Health insurance one of many perks actor finds through film, TV work in Georgia

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Photo by Justin Patterson

When actor Meg Gillentine was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, she found solace in her work in the Georgia film industry. The industry not only provided a creative outlet and income but, most importantly for Meg, incredible health insurance.

As a working actor, Meg has hit the level of success that qualifies her for health insurance through the Screen Actors Guild. For Meg, meeting the required income threshold happened when she moved back to her hometown of Marietta to work in film and TV.

“I’ve had more opportunities in film, TV and commercial work in Georgia than I ever did in New York or L.A.,” says Meg. “We moved back here and we’re the happiest we’ve ever been.”

Meg is healthy now and says she is thankful she had health insurance to cover the cost of her cancer treatment. She says pursuing a career in Georgia was an easy decision. She goes where the work is and Georgia has so much to offer.

“Coming home to a fully developed industry that I could sink my teeth into was a dream come true,” says Meg. “Georgia has given us a wonderful lifestyle. Our child can attend public school, housing is affordable, and we’re close to our family.”

A graduate of Pebblebrook High School, Cobb County’s performing arts magnet, Meg went to New York University for musical theater. During her sophomore year she earned the role of Cassandra in the show “Cats” on Broadway. She attended school during the day and performed on Broadway at night through college. After graduation, she performed in numerous national tours and Broadway shows, including the national tour of “The Producers.” That led to her first film role in the movie version of “The Producers.”

In 2006, Meg moved to L.A. where she continued to do theater, commercial and print work. She married in 2009 and had a baby with her husband Jay Hunter Morris, a renowned opera singer, who traveled for many months out of the year. In 2011, Meg realized Georgia was the place to be, and she moved her family here.

Meg Gillentine 2Within months, Meg booked a series of commercials for SCANA. Since then she’s appeared in commercials for Ford, Direct TV, Toyota, Smithfield Bacon, Home Depot and many more. She’s booked appearances in numerous movies and TV shows, including “I Tonya,” “Madea’s Witness Protection,” “Being Mary Jane,” “Star,” and “Queen America.”

“The people in the Georgia film industry are a tight-knit, fantastic group,” says Meg. “I just want to work. Give me one line or fifty, both are equally fantastic. In the last two weeks I’ve had 10 auditions for TV shows — that didn’t happen in L.A. It’s exciting for Georgia and for all the local actors. A lot of us are able support ourselves from the opportunities that the film and TV industry provide. It’s a blessing and I’m grateful.”

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NC student finds opportunity in Georgia

When North Carolina decided to change the tax incentives it provided to the entertainment industry, many people were left with fewer opportunities to do what they love.

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“When the North Carolina film tax credit dried up there was a mass exodus,” said Lucy Keller, a graduate of the University of North Carolina – Wilmington. “Many of my friends were quick to get out and when they told me about the opportunities in the film industry in Georgia, I was in.”

North Carolina’s loss is Georgia’s gain.

Lucy sought opportunities to learn more about the industry in Georgia. What began with local or online classes soon turned into developing connections, which got her into networks that helped her build the knowledge and skillsets she possesses today.

She is now contributing to a number of productions, currently as a PA for the Warner Bros. TV  show Doom Patrol about a Superhero team, premiering February 15, 2019 on DC Universe.

“You have to work hard. Sometimes you are asked to work long hours, or strange hours, or handle strange things, but if you just push through someone will notice,” says Lucy.

For Lucy that moment came when she was working with Crazy Legs Productions. It was there where she and a few other interns took turns holding directional signs in the frigid temperatures and pouring rain.

lucy keller“Lucy’s motivation and drive in her interview carried over into her experience and the impression she made as an intern here,” said Kimberley Hinson, Office Manager of Crazy Legs Productions. “Those who seek and create opportunities will always be more successful than those who wait for opportunities to be presented, and you could tell Lucy was a go-getter.”

Lucy has come a long way since being an intern and she credits a lot of that to the opportunities she has gotten to network and ask questions on set. “At first I thought everyone would be too busy to answer any questions, but once I got comfortable enough to ask, I realized how helpful everyone really is,” she said, “The worst answer I’ve gotten is ‘I’d love to talk about it, but could you come back in one hour?’”

Lucy is convinced she’s in the right place at the right time.

“I made the right decision coming to Georgia,” said Lucy, “I can’t wait to see what opportunities are ahead.”

Chef, businesswoman finds new opportunities in Georgia

Samone Lett is a successful chef and businesswoman well-seasoned by cycles of hardships and triumphs. After 20 years in Orlando, she’s now moved to Georgia to become a factor in the film industry, bringing with her the experiences of several lifetimes.

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A producer encouraged her to bring her talent to Georgia to help serve the film industry. It wasn’t long before she got a short-term contract to serve lunches at a studio and cater an industry event. More assignments are on the horizon.

“I was just overwhelmed by the warm and helpful reception I got here,” says Samone, owner of Wishful Concepts, a catering and event-management business now based in Atlanta.

An Army veteran from Brooklyn, Samone has degrees in hospitality management (City College of Orlando) and culinary arts (Le Cordon Bleu). She has been a volunteer counselor to women getting out of prison, an experience that reinforced in her the power of compassion and healing, assets she brings to her work.

“I learned early on that I loved being with customers more than being in the kitchen,” Samone says. “I love food, but I’m more than a chef. I work best when I’m part of a family.”

samone 2During a bad patch in her life years ago when she was dealing with a drug-addicted husband and a declining business, she took strength from the prisoners who would sing “There’s a Lilly in Valley” an inspiration for the first of her five autobiographical and inspirational books. During this stretch her marriage failed, she was homeless for a time and her car was struck by lightning (with her in it), but her faith and fortitude helped her recover, “bruised but not broken,” she says.

In 2017, Samone appeared on the Food Network hit show, “Cooks vs. Cons.” She loved it, and the affection on the set was mutual. “They let me stay on as the last person because we enjoyed our time together so much,” she says. That feeling carried over to her appearance for three episodes of the “Food Network Star.”

The woman who sees the world as family now sees Georgia as home. “For 20 years in Florida people would ask me where I was from, and I’d say Brooklyn,” Samone says. “Now they ask, and I say Georgia. The tremendous opportunities and people here make me truly feel that I’ve come home.”

Young professional finds opportunities in Georgia’s entertainment industry

Julie Quach has had a number of roles as an extra, yet one opportunity stands out among them: She gave an actress a manicure in an episode of “Dynasty,” a reboot of the classic series that is produced in Georgia.

post hair & mu for ksu orientation videoFor Julie, a first-generation Vietnamese American, the experience combined her new world with her family’s business — Nail Xpress, a Marietta nail salon founded more than 20 years ago by her parents.

“I grew up in the nail salon business, and here I was playing a manicurist on a popular television series,” says Julie, who also works as a production coordinator. “That was pretty surreal for me.”

As a young professional, Julie’s blending her passion for the film and television production industry with a variety of opportunities that come with living in the heart of one of the most popular production locations in the industry.

Born and raised in suburban Atlanta, Julie’s determination to make it in the entertainment industry started in high school. A graduate of the University of Georgia, she joined the production side of the business in 2015. Starting as a production assistant, she’s since taken on bigger roles as a production coordinator. Depending on the size of the project, she finds herself coordinating between crew members and the client. With some productions, she’s hiring rental equipment and cameras.

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Her passion for on-camera roles stays strong. In addition to “Dynasty,” she’s had the opportunity to be an extra in “Vampire Diaries,” which filmed in Covington until the series ended in 2017, and “Step Sisters,” a Netflix comedy released on Jan. 19, 2019.

“I’m in a great place to build a career in the entertainment industry,” says Julie. “There is so much opportunity in Georgia, and my hope is to keep learning and keep getting opportunities.”

For former model, the real opportunity turned out to be behind the camera

It’s not often a successful model (“Everything from medical scrubs to gardening outfits”) gets into the movie business behind the camera.

Taylor VivkersFor Taylor Vickers the journey from the runway to the production site began in earnest when she joined her husband Dodd Vickers as he worked as a location manager for “Sharp Objects,” the popular 2018 mini-series starring Amy Adams filmed in Barnesville.

Dodd started on that show and then moved to another, but told the director that his wife was trained to help out as a scout.

“So they hired me for three days, which grew into weeks and weeks on the job,” Taylor says.

She actually started learning the business several years before by doing on-site production maps to support her husband’s work, providing crew members vital information about the logistics of the day –– where to park, where equipment will stored, which streets will be blocked, where to find lunch, and scores of other details.

It’s a demanding job, Taylor says, because everything can change overnight. “Parking locations change, or it’s raining and everything changes,” she says. “I had to carry my computer everywhere –– even at a concert or family dinner –– to keep up with the shifting details.”

But mastering the demands was worth it, for her next step was scouting for filming locations. For “Sharp Objects,” the challenge was to find a perfect small town for a story of a small-town murder. “I drove all over Georgia taking pictures of small towns before the director decided on Barnesville, with its classic old-time look and feel.”

The next and hardest challenge on “Sharp Objects” was to find a small pond. “It couldn’t be too near a house. It had to be in the woods. You have no idea how many ponds there are in Georgia,” Taylor says. She found a duck pond near Barnesville, but it needed to be filled with water, which meant also bringing in water-treatment experts and snake wranglers.

VickersTaylor says the production lifestyle suits her and her husband, who’s currently location manager on “Queen America,” starring Catherine Zeta-Jones. “I like the flexibility because I’m mother of a special-needs child, so I can often take him along on scouting expeditions,” she says.

“Sharp Objects” was an economic boost to Barnesville, confirming Taylor’s belief that Georgians are blessed by having the film industry here. “We need to be good stewards of this industry,” Taylor says. “Sometimes filming creates an inconveniences like closed roads, but we all have to understand what a huge contribution it makes to our economy.

“What’s more, you never who you are inspiring. I see children coming to the set and you wonder if they’re dreaming of a career in film. It’s wonderful to know that those dreams could come true.”

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.

Creating the cockpit for ‘First Man’ tricky opportunity for Decatur set designer

How did a former ballet teacher and professional classic ballet dancer now living in Decatur have a hand in the opening scene of “First Man,” the story of Neil Armstrong’s journey to the moon? Raniero Daza’s path to the set is an interesting one, indeed.

IMG_1235When he came to the United States from his native Chile 33 years ago, Raniero Daza knew he wanted to be part of the theater and film world. He settled in Florida with a plan to be a teacher, and graduated from college with a degree in education.  He then decided to follow up on opportunities to work in set construction for Univision commercials and local theatrical productions.

But he couldn’t make ends meet running his own business. “I was earning less than my own carpenters after I paid all the expenses,” says Raniero. “Besides, the film economy was slowing down in Florida. That’s when a friend told me about the growing industry in Georgia. So I moved up and quickly found work here.”

He arrived in 2013 and was given an assignment on “Furious 7,” which was in production all around the world –– from Abu Dhabi to Clayton County, Norcross, Atlanta and Gwinnett County.  “I started at the bottom as a carpenter, but soon they gave me four or five people to work with when they realized I could manage a crew,” Raniero says. “I’ve been busy ever since.”

IMG_1233His credits on the production side of Georgia’s film industry include “Insurgent,” starring Kate Winslett and filmed all over the state, including at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, and the smash hit “Black Panther,” filmed in various locations around Fayetteville and Atlanta.

Last year Raniero was recruited to help build a replica of the X-15 jet that Neil Armstrong flies as a test pilot in the opening scene of “First Man,” eight years before his 1969 moon landing.

Raniero’s job was to build the cockpit where all the scenes of Ryan Gosling would be filmed. “It was really tricky,” Raniero says. “First we had to find photographs and specs of the original. We needed help from a NASA engineer to make the design.”

From there the project got more difficult. “We had to build this cockpit in six parts so when the director needed a shot from the nose or any other angle, we could remove the appropriate piece to get the shot from that side,” he says, adding that the construction had to be sturdy because it would be constantly taken apart and reassembled.

What’s the primary skill in set production? “Patience,” Raniero replies instantly. “You have lots of people giving advice and orders, so you build something only to have someone ask you to rebuild it a different way. You build it, they change it, you rebuild it. But you have to respect all the people who are making the job more difficult, because in the end they make it all come together.”

In his six years working in Georgia, Raniero has watched the tremendous influx of people coming from around the country to find work in film. “It’s exciting to see thousands of people take advantage of all the opportunities here. I feel proud for what I have done to help them.”