowners how to improve energy efficiency and use power tools properly.

Lifecycle, in southwest Atlanta, was formed in 2011 by a small, committed group of people who wanted to recycle building materials.

Within a couple of years, Lifecycle became involved with deconstructing sets and stages of “The Walking Dead” and “Last Vegas.” From that first movie alone, the group recycled 50 tons of wood and other supplies.

Goodman says a quarter of the organization’s donations come from the industry, and up to 15 percent of its sales go back to productions.

Lifecycle also has 11 full-time employees.

They bring in $56,000 in monthly revenues. That’s doubled from 2015’s monthly average.

Lifecycle says it has:

  • Saved 3 million pounds of materials from landfills;
  • Donated to 110 non-profit organizations;
  • Saved people more than $1.6 million in discounted and free materials.

It has deconstructed sets from about 25 productions, and even had its site used for the filming of a handful of others, bringing in more revenue to fund the charity.

“The productions have been important,” Goodman says. “The wood products that come off film sets are so very desirable” by families and small contractors who otherwise couldn’t afford the goods.

Tyler Edgarton’s company owns the facilities where the “Last Vegas” sets were built and then taken apart by Lifecycle’s volunteer crew. He was so impressed, he joined its board of directors.

“Recycling and sustainability are becoming more and more important to the studios,” says Edgarton, of Raulet Property Partners and Mailing Avenue Stageworks. “Lifecycle is a clearinghouse to connect people who have materials with those who need them.

“Just to see this waste – there’s no reason for it to happen. If we’re going to be a part of the film and TV community, we need to be a part of the solution.”

The Lifecycle Building Center warehouse is located at 1116 Murphy Ave. S.W., Atlanta, 30310. Hours are Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Film industry brings extra business to Rome restaurant

While filming in Rome, GA, the movie “Meagan Leavey” gave a local family-owned restaurant, the Shrimp Boat, an economic boost.

The crew stayed in Rome longer than planned and many of them came back to eat supper at the Shrimp Boat.

“They rented our facilities during our downtime. It was a real shot in the arm. Plus it was just fun because they were great people. We absolutely enjoyed them,” says Kenneth Payne, owner. “They loved our home-cooked food!”

“Meagan Leavey,” based on the true story of a Marine and her military combat dog, opens in theaters June 9, 2017.

Antique vendors get a financial boost supplying set props

The prop master for the production of the television movie “Kingmakers” had a problem. She needed a shopping list full of items for a scene in the movie being filmed in Rome, GA, but had only one day to find them.

To the rescue came Marsha Blevins, then the manager of Rome’s City Market.

marsha-blevins.png“The people working on the movie showed up at City Market with a long list of items they needed and a big truck to fill with props,” says Marsha. “Once I understood what they needed, I ran around and pulled items from vendors’ booths.”

What they needed was everything from a mannequin and antique armoire to handcrafted wooden pens and an antique trunk.

Marsha could help because “every morning I walked through the booths and memorized what they had for sale,” she says.

The prop team members were happy to teach Marsha about what they needed. She also learned that because movie viewers scrutinize everything on screen, every minute detail needed to fit the story and setting.

“The prop master really had an eye for exactly what was needed and I was her source to find it,” says Marsha. “I sent her to another store if I knew they had it. That way everyone in Rome wins.”

At least 10 vendors sold items for “Kingmakers,” including Leah Burnham, a teacher who sold furniture she decorated with chalk paint. She also sold a trunk, curtains and some accessory pieces. Leah used the money she earned from selling antiques to put herself through her master’s program.

“They needed fancy pens for the scene,” says Marsha, who now operates her business from Rome’s River City Antique Mall. “They couldn’t just have normal pens. So I showed them vendor Tom Canada’s wooden hand-turned pens. We sold three of them. I said to myself, thank you Jesus!”

Marsha stayed open late that night. “I didn’t mind at all,” she says. “They were a wonderful team to work with. They spent thousands of dollars that day, so I was happy to accommodate them.”

Film industry turns a hobby into a career

It takes a creative mind to see the potential in an animal that is no longer with us, and a keen business mind to see the potential profit in dealing with such inventory.

Diana Adelberg takes the niche of taxidermy a step further, turning her hobby into an innovative business that has found a sweet spot in Georgia’s film industry.

Taxidermy1Diana’s work as a visual merchandiser led her from California to New York and she’s now landed in the movie hot spot of Atlanta, where she has based her company, Absinthe Taxidermy. The art of taxidermy has been her hobby for many years, but only recently has it turned itself into a profitable business serving the booming film industry in Georgia.

Yes, set designers will come and ask for the typical deer head on the wall, but that is not what gets Diana up every morning.

“It’s the outside-the-box items that keep this job interesting,” she says.

Take one step into Abram’s Creative Space and your eyes are immediately drawn to Joe-raffe, a 10-foot tall, stuffed giraffe that tends to make his way all around the shop. A few more steps in and you’re faced with a basket of huge animal bones, near the creepy baby doll heads found in horror movies.  Taxidermy3

Diana’s taxidermy work has been used in productions such as Stranger Things, Manifesto, Ozark, Hap & Leonard and Adult Swim’s Your Pretty face is going to hell. But don’t think of the old stiff animals from films past. Absinthe is specializing in soft mount pets that allow you to mold them and make them more realistic.  

Her set supply doesn’t stop with what is in the store. If you need something off the wall, odds are Diana knows where to find it.

“It’s not the museum quality animal in demand as much anymore. People literally want things that look like road kill,” she says. “Friends will drive past road kill on the side of the road and immediately pick up the phone to ask me if I need it — and the answer is almost always yes.”

Location pays off for Douglasville restaurant

What is it they say about location? Just ask the folks at Hudson Hickory House, a landmark restaurant in Douglasville.

Located across the street from the city jail, the popular restaurant made its film debut in ‘Star,’ a Fox series starring Queen Latifah. When floods in Los Angeles shut down production on a Sundance series — Douglasville1Hap & Leonard’ — an assistant director who had worked here on ‘Star’ recommended a move to Douglasville to film the restaurant scenes. The restaurant represents the Texas Armadillo Diner in the series.

Hudson Hickory House, originally opened by Buford Hudson in 1971, is the place to go for hickory-smoked anything in Douglas County and was a perfect location in a town filled with perfect locations.

Douglasville has had several turns in the spotlight in recent years. “Stranger Things” has been filming there for several years, and two years ago a set was built down the street from Hudson Hickory House to represent a McDonald’s franchise in “The Founder,” a movie about the expansion of the fast-foot chain starring Michael Keaton.

That makes the Hickory House location good for business in two ways –– as a watering hole for the casts and crew from the parade of film and TV productions coming to Douglasville, and as a great location for filming.

“It’s great for the town and for our business, “ says owner Scot Hudson. “The movie and TV people have treated us very well, and we love having them here.”

Film industry gets credit for historic renovations

Cabin in the Pines during sunset.

Ever played the game “Six degrees of Kevin Bacon?” It’s a bit of a stretch, but … follow the link from the famous actor to President Theodore Roosevelt.

  1. Kevin Bacon starred in the TV series “The Following.”
  2. The series was filmed on the campus of Berry College.
  3. One of the college’s most beloved historic buildings is the Roosevelt Cabin.
  4. The cabin got its name after college founder Martha Barry hosted President Theodore Roosevelt for lunch at the Cabin in 1910.
  5. Renovation of the Cabin was completed in 2015.
  6. Production fees from Bacon’s “The Following” played a major role in paying for the renovation.

Ok, it’s a reach … but it’s not a stretch at all to connect Georgia’s film and television industry to preservation of historic buildings on the 115-year-old campus.

Teddy Roosevelt presentation at Roosevelt Cottage presented by Joe WiegandLocated in Rome, the scenic private college provides the setting for productions that include Reece Witherspoon’s “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Edgar Allen Poe’s Mystery Theater.”  The most popular selfie spot on campus is in front of Ford Dining Hall, part of the Ford Complex, which served as the football camp facility in “Remember the Titans.”

Lasting impressions from filming can be found in two buildings more than 100 years old. In addition to the renovation of Roosevelt Cabin, restorations were recently completed for Cabin in the Pines, a building that dates to the late 1800s that used to be referred to by students as the “kissing cabin.” Money to spruce up Cabin in the Pines came from fees paid by the television series “Constantine” and “Kingmakers,” a TV pilot that was never aired.

Where possible, local materials and businesses were used in the renovations. On the Roosevelt Cabin, Mike Crook Garden and Stone handled the work of “chinking,” a process in which mud is spread between logs to seal the walls. The mud was a clay mixture made up of local sand, quicklime and sawdust.Cabin in the Pines restoration

“There’s no doubt that Georgia’s film industry is good for our campus,” says Chris Kozelle, Berry’s Director of Public Relations, adding that site-location tours are now a regular part of her job.

“People in the industry come here, and are amazed at the beauty of Berry,” Kozelle says. “Even if we don’t get the production, we get great exposure every time a potential production group tours our campus.”

Abandoned warehouse gets new life from the film industry and businesses who serve it

Four abandoned cabinetry factory warehouses covered in graffiti sat vacant for more than a decade on a forgotten lot just south of the recently retired Georgia Dome. By all definitions, it was an eyesore.FullSizeRender

The solution began with the creative vision of the Swartzberg family, who purchased the 1920s complex that was used by Abrams Fixture Corporation to manufacture cabinetry until the 1990s. And then entered two sisters who launched a creative space to house their late mother’s antiques, now used as set decorations on numerous television and film productions here in Georgia.

The rebirth of the complex began a few years ago when the Swartzbergs initiated “Phase I,” which involved revamping two of the four warehouses. The warehouses were gutted to create wide-open space inviting to artists who wanted to display their work and generate unique ideas, much like the graffiti artists did years ago on the exterior of the warehouses.

It wasn’t long before this hidden gem was discovered by Georgia’s film industry and a number of creative businesses that serve it. That’s where Maryelle St. Clare and Christine FullSizeRender-1Nelson enter the story. The sisters and owners of Oompalala, a company providing set decorations to Georgia’s film industry, were looking to upgrade their workspace at the end of 2016.

Ask them about their work, and you won’t hear Christina tell you about life as a bank controller, or Maryelle go on about the day-to-day life in corporate operations. Not anymore. Thanks to the film industry, these women have turned one of the Swartzberg’s warehouses into a mini-mall for set decorators and prop masters.

Welcome to Abrams Creative Space, home to set props ranging from original still imagery to creepy doll heads, bedroom sets to lighting. There’s even a taxidermist that rents space there. The rundown warehouse has literally turned into a one-stop shop for any set decorator — and Georgia has plenty of those at work. Add a few more golf carts and a movie trailers and you would think you were on Sunset Boulevard.

Ok, maybe it’s not there yet, but give it time …

In just a few months, Abrams Creative Space has become home to more than a dozen businesses, each bringing something totally unique to mix. 01-abrams-4467When asked about what’s most popular, Christine said, “It’s hard to say — people come for one thing and leave with their hands full of all kinds of other things.” The space outside is often used as basecamps for Atlanta-based films.

The sister’s main reason for having a space this size was so that they could keep all the antiques their late mother collected in her world travels. “The shop has given us the freedom to do things we actually enjoy while prolonging the life of our mother’s possessions, and making money all at the same time,” says Christine.

Job security: Family business grows with movie & TV productions

It might seem a stretch to follow a career in law enforcement with another in the movies.

But don’t tell that to Ben Payne.BenPayneFaces.jpg

Payne was a sheriff’s deputy in Florida and Georgia for 30 years.

Now his company, Risk Management Associates of Georgia, thrives by providing security services for movie and TV productions, in studios and on locations.

In just three years, the Conyers-based business has doubled in size to include about 50 full-time employees and a pool of 150 on-call officers to help on temporary assignments. With about 70 percent of its business coming from productions, Risk Management recently opened a second office in Eatonton as well.

“In the last three years, we have done probably a half-dozen of the regular, ongoing TV series, and dozens of movies,” says Payne, whose son Jason also retired from law enforcement to join the firm.

“It’s just been great. We’re a small company. It has helped us tremendously as far as growth potential.”RMAEatontonOffice

The company has worked on titles like TV’s “The Vampire Diaries” and the forthcoming feature “Felt” with Liam Neeson.

Security challenges on sets include the high-end equipment, the presence of celebrities, and the fans who want to get a picture of the production or stars.

Payne credits Georgia’s tax incentives for bringing and keeping productions here.

“It looks very good, very promising,” he says about his company’s outlook. “Several studios are being built. As long as they continue to receive the tax benefits, we’ll continue to grow.

“Several states got rid of the incentives, and because of that, Georgia is reaping the benefits. More and more people are coming here.”

Film industry helps Woodstock native boost art career

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Drew works with a great team, shown here in front of a wall they wrapped. From left Danny Chavez, Kenny Walters, Nick Paolucci, Drew Keener, and Chris Gross.

Growing up, Drew Keener always knew he wanted to work in the film industry. What he didn’t know is that he’d be able to do it in his hometown of Woodstock.

Drew, 26, is an illustrator who creates scenery for film and TV sets. He works with Kennesaw-based Max Graphics, a company that has expanded over the past five years along with Georgia’s film industry. Recent projects have included creating frosted glass logos and wrapping a taxi for scenes in Ben Afflack’s “The Accountant.” He also helped transform a street in Stone Mountain to look like one in another city, primarily by replacing local business signage.

For Drew, it’s rewarding work. “Already my networking has skyrocketed,” says Drew, who studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design and does freelance illustration, IMG_7988 2design and murals in addition to his set work. “I’m connected with other artists, and this brings in customers for my own art. I’ve seen so much opportunity here for me. I’m boosting my skills and connections.”

Drew remains intrigued by the movies. “I watch a film a day out of my huge collection,” he says. “The fact that I get opportunities to work on a film set is amazing. I live for that.”

“I never would have thought I could get this kind of opportunity here in Georgia. It’s steady work and steady income.  In fact, it’s better than steady. We stay busy all the time.”