Growing up in Covington provides inspiration to young filmmaker

What happens when something big unveils itself, the latest trend or the hot new buzz? People notice, and people want in. And it’s not just the people who want to keep up with the Jones’ or someone looking for work — even the kids are noticing.JW_IMG_1526034210915 (002)

That’s what happened with the film and television production industry right here in Georgia, and Jantzen Winnig, a Covington native, was watching.

When Jantzen was young, his mother recognized his interest in the industry, and she helped as she could. When she saw a movie directed by Alex Winter shooting in Old-Town Conyers, she had to let Jantzen know.

“My mom took me out of school, and we spent the day hanging out on set,” says Jantzen. “I was 14 at the time and I remember talking to every single crew member I could and soaking it all in.”

While Alex Winter may not remember talking to him on set, his kind words inspired Jantzen to follow his dream and work to perfect his craft.

“In high school I took broadcasting and theater and that helped me break out of my shell,” he said. “I didn’t like being in front of everyone so broadcasting really spoke to me.”

Throughout high school he and his friends would work on small videos mostly meant to entertain themselves. But as they got older those blooper reels evolved into more serious short films that kept improving. With the advance in film quality came the need for better equipment, but as anyone in the industry knows, it ain’t cheap.

Jantzen has taken many jobs in and around his hometown of Covington, and from Day 1 he has been saving to afford the equipment he needs to take his work to the next level. Since those days of filming around the backyard, Jantzen has built quite an impressive arsenal of equipment.

7pa2Scl (2)“In just a few years I’ve compiled a high-end camera, lights, sound equipment, sliders, tripods, drones and a plethora of other film equipment that help me get my work done,” he says.

These days Jantzen and his group of filming friends have formed a group they call “Silent Frame.” They focus on short films and have been nominated for 25 different awards at film festivals around the United States, bringing home twelve of them. Jantzen also helps small businesses with promotional videos.

“My family thought I would have to move to California if I wanted to get into this business, but I’m so happy that I am able to live in my home town and still do what I love,” Jantzen says.

Advertisements

“Stranger Things” publicist has front-row seat to industry growth in Georgia

Like many people drawn to the film and television industry, Denise Godoy Gregarek felt the itch early.Denise Godoy 2

“I always knew I wanted to work behind the scenes in the film industry,” says Denise, who graduated from the University of Texas with a major in radio, TV and film communications. Post-college, a move to Hawaii helped open the door to her dream. “I worked in Honolulu for Hilton Hotels, and part of my job was to help scout locations and solve problems. I was hooked.”

Today, 23 years later, Denise is a fixture of the Georgia film and television production industry as the unit publicist for “Stranger Things,” the popular Netflix series that premiered its third season this month.

An opportunity as a publicist at the TNT headquarters in Atlanta brought Denise from Hawaii to Georgia, and gave her a front-row seat to a lot of changes in the industry.

“When I started, the business was a difficult one for women, but fortunately I’ve seen a significant shift in the tolerance and opportunity for everyone in the culture,” says Denise, who describes the job of publicist as a behind-the-scenes translator or jungle guide for fans.

Denise has also been in the middle of the phenomenal growth of the industry in Georgia.

denise-godoy-1.jpeg“It’s like a giant arrow pointing upward,” she says. “You can see how companies are deciding to be based here, not just move in temporarily for a production. You can see infrastructure like sound stages being built and local actors getting feature roles.  It’s exciting to watch people who came here as transplants become rooted in the place and its culture.”

She attributes success in large part of the culture of Georgians taking care of each other. “When people ask me what’s on my highlight reel I always talk about the relationships I’ve made with filmmakers and crews, especially the gifted people behind the cameras who make the magic possible.”

Denise believes the future of the industry in Georgia is strong.

“There are wide choices in locations, well-trained crews and abundant studio space. Filmmakers like being here because they prefer having access to people who know what they’re doing. All that adds up to job security for the people who depend on the industry, and for the industry itself.”

Georgia Studio & Infrastructure Alliance Announces New Leadership Team

 

Georgia Studio & Infrastructure Alliance Leadership Team (1)

Top left to bottom right: Beth Talbert, Kris Bagwell, John Raulet, Dan Minchew, Tyler Edgarton, Mark Wofford

The Georgia Studio & Infrastructure Alliance, the state’s only organization dedicated solely to representing local investment in Georgia’s film and television production industry, announces a new leadership team that will steer the group through the next two years.

Beth Talbert, head of Eagle Rock Studios, is the newly elected President of the Georgia Studio & Infrastructure Alliance. Kris Bagwell, founder of the Alliance and Executive Vice President of EUE/Screen Gems Studios, remains on the leadership team as immediate past president. Other newly elected officers include: John Raulet, Alliance President-elect and Partner at Mailing Avenue Stageworks; Daniel Minchew, Alliance Secretary and Owner of Studio Space Atlanta and Atlanta Filmworks; Tyler Edgarton, Alliance Treasurer and Partner at Mailing Avenue Stageworks; and Mark Wofford, Infrastructure Board Chairman and General Manager of PC&E.

“I’m excited to continue the great work of this group of Georgia companies,” says Talbert, who stepped into her leadership role in July. “We are — and will continue to be — all about supporting the film industry. We live here; we work here; our families are growing up here. We are fully committed to supporting Georgia film and television production because it’s our local businesses and communities that are the beneficiaries of this thriving industry.”

Founded in 2014, the Alliance is anchored by a core group of studios that includes Atlanta Filmworks, Eagle Rock Studios, EUE/Screen Gems Studios, Mailing Avenue Stageworks, Third Rail Studios, and Triple Horse Studios. Infrastructure members — companies that provide support services to production studios and their clients — include Cofer Bros., Crafty Apes, Enterprise Entertainment and Production Rentals, Herc Entertainment Rentals, Lightnin’ Production Rentals, Moonshine Post-Production, PC&E, and Sim Digital Inc.

The Alliance also works closely with Georgia Production Partnership, founded in 1995 to strengthen and grow the film and television industry here.

Members of the Alliance serve the film and television industry in a variety of ways, including providing studio space, camera equipment, visual effects and post-production services, HVAC, power equipment, truck and car rentals and building materials — and all have invested in the long-term success of the state’s growing production business.

About the Georgia Studio & Infrastructure Alliance: The Alliance is a unified voice representing studios and other companies essential to the industry’s infrastructure to the Georgia General Assembly, the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and any other state entities dealing with the regulation of the entertainment industry. A key initiative of the Alliance is its on-going sharing of stories about Georgians building careers and changing their lives through employment and opportunity in the state’s film and television industry. Read those stories on our blog page and on the Alliance’s Facebook page.

Paramedics put skills to work on Georgia’s film, TV production

A crew member working on a local production wrecked his bike, and was lying unconscious on the pavement. To those who saw the accident, it was pretty clear that the rider must have had a heart attack.

But Andrea McDougal knew better.

McDougal_Satisfaction (1)

Andrea and Christoper McDougal, owners of McDougal Movie Medics

“Part of my job as a medic is knowing the medical conditions of many of the people I might be treating on a production,” says Andrea, a native of Columbus. “I knew the biker was a diabetic and that he had probably passed out from hypoglycemia. Knowing that made a difference in how we dealt with his emergency.”

Andrea and her husband Christopher serve as medics on a growing number of film and TV productions in Georgia. Their company –– McDougal Movie Medics –– provide emergency services during the set-construction phase as well as the actual filming.

Both are certified paramedics with medical direction, a classification that enables them to carry and administer life-saving drugs in an emergency. Before her work in Georgia’s production industry, Andrea was with Grady EMS and served as a civilian contractor to the military in Iraq. She also did research at Emory University in emergency neuroscience and traumatic brain injuries. Christopher is a

former captain and paramedic with the Atlanta Fire Department.

Their first work on a production in Atlanta was “Lila and Eve,” a film with Jennifer Lopez and Viola Davis made in 2012.  Other credits include two seasons on the TV show “Satisfaction,” “Passengers” with Jennifer Lawrence, “Spiderman Homecoming,” “Ant Man and the Wasp,” “Pitch Perfect 3” and three seasons of “Star.”

McDougal Movie Medics staffs productions with a pool of experience medics the couple has cultivated over the years. For many, opportunities through the company has a ripple effect, leading others to their own production jobs where they brin

g their own cadre of recruits into the industry, Andrea says. McDougal Movie Medics has become a ladder up for other medics and a barometer for the growth and vitality of the film and TV industry in Georgia.

Another indicator of the industries impact in Georgia can be found in RV parks around town.

“When we began working on films we had a home in Roswell and we had to commute for hours each way,” Andrea says. “When a working day is 12 hours or more, the commute is a backbreaker. So we bought an RV to park near the production and would go home on weekends.”

When they first moved into the RV park, they found other film families who had come here in RVs from around the country. And what started as a convenience for transients is transforming into a permanent base in a new state.

“The interesting thing now is to see the number of people who have given up their RVs and bought homes in Georgia,” she says. “The impact of the industry on Georgia is far reaching — it’s not just jobs. It’s establishing a foothold, buying homes, settling into careers because of all the opportunities.”

 

New Alliance Chair Committed to Supporting Film, TV Ecosystem

Beth Talbert agrees with the old adage that when opportunity knocks, you better open the door.

By chance she landed a job 24 years ago in the film and television production industry and during her career she’s turned that opportunity into becoming the head of a studio — one of only a few women to do so.

IMG_2136 (1)

Beth Talbert with her daughter Garyn Talbert.

When Beth moved to Atlanta to head Eagle Rock Studios in 2016, she jumped into the Georgia market with both feet. She is the newly appointed chair of the Georgia Studio & Infrastructure Alliance and is a board member of Women in Film & Television Atlanta, the Producer’s Guild of America Atlanta Chapter, and the Dekalb County Entertainment Commission.

“I’m thrilled to be the chair of the Georgia Studio & Infrastructure Alliance,” says Beth. “We are a group of Georgia companies supporting the film industry. We live here; we work here; our families are growing up here. We are fully committed to supporting Georgia film and television production because it’s our local businesses and communities that are the beneficiaries of this thriving industry.”

A native of North Carolina, Beth moved to California 20 years ago for her husband’s job and was intrigued by the excitement of the entertainment industry. Because movie-making seemed fun, Beth pursued a job at 20th Century Fox as an assistant to a production executive. She worked on-set for five years and then moved to Tribune Entertainment distributing syndicated programming to local stations across the country. Beth says it was challenging and rewarding work but eventually advanced to managing sound stages which she has continued to do for the past decade.

In 2016, opportunity came calling again, this time from Eagle Rock Studios in Atlanta. Beth was happy to come back to the Southeast and says Atlanta offers an easier lifestyle where the cost of living and the traffic is better — something only someone from L.A., where the traffic is even worse, could attest to.

Eagle Rock Studios is currently home to “Dynasty,” “Ozark,” and “Greenleaf” television productions. The studios are owned by Eagle Rock Distributing Co., a beer distributing company that found itself with an abundance of warehouse space in Norcross and Stone Mountain at an opportune time when productions were looking for studio space. The third-generation family-owned business transformed warehouses into state-of-the-art studio space specially designed to fit the needs of film and television productions.

It was a difficult path to reach this point in her career. Beth says she had no mentors in an industry that was male-dominated and she had to forge her own path. But now that Beth is in a position to do so, she is determined to help other women find opportunity in the business. Beth has helped women find internships and strives to continue her relationship with them.

Beth says she hopes to use her position both at Eagle Rock and as chair of The Georgia Studio & Infrastructure Alliance to promote opportunity for all Georgians in the film and television production industry.

“It’s exciting to be a part of the growing Georgia film industry,” says Beth. “The influx of shows is bringing business to our industry and to local businesses who provide a wide-range of services. It’s a win-win for our community.”

A moment in history led to Georgia’s billion-dollar film, TV industry

Carla and Josh_Film Exhibit.JPGGeorgia’s film industry has roots in a movie about a prison football team. In the early 1970s the producers of “The Longest Yard” were searching for a prison in which to shoot their film but needed the governor’s permission.

When then-governor Jimmy Carter heard about it, he made actor Burt Reynolds and his producers a deal they couldn’t refuse. If you build a football field inside the state prison at Reidsville and leave it there when you’re finished, you can film the movie there.

The rest, as they say, is history.

From that collaboration has grown a multi-billion-dollar industry that employs more than 92,000 people in Georgia. Appropriately enough, that industry is on display until the end of the year in “Georgia on My Screen: Jimmy Carter and the Rise of the Film Industry” at The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.

“It was incredible foresight by President Carter to recognize what was possible,” says Joshua Montanari, Education Specialist at the Museum. “With this exhibit, we are highlight the economic benefit and jobs that moment in history created.”

The catalyst for the exhibit was a news item from the Smithsonian Institution that it had acquired props from Georgia-produced “The Walking Dead,” according to Museum Specialist Carla Ledgerwood. “It made us wonder whether anyone here was collecting Georgia-related artifacts,” she says. “That’s when we decided to mount the exhibit ourselves.”

Walking through the exhibit is like experiencing the timeline of Georgia film and television productions. There’s a tribute to “Deliverance,” which first brought Reynolds to Georgia in the early 1970s, launching a long-time friendship between the actor and President Carter.

The exhibit contains only original artifacts (no replicas) including Joe Pesci’s boots and Marisa Tomei’s witness-stand dress from “My Cousin Vinny,” Joyce Byer’s living room in “Stranger Things,” two of Daryl’s motorcycles from “The Walking Dead,” Captain America’s costume, and the Oscar won by “Driving Miss Daisy” as the best picture in 1989. There are wardrobe and props from recent blockbusters like “Black Panther” and Dr. Randolph Bell’s white jacket from “The Resident.”

Also featured are tributes to the many Georgians who worked behind the cameras as set directors, sound mixers and even specialists in prosthetics and special makeup effects, thus recognizing and honoring the thousands of Georgians in every business imaginable who have benefited from the spectacular growth of the film and television industry since Jimmy Carter opened the door.

Gathering such an impressive set of costumes, props and memorabilia wasn’t easy.

“We had to do a lot of research because we had zero sources in the industry until the Reagan Presidential Library provided our first contacts,” says Carla. “What’s more, because we had nothing to call a collection, everything in the exhibit would have to be on loan for about nine months. That’s a hard sell in the museum world.”

But sell they did, reaching out to local film offices in Georgia and practically every studio and production company working in the state. “Everyone in this very competitive industry was wonderfully accommodating,” Carla says.

Another problem was that there have been more than 1,500 film or television productions in Georgia since 1972 — far more than what could be represented in one exhibit. Entries were limited to those nominated for major awards or box-office hits, trimming the list to the more than 65 productions highlighted in the exhibit.

This extraordinary growth all began because of the interest and energy of Jimmy Carter, who believed that film profoundly influences the way we see ourselves and our country, Carla says.

“The exhibit draws deserving attention to that heritage and the economic impact of the industry on Georgia,” Carla says.

Local knowledge links small business with film, TV opportunities

Game Night Day 36Ariel Kaplan, a native Atlantan, got her first job as a prop master because of her knowledge of the city’s geography and businesses.

It also helped that she worked for free.

But that first unpaid gig on the independent film “Grantham and Rose” turned into a lucrative career as a member of the art department in property and set decoration.

“For many people, it’s just a job — a great job that pays well,” says Ariel. “For me, it’s more than that. I’ve always loved the art of film making.”

Ariel is devoted to the art of film making but also to helping Georgia businesses thrive in the industry. Her mother, Ronnie Kaplan, is the owner of The Touchstone Collection, a small business focusing on unique items like antique textiles. With the rise of the Georgia film and television industry, Ariel’s mother turned her business into a fulltime prop store that sells exclusively to productions.

Game Night Day 07Through watching her mother’s struggles working with the industry, Ariel learned how to navigate working with small businesses. Ariel says that film production schedules are “nuts” and that needs change rapidly and constantly. When buying props or set decorations from a new small business contact, she always starts out with an apology for the hectic pace of their process and then helps them to understand how the film industry works.

“When the film industry first started in Georgia, we got everything from New York and California. Now we’re getting so much from local businesses,” says Ariel. “We gave these companies a chance to meet our needs and they’ve met the challenge wholeheartedly.”

Biggars, an antique store in Chamblee, is a great example. It was an antique store that focused on antiques and memorabilia from the 1950s and 1960s. Now that antique store is a thriving prop house and rental business.

As a prop master and set decorator, Ariel finds joy in researching the era the film is set in and ensuring the decorations and props are historically accurate. She’s currently working on HBO’s new series, “Lovecraft Country,” a horror story created by Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams, set in America in the 1950s.

“I especially like working on period films because everyone puts so much emphasis on getting the details right,” says Ariel. “I want to make sure everything is appropriate for the year, from the glassware to the stapler.”

Ariel’s recent work also includes “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” “Queen America,” “Insatiable,” and “Black Panther.”

Enterprise builds team of Georgians to focus on film and TV

For Lishers Mahone, the movie “Hall Pass” presented an issue that could only be resolved Georgian to Georgian.

Lishers_Enterprise 1.jpgFilmed around metro Atlanta in 2010, the romantic comedy was an early experience with keeping a film production crew — especially a VIP — satisfied with service and vehicles.

For this particular VIP member of the “Hall Pass” team, a Chevy HHR just wasn’t going to cut it.

“I went right to the Unit Production Manager to try to make it right,” says Lishers, then branch manager of Enterprise Rent-a-Car’s Buckhead location. “She was a Georgian, too. So Georgian to Georgian, I was able to convince her to give us another chance to make this person — and the full crew — happy with what we could do. That personal connection made all the difference.”

This “Aha!” moment prompted Lishers to pitch the idea of a Georgia-based Enterprise Entertainment division to company leadership. While up until this time there had been occasional opportunities to provide vehicles to film and television productions, business in Atlanta was picking up. It was time to hone the focus on Georgia.

Lishers_Enterprise 2.jpgIt was a winning idea that has put Enterprise and Lishers at the heart of Georgia’s film and production television opportunities.

Nine years later, Enterprise Entertainment has provided vehicles to a long list of Georgia-based productions that includes “Stranger Things,” “Hunger Games,” “Fast & Furious 7,” “Baby Driver,” and “Avengers: Endgame.”

Now with three locations in metro Atlanta — including a truck division that focuses on purpose-build production trucks and passenger vans — Enterprise Entertainment has grown from Lishers and a four-person team to employ 30 people. All serve Georgia productions, and all are Georgians.

“We are all about creating opportunities,” says Lishers. “Everybody on our team here is a Georgian — that matters.”

Film industry opportunities lead back to Georgia

When Scott Nickelson graduated from high school in New Mexico in the 1990s, he came straight to Georgia. It was a state he always wanted to live in, and he was determined to build a life here.

54255039_569849856754189_3745306310694928384_n

Scott Nickelson and his wife, Laura.

But big dreams hit harsh reality, and Scott returned to New Mexico to spend the next decade or so working in a series of jobs. It was one of those jobs — as a technician with Exchange Communications — that led him back to Georgia and landed him in the middle of the state’s ever-growing film and television industry.

“I thought I’d never get back to Georgia, but that didn’t turn out to be true,” says Scott, who returned to Georgia in 2007 and now lives in Rome, GA, with his wife and son. “It was the film industry that brought me back, and the film industry that keeps me here.”

Exchange Communications, founded in 1996 in Santa Fe, NM, creates custom IT and communications services for remote locations. The company also has offices in Albuquerque, NM; New Orleans, LA; Los Angeles; New York; and Honolulu.

In Georgia alone, Exchange Communications has created custom solutions for hundreds of film and television production sets across the state.

Scott was once the lone Exchange Communication’s employee based in Georgia. Business here has grown to support five full-time employees and additional contractors. Early work in Georgia included “Drop Dead Diva” and “Vampire Diaries,” and the company’s list of recent projects include “Avengers End Game,” “Venom,” “Gemini Man,” and “Godzilla.”

“When I first returned to Georgia, I was still jumping on airplanes to head to work at our projects around the country,” says Scott. “That’s certainly not the case now — I’m busy right here in Georgia, and that’s great for me, and great for my family.”

Entrepreneur spots opportunity in Georgia’s production industry

23319003_1575612945851310_7631709093193656318_nIt’s an old story: An enterprising person spots a need, musters the energy to meet it, and presto — a successful business is launched.

Four years ago Georgia native Nick Adams was a teamster making deliveries to, among other places, movie sets around Georgia. He noticed that the bathroom facilities at the film production sites were, shall we say, not up to standards.

That’s when the lightbulb of invention came on and Crew Thrones was born.

Nick started with three restroom trailers, one truck and one part-time helper. The staff has grown to six full-timers and a fleet of 28 trailers, five pump trucks and 80 porta-potties.

“I have a new trailer on the way and just purchased a new truck — the future looks bright,” says Nick.

Among the productions Crew Thrones has serviced are “Baby Driver,” two “Spiderman” movies, “The Outsider” TV series, “Ozark,” “Bad Boys 3” and “The Fate of the Furious,” aka “Fast and Furious 8.”

Nick gets involved at the very beginning by supplying porta-potties for the construction crews. As the production gets more elaborate, he brings in the luxury restroom trailers. While luxury is not a word usually associated with portable toilets, his trailers range from two units up to 10 units –– spanking clean and comfortable. One four-room unit can service an onsite crew of 50 to 75 people.

IMG_2199

One of his biggest challenges is moving the units to keep pace with the crews as they change locations, Nick says. One production required shuttling the units between Macon and Norcross.

Based in Stockbridge, Crew Thrones is a good example of the beneficial effect of Georgia’s growing film industry on home-grown Georgia businesses.

“Building the business has enabled me to have a family, a home and savings for college educations,” says Nick, who grew up in Locust Grove and now lives in Williamson, south of Atlanta near Griffin. “The state’s tax credit for the film industry means I can look forward to a bright future.”