Jordan Tyson grew up in Macon. As a boy, he’d visit his father, Michael, on sets of movies and in production there, enchanted by the magic of making locations seem like entirely different places.
He might see film crews turn nighttime into daytime; renovate a local car wash; or, best yet, drive a car off a cliff.
“When you’re an 8-year-old kid, that’s the coolest thing in the world,” he says.
Now Jordan, 24, is following in his father’s footsteps as a lighting technician. He credits Georgia’s film-production tax breaks with building up an industry that’s now capable of enlisting, educating and employing a second generation of skilled workers.
“It’s extremely important,” he says. “If we don’t have that, we’d all be going out of state to find work. There are plenty of locals here working (in Georgia).
“I love my job. It’s pretty awesome.”
Baseball arena ‘a gem for us’
Dad Mike has been in the business for at least 15 years, with a long list of credits in the camera and electrical departments with job titles like rigging gaffer, grip and electrician.
The father and son both live in metro Atlanta now, but their roots in Macon are deep. So is the industry’s, going back to 1970s movies like “The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings,” starring Billy Dee Williams and Richard Pryor as Negro League ballplayers.
It was partially filmed at the Luther Williams Ball Park, the nation’s second-oldest baseball arena and Macon’s star attraction for film and TV productions.
“The arena is absolutely a gem for us, to be able to attract the filming industry,” says Sam Kitchens, assistant director of parks and beautification for Macon Bibb County. “That in turn brings tax dollars here. That’s a big economic driver for us, not to mention the temporary jobs and people coming to visit our businesses.”
Clint Eastwood shot part of “Trouble with the Curve” at the field. And it was dressed up to serve as multiple locations for the Jackie Robinson biopic, “42.” More than 250 locals were hired as extras to play fans in the stands.
More recently, the forthcoming IFC TV series “Brockmire” filmed some scenes at the field, bringing temporary jobs and Hollywood buzz that spilled into downtown.
Filmmakers have helped spruce up facades and sidewalks, encouraging a ripple effect of civic pride and increased visitors to bars, restaurants and hotels.
“That’s what people want to come to,” Kitchens says. “When you fix it up and people notice restaurants and nightclubs and hustling and bustling.
Away from the field, the TV series “The Originals” has filmed at the historic Hay House, and “42” used the Terminal Station interior. Macon is a location for “I, Tonya,” a feature film starring Margot Robbie as disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding.
A snapshot of income and jobs
Georgia estimates a statewide economic impact of $8 billion from the film and TV productions. There’s no local estimate like that, but Kitchens offered this detail from 10 days of the November 2014 production of “The 5th Wave” for an approximate total impact of about $500,000.
- Hotels: 1,100 room nights at an estimated $100 night = $110,000
- 500 background actors (local) at $140 a day = $70,000
- 1,100 per diem days at $60 a day = $66,000. (This is the money that crew spent at restaurants, shops, etc.)
- Ten-day fuel use at $2,500 a day = $25,000
- Five days catering at $3,500 a day = $17,500. (The amount that craft service and caterers spent at local stores.
- Local vendors for construction/art/security and material, $25,000-$35,000
- Local officers for traffic control, six to eight officers a day at $35 an hour
- Fire safety personnel, two officers a day on shoot days at $35 an hour
- Permit/City use fees unknown.
- Location fees and merchant inconvenience fee, $40,000-$50,000
Most of the Macon area shooting has been on movies, with crews that stay in one location for a shorter time than those on an ongoing series. Some in Macon’s film community hope for a TV series to drop anchor soon, bringing long-term economic development – and more second generations of crew members working steadily.