New podcast turns a spotlight on those in “The Credits”

Kalena Boller 1 (photo credit Anthony Davis)

Photo by Anthony Davis

Kalena Boller, a location manager from Hapeville, strongly believes in the adage, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Her own career path was influenced by veteran Atlanta grip, Louis ‘Bolaji’ Bailey. As a guest speaker at Kalena’s high school, Bolaji’s stories illuminated the behind-the-scenes world of film productions.

“He gave us the knowledge of what we could be and it blew my mind,” says Kalena. “Because of him, I studied film at Howard University.”

Now Kalena has a spotlight of her own: “The Credits,” Georgia Public Broadcasting’s new podcast featuring Georgians working in the state’s film and television industry. The interviews are also featured on GPB’s daily talk show, “On Second Thought.”

“I feel lucky to have a multi-billion-dollar industry in my backyard,” says Kalena. “I want the film industry to stay, grow and thrive in Georgia. That’s why I started ‘The Credits.’ I want people to understand the thousands of careers and lives affected by the Georgia film industry.”

Like many aspiring film-makers, Kalena felt she needed to move to LA or New York to start her career. Luckily for her, she got a chance to intern on a music video filmed in her hometown of Atlanta. She quickly moved from intern to production assistant to the Locations Department and hasn’t stopped working since in the booming Georgia film industry.

Kalena Boller 2 (photo credit Anthony Davis)

Photo by Anthony Davis

During her career, she’s met many of the small army of people who take a production from concept to the screen. Intrigued and inspired by their stories, Kalena created “The Credits” to highlight the people listed in the credits of films and television shows produced in Georgia.

The podcast showcases the diversity of both people and jobs involved in the Georgia film and television industry. She says she’s doing it for regular people who are curious about the film industry and to show them what’s possible as a career. From security to teachers to medics to caterers, the possible list of careers in the film industry seems endless.

“When we pitched the podcast, there were concerns we would run out of stories,” says Sean Powers, GPB’s director of podcasting. “The opposite is true — there are so many Georgians working in this industry, we have too many great stories to tell!”

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Film industry event donates thousands to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

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The foursomes scattered across the golf course would have made a pretty great team on a film or television set. But on this recent Sunday, the focus was fun, networking and giving back to Georgia’s children.

Hosted by Herc Entertainment Services, more than 155 people participated in a recent golfing fundraiser, and in the process raised $11,500 for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA). The annual event has raised a total of $42,000 for CHOA since the inaugural tournament four years ago.

“When the film industry family comes together, good things happen,” says Darren Callahan, Account Sales Representative for Herc Entertainment Services. Callahan coordinated the customer appreciation event, held at White Water Creek Country Club in Fayetteville, with the company’s Director of Entertainment Justin Padgett.

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Nathan Connor (left) and Darren Callahan are part of the account services team for Herc Entertainment Services.

Just about every part of Georgia’s film community was represented at the tournament, Callahan says, including producers, directors, prop makers, special effects, transportation, construction, rigging gaffers, grips, and more. The event had more than 30 sponsors, including Georgia Studio & Infrastructure Alliance members Eagle Rock Studios and Third Rail Studios.

Herc Entertainment Services has supported film and television productions around the state, including Marvel’s “Ant Man,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “The Walking Dead,” and “Vampire Diaries.” Equipment provided by the company include aerial equipment, forklifts, carts, lighting equipment, generators, ground cover, and climate products.

“We’ve been supporting Georgia’s film industry for more than nine years,” Callahan says. “This is a great place to be — exciting things are happening in Georgia.”

Georgia Studio & Infrastructure Alliance more than doubles its membership

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Group dedicated to investment in Georgia film and television industry
welcomes new members today

ATLANTA – Sept. 9, 2018
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 eight new members today, doubling its size since its creation four years ago.

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. In recent months, the Alliance expanded to include infrastructure members — companies that provide support services to production studios and their clients. The Alliance also works closely with Georgia Production Partnership, founded in 1995 to strengthen and grow the film and television industry here.

New members 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.

“We’re investing in our business to support Georgia’s film industry, and that’s benefiting Georgia families,” says Gary Lewis, president of Lightnin’ Production Rentals. The company, founded in 1979 in Dekalb County, has doubled the size of its fleet and grown from 45 to 70 employees since Georgia’s film tax credit was introduced in 2008. “The film industry is creating opportunity for Georgians, and we’re doing our part to create jobs that add to Georgia’s tax base.”

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.

“Since 2008, the success of Georgia’s film and television industry has prompted our company to expand into an industry that’s new to us, yet consistent with the service and values we’ve been known for in the building supply industry since 1919,” says Chip Cofer, President and CEO of Cofer Brothers, a major supplier of construction materials to the industry. “The Alliance provides companies like ours a united voice about important issues affecting the industry.”

According to Gov. Nathan Deal’s office, Georgia-lensed feature film and television productions generated a total economic impact of $9.5 billion during fiscal year 2018, and the 455 combined productions shot in the state topped its previous high. The 455 film and television productions represent $2.7 billion in direct spending in the state, according to the Governor’s office.

“As a stand-alone organization, our laser focus is championing the long-term benefits of this industry for Georgia’s workforce,” says Kris Bagwell, chair of the Alliance and Executive Vice President of EUE/Screen Gems Studios. “These new members show how broad the impact of production is across the state.”

The Georgia Studio & Infrastructure 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.

‘Stranger Things’ production brings new life to suburban mall built in the 1980s

Gwinnett Place Mall opened in the 1980s, the days of big hair, “Back to the Future” and mega-mall culture. But since its heyday, the shopping center has seen changing economic trends that left much of it permanently closed.Screen Shot 2018-07-26 at 2.51.18 PM

Now it’s getting an economic boost from a TV phenomenon set back in the ’80s. Netflix’s “Stranger Things” has been filming its third season there all summer.

That has meant plenty of work for extras willing to undergo an ’80s hair and style transformation. More importantly, it has brought financial support for the mall.

Georgia’s multibillion-dollar filming boom has been great for businesses and governments in rural communities as well as the state’s bigger cities. With examples like this mall makeover, it’s also providing new uses, and revenue, for places that have drifted out of the spotlight.

In this case, it’s unknown exactly how much money is being generated. The mall’s owners have declined to discuss details of the production, and Gwinnett County is trying to assess the broader impact.

“Stranger Things” is at least the third production to use the mall in recent years, since Georgia began its tax incentive program for film and TV productions. “I, Tonya” and “Den of Thieves” with Gerard Butler filmed there, as well. Gwinnett has issued more than 100 filming permits throughout the county in recent years, said Lisa Anders, executive director of Explore Gwinnett.

Screen Shot 2018-07-26 at 2.50.44 PMMuch of the mall remains empty. The lack of use adds to its attractiveness for productions, along with it being an indoor, controllable space, Anders said.

The “Stranger Things” crew started moving into the mall around April, and shooting has been going on since June.

The production has taken up a wing of the mall that is permanently empty, so no businesses have been displaced. The crew has taken it back in time, with signs identifying Gwinnett Place as Starcourt Mall. Inside are ’80s era storefronts for Radio Shack, The Gap, Chess King, Waldenbooks and more. (Remember Spencer’s Gifts?)

The cinema has a Coming Soon poster for “Back to the Future,” which came out in the summer of 1985, giving a knowing ironic wink to the “Stranger Things” series. It is set in a fictional Midwestern town in the 1980s where a group of ’tween pals battle supernatural monsters.

With premiere approaching, Barnesville is still celebrating HBO’s ‘Sharp Objects’

 

It was Christmas in July last year for the town of Barnesville, Georgia.

Candy StoreThat’s when A-list actress Amy Adams and dozens of crewmembers came to film the HBO series “Sharp Objects,” which premieres this Sunday, July 8.

“The crew went up and down the streets and bought whatever they needed, so everybody in town was happy with that,” said Kathy Oxford, executive director of the Barnesville-Lamar County Industrial Development Authority. “It’s money in the bank – a nice, clean industry.”

The production meant millions for the state, she said, although figures haven’t been tabulated for just the local impact. The county’s sales tax revenue that month, though, was 10 percent higher than in the previous July, usually a slow month in the mid-Georgia town just south of metro Atlanta.

The production rented multiple spaces and paid local folks as extras. Buildings, signs, windows and storefronts downtown got a Hollywood makeover to serve as the fictional location of Wind Gap.

Muralist Andrew Henry got a lot of work out of it. Oxford said Barnesville kept one of the wall paintings with Wind Gap on it.

“We knew we needed a selfie spot,” she said.

Also, antiques shops, local gas stations, stores, restaurants and more saw boosts to their bottom lines.

At least one of those, The Pizzeria and Such, will throw a viewing party Sunday to see Barnesville’s debut as Wind Gap.

“This was our first time being involved in something like this,” Oxford said. “It was a really good experience.”

HBO filming brings crowds, business to downtown Macon

MaconStreetIt was a busy day at the Greek Corner Deli in downtown Macon.

An HBO filming crew was filming a pilot on Second Street and blocked off a good portion of it. But onlookers gathered to watch the action, as well as the production’s crew members, had no trouble pouring into the deli at the corner of Cherry Street.

“It was a good bit more than we’ve been doing,” said Rachel Duehring, who works in the deli, about the weeklong shoot. “It has increased the numbers we’ve done. It’s good for Macon, good for business, especially. It brings a lot of attention to the area.”

It’s too early to tabulate how much money the filming of the show — codenamed “Brooklyn” but reportedly an adaptation of the “Watchmen” graphic novel and movie — brought to town. Productions can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for restaurants, hotels and other businesses.

“It definitely lends a huge economic boost to independent restaurants and shops,” said Priscilla Esser of the Macon Film Commission.

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Already, producers had spent $26,000 on permits, said Chris Floore of Macon Bibb County government affairs.

Macon has been a draw for other film and TV shows in recent years, including the Oscar-winning “I, Tonya,” at the local ice skating arena. In November 2014, 10 days of “The 5th Wave” filming brought in about $500,000. And the historic baseball stadium is a frequent draw, having hosted “42,” “Trouble with the Curve” and the series “Brockmire.”

That site recently got a $2.5 million makeover and a new team, The Macon Bacon. The mascot is named Kevin. His number is 6 degrees.

Get it? Hollywood humor on display.

“People are starting to get used to filming around town, but as you can see, it’s still something special,” Floore said in front of the Greek Corner Deli motioning to the crowds.

And who knows? If the pilot gets picked up as a series, it could lead to more filming in Macon on an ongoing basis — like the years-long boom generated in Covington by “The Vampire Diaries.”

“It would be exciting to have something regular,” Floore said.

Unlikely businesses benefit from film impact

Holy Smokes BBQ 1With billions of dollars of economic impact, Georgia’s film industry isn’t a trickle-down effect, it’s a tidal wave.

Around the state, Georgia businesses have felt the film industry’s $9.5 billion economic impact. It’s seeped into all corners of the state and into some unlikely businesses.

Take Dvine Systems GA, for example. It’s a mental health therapy practice located on McDonough’s town square that saw an increase in walk in traffic during the filming of William H. Macy’s movie, “Krystal.”

According to Yaunte Dvine, practice administrator, people from the community who came to watch filming dropped in to see what kind of services Dvine Systems GA offers.

“Since we’re on the square, we keep our services discreet, so people feel comfortable coming to us,” says Yaunte. “With more foot traffic during filming, we were able to spread information about our services and got new patients out of it.”

Holy Smokes BBQ 2Another industry that’s seeing benefits from film productions are small, family-owned restaurants. Holy Smoke BBQ & More, also located on McDonough’s square, doubled its sales during the filming of “Krystal.”

At first, owners Michele and Roger White were concerned that filming in McDonough’s square would hurt their growing business.

“But it turned out to be a blessing,” says Michelle, adding that the restaurant benefited from the crowds hoping to catch a glimpse of the filming and also fed some of the production staff. “We want to thank the Georgia filming industry for selecting small towns like McDonough for their locations. Small mom and pop businesses can actually benefit from the crowds who stop by to see what’s going on.”

Empowering the next generation of storytellers

Susanna Spiccia has a simple question: As Georgia’s workforce embraces opportunity in the state’s film industry, are we training our kids for these new jobs?

Susanna Spiccia

As founder and executive director of re:imagine/ATL, a non-profit organization that connects Georgia’s youth to film and television experiences, she’s laser-focused on answering that question.

“Our biggest goal is to support teen storytellers, and let them create and produce their own stories,” says Susanna. “We want to help them learn to write, use a camera, edit and more.”

Susanna has lined up some high-profile support for her efforts. Announced today, Georgia Studio & Infrastructure Alliance joins The Arthur Blank Foundation and more than 20 other companies to create the re:imagine/ATL Alliance, a group that will focus on creating pipeline for mentoring and jobs to train the next generation for film and digital jobs right here in Georgia. Led by a three-year commitment from The Arthur M. Blank Foundation of $285,000, companies have committed a total investment of $450,000. These companies have also committed to mentor students, create internships and provide job-shadowing opportunities. 

The re:imagine/ATL Alliance is a major milestone for the organization Susanna founded in 2014.

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“I had never been a part of film or media before re:imagine/ATL,” says Susanna.  “I wanted a way to bring kids together from different backgrounds, and as I met more and more people in the industry, I saw what tremendous opportunities there could be for our young people.”

Opportunity comes through re:imagine/ATL events and programs such as “No Comment,” “re:imagine/COMMUNITY,” “The Green Room” and “Currents.” Each program focuses on a specific set of skills students need to get involved in the film industry. The re:imagine/ATL team, supported by a cadre of volunteers, has spent the last four years building bridges that connect students and professionals in the industry.

“We’re going into schools across metro Atlanta to give kids with limited film-study exposure some real opportunity,” says Susanna. “We’re creating a teen network focused on highlighting the stories and issues that impact young adults across the globe.”

Cumming-based business makes the most of our most basic need

To most people, the movie and TV business seems like nothing but glamour and excitement.

But anyone who has worked in the industry – which generates some $10 billion in Georgia – knows it’s long hours and hard work, often at remote locations.

People in show business, they say, are just like the rest of us.

And that means they need portable toilets on location, too.

“Everybody’s gotta go,” says Jody Tinsley, owner-manager of Event Services of Georgia, which has provided sanitation services and portable toilets for more than 100 productions in seven years.

“If they gotta go, I’d like for them to go in one of mine.”

Jody and his dad worked in the portable-toilet industry previously. When Jody saw a developing need in the marketplace, he moved to fill it. From their first TV series, “The Vampire Diaries,” the company has grown to six employees, with productions counting for 60 percent of their revenue.

Event Services has about 200 portable restrooms, and 10 climate-controlled trailers to dispatch around Atlanta and in North Georgia. In addition to movie and TV productions on location, the company also provides portable toilets, trailers, hand sanitizing stations, portable showers and other sanitation services for events like concerts and festivals.

That part of the business can be more seasonal, and the Hollywood connections round out the business all year.

“It keeps us consistent throughout the winter and summer months,” Jody says. “The production side really keeps a steady income and steady workload.”

Event Services of Georgia has worked on locations for “Furious 7,” “Taken 3” and “The Hunger Games” movies, as well as “Stranger Things” and the upcoming “Dynasty” reboot.

“The production business here is huge,” Jody says. “I’ve had people in the business tell me face to face, ‘We want to do business with the little guy – we like spending our money with local companies vs. some big corporate deal.’

“I know it’s affected our business tremendously.”

City makes the most of its locations, assets to bring money from TV, film industry

The city of East Point, GA, was named for its location as a 19th century railroad terminus near Atlanta.

Now, with film and TV production booming all across Georgia, the suburb of 30,000 people is again benefitting from its key EPHardwarelocation. It’s between downtown Atlanta and the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International. It’s easily reached via highways and mass transit.

And East Point is within a “film triangle” of sorts — flanked immediately to the north by the new Tyler Perry Studios complex, to the east by EUE Screen Gems and to the south by Atlanta Metro Studios.

This makes East Point an ideal location for film production and industry professionals and businesses that serve the industry. As a result there is a broad “spillover effect” boosting the city’s role in the industry and lifting job creation at local businesses.

“We extend as much hospitality, cordiality and professionalism as we can because we really see the benefit for the community,” says Maceo Rogers, East Point’s director of economic development.

‘Hidden Figures,’ ‘Stranger Things’ filmed here

In just the last couple of years, the Oscar-nominated hit “Hidden Figures” used East Point as a location. So did the Netflix smash “Stranger Things.” Scouts from the Oprah Winfrey-backed “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and other productions come around constantly.Boswells.jpg

Some highlights of the economic impact:

  • East Point Studios started three years ago by offering 23,000 square feet for production, construction and storage space for movie and TV crews. It is owned and operated by seasoned film industry professionals Kim and Elliott Boswell.
  • East Point Hardware, experiencing strong business from crews needing lumber, nails and other supplies, is doubling its space. “We get a pretty good amount of business from everybody that’s filming around here,” says Robert Gallagher, store manager. That includes “a whole lot of propane” for caterers and crews. “It runs the gamut.”
  • BPS Companies has consolidated its various locations across metro Atlanta into its one million square-foot facilities. TV and movie productions account for a significant portion of the thriving business’s revenue, says CFO Debra Stanley.
  • The Sword of the Lord and other East Point churches are often hired out for use as a base camp, where crew and cast gather for long shoots.
  • The 1930s library has been used for “Stranger Things” as well as an upcoming movie about the Unabomber called “Manifesto.”
  • The residences along Linwood Avenue are appealing for walking scenes that need a historic touch. Homes in the city are rented out to crew members or for location shooting.

Effect boosts city coffers and pride, too

City governments also earn income for permits, fees and other costs associated with productions.

For its part, East Point’s government is doing everything it can to bring more productions to town. And economic development specialist Erin Rodgers sees more than just a financial impact.

“It’s good for civic pride and for the kids in the community,” she says. “It’s very inspiring to them, to see there are more jobs and more career opportunities for them here. They won’t have to go to Los Angeles if they’re interested.”