A passion for special effects leads a creative mind on a wild ride to Georgia

When your parents and most of your close family are professional singers and musicians, you may think your future is inevitable. In some ways it was, but in other ways it wasn’t for a young Giancarlo Bradjic.

Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 11.13.23 AMThe creativity planted inside Giancarlo — who also goes by the name Johnny — was obvious when he became obsessed with a new wave of special effects introduced on the big screen in the 1980s. At that point he knew music would always be a part of his life, but he wanted something else.

His path to that “something else” led him to jobs at theme parks, developing skills as a chef, and finally to the opportunity of a lifetime to work in special effects in Georgia’s exploding film industry.

“I kept quitting my jobs, yearning for something more creative,” Bradjic says.

His story starts when, at the age of 22, Bradjic left his hometown of Miami, FL, looking for a life that would fulfill those creative needs. In the late 80’s, Universal Studios seemed like the perfect place to build a special-effects career. Like so many other aspiring young professionals, it was a struggle. The types of creative jobs were not immediately available, so Johnny worked the theme parks to stay connected.

With Universal Studios proving harder to breach than expected, Bradjic created his own special effects company, Anatomy SFX Studio, a success from the start. He also turned to another passion, food, and became an award-winning corporate executive chef. His skills and creativity were a part of developing many food concepts and can still be seen in restaurants across the United States.

Through the years, he kept sharpening his skills as a special effects artist, doing work for Disney, Warner Brother Studios and Universal, all while continuing to develop his food service operations.

But then the opportunity that he had been waiting for his entire life would present itself, and Bradjic and his wife decided to take a leap of faith.

“I kept seeing Georgia exploding and so many things happening for the film industry,” he said. “My wife finally told me, ‘You know what, Johnny, we are going to Georgia.’”

And just like that, they began looking for homes online. Eager to get started, they bought a house that they never even saw in person. “When you know, you know,” he says.

“We came here fearlessly,” Bradjic says, “and we are so glad that we did. Moving here has been the best thing that I’ve ever done.”

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Since moving to Georgia, Bradjic has made a name for himself. So much so that earlier this year he and his team opened a new facility in Fayetteville, where he and his partners teach a wide variety of special effects classes such as Character Design, Digital Media and Molds and Fabrications. Anything you need to learn, you can do it here.

Bradjic also developed the Special Effects Makeup department for the Georgia Film Academy.

“Now my passion is to make sure the next generation of artists are well prepared for the jobs Georgia’s film industry will continue to produce,” Bradjic says.



Retired camera assistant helps interns learn the trade

In the 45 years between Clyde Bryan beginning and ending his film career in Georgia, he’s seen a lot of change. Most dramatic was the explosive growth of the industry since the tax credit went into effect.

FullSizeRender (1) (1)“When I started in 1973 there weren’t a lot of jobs,” Clyde says. “There were only a small number of filmmakers here and you really had to know someone to get inside. The only jobs available were in commercials, documentaries and training films.”

Finding few open doors in Georgia, he went to California, where he found plenty of work with Producer Roger Corman churning out films for the sci-fi and drive-in audiences.

Born in Texas, Clyde grew up in Ellijay, GA, and went to high school in Alabama.  His years in California as a first assistant camera were productive, but he and his wife Maureen always talked about coming back to Georgia after their three children grew up. Besides, based in Los Angeles he was on the road six to nine months each year. The cost of living was high.  “We wanted a change in lifestyle and fell in love with the idea of living on a lake in Georgia,” he says.

IMG_0552 (1)By the time he returned to Georgia in 2006, the film industry had changed. Feature film and television production was expanding. The tax credit created dramatic growth. “This was a godsend for me and my wife,” Clyde says. “In one year I was home more than in any of my previous 25 years in California.”

There was plenty to keep him busy, including work on two popular television series –– “Ozark” and “Stranger Things” –– and two productions of “The Hunger Games.” Over the years Clyde has worked on more than 128 productions.

Now he’s retired but giving back to the industry by working on an internship program sponsored in part by the International Cinematographers Guild. Participants learn some of the crafts of filmmaking and make contacts that will help them get jobs.

“I’m delighted when I see how many people can get jobs in Georgia these days,” Clyde says. “Apart from the film work itself, the industry brings in a lot of money in construction, hotels, food services and equipment suppliers. What’s more, a lot of tourists travel to see the locations where their favorite movies were made.”

And by the way, Clyde and Maureen live on that lake they always dreamed about –– Lake Sinclair in Milledgeville.

Retired middle Georgia teacher finds new adventure — and extra retirement income — in film

Theresa Daniel 1Growing up in Macon, GA, Theresa Daniel didn’t have the opportunity to pursue her dream of acting. Now, the retired Monroe County school teacher is finally making that dream a reality working in the Georgia film industry.

“I feel like I’m on a new adventure in life and I’m loving it,” says Theresa. “And with the money I’ve made, we were able to build a new deck and go on vacation. My retirement income helps pay for our basic needs, the film industry money is for the fun stuff and the extras.”

Theresa works mostly as a background actor (also known as an extra) and sometimes works as a stand-in, the person who holds the spot for a principal actor while lighting and other issues are worked out.

She retired from teaching in 2016 and has worked on nearly 75 TV shows, commercials and movies. She’s traveled around the state working on productions like “First Man,” “The Haunting of Hill House,” “Brockmire,” “Stranger Things,” “I, Tonya,” “Sharp Objects,” “The Vampire Diaries,” “Pitch Perfect 3,” “The Resident,” and “Den of Thieves.”

Theresa fell into the film industry in 2013 when her husband, an assistant superintendent, allowed an indie film to use the school’s auditorium. The teachers volunteered to be extras. It was a “bucket list” item for Theresa and she was happy to participate. It ended up being a family affair, with both her husband and daughter performing as background actors as well.

Theresa Daniel and daughter Katie

Theresa and her daughter, Katie

After that experience, Theresa wanted to find more opportunities for acting. She found her next gig on the Harrison Ford movie, “42,” filmed in Macon. She and her daughter volunteered and spent three days on set.

“The movie was set in the 1940s and we thoroughly enjoyed getting our hair and makeup done,” says Theresa. “I got to say hello to Harrison Ford and he was very nice. I was just thrilled. I was hooked after that!”

Theresa says she tries to work one to two days a week. She says she’s grateful that the film and television industry came to Georgia and gave her this opportunity.

“I feel like the film industry is feeding Georgia,” says Theresa. “Both economically and artistically.”

‘It feels good to come home’

For writer-producer Sallie Patrick, bringing back the television classic “Dynasty” was full of exciting challenges. Selecting the location of the reboot, however, wasn’t one of them.

The choice was easy: Sallie’s hometown, Atlanta.

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Sallie and her mother Celia Patrick at Dynasty’s hero mansion in Suwanee

“When I was approached by CBS to reboot ‘Dynasty,’ I immediately thought of Atlanta,” says Sallie, a graduate of The Westminster Schools in Atlanta. “It’s so much fun to really know the city I’m working in, to be able to write the characters in places I’ve been. I’ve loved stealing from reality.”

Sallie is among those who will be honored Saturday at the 2018 Women in Film and Television Atlanta annual gala. The event honors entertainment professionals who have made a significant impact on the industry and celebrate the women in film and television within the Atlanta community.

For Sallie, it’s yet another reason to come home to Atlanta. When “Dynasty” is in production, her work brings her to Atlanta about once a month. That’s fine with her, as it’s time her sons get to spend with Sallie’s mother, two sisters and their families, who all live in Atlanta.

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During the pilot with producer Josh Schwartz

“As I was getting started, Georgia’s film and TV industry was starting to take off, too,” says Sallie. “I’ve always wanted to work in my hometown, and that’s not easy to do as a TV writer.”

Sallie’s first Georgia-based project was the pilot “Revenge,” which she chose to film at Berry College in Rome. Other productions include ABC’s “Dirty Sexy Money” and CW’s “Life Unexpected.”

Shooting locations for “Dynasty” span from downtown Atlanta to Suwanee, and the show hires up to 150 extras for a party episode. Much of the crew is Georgia-based, including location scout Andi Behring. For many of the crew, it’s a reunion of their days together working on “Vampire Diaries,” which was filmed in Covington.

“Honestly, it is surreal to be in the position to hire people from my home state,” Sallie says. “I never expected to be able to do that. It feels good to be able to give back to Georgia. It feels good to come home.”

For tickets to the WITFA Gala, go to bit.ly/2018WIFTAGala.

Production opportunities draw family members to Georgia

Krissy Alban definitely plans to see “Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween,” a Georgia-based production that opens this week. What brings her to the theater is more than the movie itself; it’s the run-down Victorian mansion where actor Jack Black’s character lives.

Kristin and fiance Kris working together - Stan Against Evil S2

Krissy and her fiancé working on set

In the new storyline, the house in the original “Goosebumps” has been abandoned for decades. As part of the paint utility crew for “Goosebumps 2,” Krissy worked to age a beautiful home near Decatur that usually serves as a wedding venue into a place creepy enough for Slappy and the other “Goosebumps” ghouls.

And when Krissy sees “The Hate U Give,” which opened this month, she’ll see one of the bigger projects she’s worked on — a complete makeover of an Atlanta block to add murals and alternate storefronts to transform the street to fit the movie.

“It’s a tradition from my childhood, growing up with a Dad who works on sets,” says Krissy, a 26-year-old resident of Conyers. “We go to the movies to see the work we’ve done.”

Krissy, a native of South Florida, followed her father — prop maker and special effects expert David Alban — to Georgia in 2015. For Krissy, it was a bold move made in hopes of taking her film and television production career to the next level. It was a gamble that paid off. As a paint utility crew member, her set work includes “The Fate of the Furious,” “Pitch Perfect 3,” and “Miracle Workers.”   

She’s proudly working fulltime at her chosen profession, no longer filling downtime with short-term jobs like retail or phone technical support. Every time she gets a new production project, she expands her skills and responsibilities, Krissy says.

Kristin meeting Anna Camp - Pitch Perfect 3

Krissy meeting Anna Camp on the set of “Pitch Perfect 3″

She describes bringing her love of detail to her set work, an attribute that came in handy with her work at the old Douglasville, GA, prison for “Logan Lucky,” one of her first jobs in Georgia. As she finished up one of the last sets for the movie, production scouts for “MacGyver” came through, asking a host of questions about everything from custom paint mixes to color palettes. “I kept great records, and had just about every answer they needed,” says Krissy.

Krissy says she has no regrets following film and television industry opportunities to Georgia. She’s currently working on a new production, and so is her father.  Her fiancé works in the industry as a painter and prop maker, and a number of uncles and cousins work primarily in set construction.

“A lot of my family has relocated to Georgia to work in the film industry,” Krissy says. “We thought we’d move here for a couple of years, but we’re now buying houses and truly creating a new life. We plan to stay right here in Georgia.”

‘The Hate U Give’ part of movie veteran’s growing resume

After decades of travel, Bob Melton, Tennessee native and longtime resident of Florida and California, has found a home in Georgia’s movie business.

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Bob Melton in the center (literally) of the action.

A veteran stand-in and movie extra, Bob’s resume includes “The Hate U Give,”  a crime drama filmed in Georgia that opens in limited release this week and nationwide later this month.

“I did double duty for a high-school graduation scene — first as a stand-in for the principal as the shot was set up, and then in the audience as an extra for the ceremony,” Bob says. “It was an early call and a long day for all of us.”

Bob’s days are often long. He’s been in more than 100 productions as an extra or stand-in, including many of the major films produced in Georgia like “Game Night, “Hidden Figures,” “Avengers: Affinity War,” as well as “The Hate U Give.”  Currently he is a regular extra on “Walking Dead” and “Lodge 49.”

image4His movie career began on a ladder putting letters up on the marquee of the Glendale Center Theatre in California. His first acting job was in the same theater playing the role of a clumsy cowboy vying for the affections of the leading lady.

He never got the girl in that play, but he did catch the theatrical bug. And now, 50 years later, he is again chasing the dream of prominent roles.

As a teenager he was an accomplished guitarist in rock bands, one of which won the Florida Battle of the Bands in 1967. The next year he went west seeking fame and fortune. He found neither but did get an apartment behind the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre for $80 a month while working for Thomas Edison Light Show Company doing special effects for concerts and on “Mission Impossible,” “The Partridge Family” and television commercials.

All the while he kept finding jobs in music, including time with Gary Stewart, whose biggest hit was “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles).” After many years moving around the country, he remarried and moved back to Georgia.

His break came in Georgia when got his first appearance as an extra in “Game of Silence,” a one-season series on NBC. “I saw how easy it was to get hired on, so I started working with casting companies and directors. I got lots of work because I was punctual, listened to the director and never caused a disturbance.”

Bob now has an agent and has reduced his busy schedule as an extra in search of speaking roles and a bigger career because he sees a bright future for television and movie production in Georgia.

“Things are possible now that have never been before,” Bob says. “I’ve been amazed how far people come to work here hoping to break into the business.”

Middle school teacher trains and inspires the next generation of filmmakers

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Mike Morris teaches middle schoolers the mechanics of visual storytelling at Utopian Academy for the Arts in Clayton County, but what he really wants his students to learn is that their voice matters.

“I teach our kids to take ownership of their stories,” says Mike. “Their perspective is unique and worth sharing. They learn to confidently use their voice to change their communities.”

Mike sees filmmaking as a different approach to teaching. Through the creative process, he says, kids learn to trust themselves and take ownership of their projects, and that helps them build confidence.

Students at Utopian Academy are benefiting from Mike’s filmmaking class. One student was the classic trouble-maker, fighting with teachers and students and struggling in many of his classes and at home. Despite the challenges he faced at home, the student improved at school and co-created an award-winning documentary on Georgia teachers. Another student ended up in Mike’s class by mistake and developed a passion for script writing.

Mike sees the growing Georgia film industry as a real opportunity for these kids.

Mike Morris.jpg“When I was growing up, we didn’t see Georgia as a place for opportunity in filmmaking,” says Mike. “Now, the industry is growing right around them. I’m so happy and excited that Georgia has become a place where a kid’s dreams can come true.”

When Mike started in the film industry, he moved to Los Angeles. His apartment and internship at a studio fell through, so he lived in his car. When his car got towed, he literally ended up on Skid Row. Not a fortuitous beginning. But he made some connections and eventually worked for a production company. A few years later, Mike started his own business, Visual Tellers.

After moving back to the South, a friend asked him if he’d like to teach media arts with him at Utopian Academy. At first, Mike wasn’t sure he wanted to teach. He was a professional photographer, business owner, writer and producer. He had his hands full. But he remembered how lucky he was as a kid. Even though he didn’t have much growing up, his parents entrusted him with a camera and that’s how he developed his love of photography.

Mike wanted to give the same trust to the students at Utopian Academy and serve as a positive role model. Once he started teaching, he fell in love with the job.

“The kids look up to us, they say they want to be like us. It’s humbling,” says Mike, who is also a volunteer at re:imagine/ATL, a non-profit that connects teens with mentors and resources in film and digital media.  “We’re there to be a positive influence and empower them to be whatever they want to be.”

Empty, old hospital gets new life thanks to movie, TV productions

The old Piedmont Newnan Hospital closed in 2012 after 50 years, but it’s finding a busy second life as a set for movies and TV shows.OldNewnanHospital2

This summer alone, three productions used the hospital and five other buildings on campus for filming – back to back to back in June and July, said Zack Holt, Piedmont’s director of facilities management. He estimates at least a dozen have used the space in the last few years, including “The Walking Dead.”

“It comes in waves,” Holt says. “It’s like they have seasons.”

Most recently, it was Season 2 of the TV series “The Gifted.”

That’s all been a nice economic boost for the hospital, which is up for sale. Holt declined to give economic figures.

Production crews often put up facades and other set decorations on site. Usually, they’re required to return the place to the condition they found it.

“But the building is so old and vacant that when they make an enhancement to the space, you just let them leave it,” he said.

For instance, one production installed, and paid for, a working elevator when the hospital had none. Another tore out old carpeting to reveal more attractive hardwood floors.

“It’s nice,” Holt says. “It’s a benefit.”

Other benefits extend to the community, where production crews, sometimes more than 100 people, support hotels, restaurants, shops and service companies. Local residents are sometimes hired as extras.

“The restaurant businesses and the hotel industry appreciate it,” he says. “Piedmont appreciates it, too. As I learned, it is lucrative and beneficial for the county to have that amount of money come in.”

Film Industry calls, and a business moves to Georgia

Chef Robert Smith recalls the “aha!” moment he had just a few years ago.

He was wrapping up a long, grueling shoot of the “Baywatch” movie in Savannah – exhausted and missing his wife and son back in New York, where the family was based. After 18 months of constant catering work on Georgia film and TV sets, Smith was tired of shuttling back and forth.

ChefRobSmithSo, he proposed the family move here. They settled in Johns Creek two years ago, and his business is booming: Catering by Chef Rob, based in Doraville.

“As soon as I put up my placard, it’s been through the roof, insanely busy,” Smith says.

He’d been in the business for years, with top-tier titles on his lengthy resume, like “The Americans” and “Blue Bloods.” Plus, he cooks privately for star performers and athletes.

By bringing his business here, Smith created four permanent jobs for Georgians, and hopes to double that by the end of 2018. This year, he expects to triple his revenue from last year.

Plus, he says, productions mean jobs for a half-dozen more people through a months-long shoot. The trickle effect is enormous – in Georgia, film and TV production generates some $10 billion in revenue.

That’s because of a lucrative tax cut the state provides, and losing that would be devastating to countless businesses, Smith says. “We’ve already seen it in other states. We always say there’s a reason everything’s on wheels. It’s not a joke. They’ll just roll out of town.”

Georgians are learning all kinds of new trades and building careers for themselves, he has found.

“If you work hard in this business, you’ll always find work,” Smith says. “If you’re out there and you’re busting it every day, you’re going to go from job to job to job.”

He does all the cooking, even when feeding several hundred people on a set. Smith makes healthy food, with lunch buffets that include salads, vegan and vegetarian choices, chicken and fish, plus a nice spread of desserts.

“And of course, sweet tea,” he says. “I’ve learned you can’t have an event here in Georgia without sweet tea.”

Town sees a boost in spending over months-long construction of sets

WayneDasherGlennvilleWhat happens when about 100 movie workers spend four or five months in a town with fewer than 4,000 people?

For one thing, the Hollywood visitors spend a lot of money.

That’s what happened earlier this year, when crewmembers descended upon Glennville, GA, according to Wayne Dasher, chairman of the Tattnall County Development Authority, about an hour west of Savannah.

The workers on the upcoming Will Smith movie “Gemini Man” spent weeks building structures downtown, putting new facades on others, turning a bank into and school, and more.

“They did quite a bit of stuff,” Dasher said. “They spent thousands of dollars at stores, restaurants and our two hotels.”

Downtown, the production team rented more spaces for storage, and one of Dasher’s vacant buildings for the location office.

Filming this spring took about a week. And then the movie crew put everything back the way it was.

With at least one exception.

Dasher left the set dressing on one of his downtown locations, just in case the movie becomes a blockbuster.

“People might want to come stand in front of this and have their picture made,” he said.