Georgia film producer Gloria Stella was searching for the perfect place to shoot “Submission,” a film set in Afghanistan’s wind-swept mountainous region. Budget constraints meant she needed to find a location in the southeast. Luckily, she discovered Sunnyside ATV Paradise located in Wrens, GA, just southwest of Augusta.
The film industry was a welcome addition to Sunnyside’s revenue as well as an economic opportunity for others in the community.
Sunnyside ATV Paradise has it all. “We have 998 acres of sand dunes, swamps, craggy hills, cliffs, mud, old mines, and forest,” says Kurt Warneke, co-owner and operator. Sunnyside is located on the land of a former kaolin mine. Kaolin is found only in a narrow, 20-mile-wide strip along the Fall Line, which separates Georgia’s Coastal Plain from the Piedmont region.
Kurt Warneke and Jimmy McPeak opened Sunnyside seven years ago. They wanted a safe place for their kids to ride their ATVs and a welcome space for the community to spend time four-wheeling. Their park has 50 miles of trails for four-wheeling, camping and fishing. They host special events like Jeep Owners of America weekend, ATV races, charity fundraisers and music concerts.
The three days “Submission” spent filming at the park brought an economic boost to the area. Sunnyside not only provided the setting, but also catered food for the crew. The crew stayed in hotels in Augusta and Wrens. Locals played ISIS soldiers and food vendors came out to the park during filming. And of course, a port-a-potty company was needed, too.
“I hope to help accommodate the film industry. It’s a lot fun and it’s a great revenue stream,” says Kurt. “It gets all kinds of local people involved. It takes local companies to make things happen. This could be big for our entire area and our economy.”
Kurt widened the road in the park to make it easier for the “Submission” film crew to get access to remote areas. Sunnyside ATV Paradise has been the location for other filming as well. Corey Smith’s music video for “Feet Wet” was shot there and Kurt’s son, Parker, got a starring role in the video. Recently, a new network series scouted the location as a potential place for filming.