Hitting Pause: Charity Cervantes

Georgians who work in the film/TV industry at home during the pandemic.

Charity Cervantes is an Atlanta-based actress that has appeared in a number of Georgia productions, including “Insatiable,” “Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings,” and “Robbie,” which premieres on Comedy Central tonight.

“My boyfriend and I bought a new house, and we’ve been using this down time to get settled in our new home. We’re excited to meet the neighbors in Intown Atlanta. It’s been a great time to explore our new neighborhood — from a distance, of course!”

Hitting Pause: Erika Doss

Georgians who work in the film/TV industry at home during the pandemic.

“For all you Crew Moms out there: I FEEL YOU! Can’t wait be out there in the creative world again! While I’m trying to remember 6th grade math and failing, Oliver (age 12) keeps reminding me that the teachers don’t sit with them in frustration and that he knows what to do …” — Erika Doss, set photographer, Marietta

At the start of this quarantine my son and I were still trying to find out how online school was going to work! While I’m trying to remember 6th grade Math and failing, Oliver (12) keeps reminding me that the teachers don’t sit with them in frustration and that he knows what to do …

Around Easter the weather here in Georgia started to look and feel very much like Spring and my trees in the yard looked so pretty! I couldn’t help but to take a Family Portrait with a twist: No one needs to dress up for it … and so we did it “Quarantine Style!”


Hitting Pause: Danielle Rusk

Georgians who work in the film/TV industry at home during the pandemic.

“During this break in filming, I’m spending my free time helping animals. I’ve groomed horses, rescued a pigeon, and spent lots of quality time with my dog.” – Danielle Rusk, Key Assistant Location Manager from Athens, GA

Hitting Pause: Erika Crawford Gordon

Georgians who work in the film/TV industry at home during the pandemic.

Erika Crawford Gordon, a nurse who has worked on numerous productions as an on-set baby nurse, is working full-time on the trauma team at North Fulton Hospital in Roswell. “I guess I’m not really paused — I’m working at the hospital full-time in the OR now,” says Erika. “I hope to be back on the set soon, when the time is right.”

Hitting Pause: Taylor Vickers

Georgians who work in the film/TV industry at home during the pandemic. 

“We converted a part of our basement into a sewing area and I’ve been producing masks for people that need them. We’ve handed them out to people in our community including flight attendants who are still working and some film folks in the Locations community that need them because of trips to clinics and medical centers.”

—Taylor Vickers, location scout for the film industry and a resident of Cumming

Hitting Pause: Mike Morris

Georgians who work in the film/TV industry at home during the pandemic. 

“We are launching an online film festival for our students. We were in the process of filming multiple short films, and we’re finishing those the best we can. We want to share what this current situation is like for them. I’m also trying to figure out how to direct films virtually, so I can continue my own work on feature films.

“At home, I’ve planted a garden bed and painted a wall so my daughter Ziona has a self-tape space to use for auditions. We’ve brought the studio home.”

— Mike Morris, visual storytelling teacher at Utopian Academy for the Arts in Clayton County.

Entrepreneur puts ideas to work in GA film, TV production after job contract ends

When one door closes, another opens.

That’s the lesson Yvonne Lawson learned, and the path that led her to opportunities in Georgia’s film and television production industry.

Zen Rising

Yvonne spent 30 years working as the chief of staff in a career that catered to high profile clients. She traveled the world working with everyone from A-list celebrities to royal families.  As the main point of contact for her clients, she spent her career managing everything from bodyguards and personal chefs to maids and yoga instructors.

When her last contract ended, Yvonne needed a new plan.

“I was at the pinnacle of my career when it fell flat. Moving to the film industry was a natural next step for me,” says Yvonne.

Yvonne wanted a way to incorporate her 30 years of experience, and also take advantage of all the opportunities available to her in her new home, Atlanta. While working as a private chef for a popular celebrity, the idea for Zen Rising Enterprises came to her. In her observations, it was exactly what the film industry was missing.

Zen Rising Enterprises, a luxury accommodation and boutique style concierge service, is a combination of Yvonne’s years of expertise and observation of what she felt was missing in the film and TV production industry. Much as she did in her previous career, Yvonne and her team handle production needs such as securing luxury accommodation for “A” list clients, hiring security guards, chauffeurs, personal chefs, household staff, personal trainers, event planning, and making reservations.

Zen Rising Enterprises also covers private estates available for rent to the movie productions.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to build a new career right here in Georgia,” says Yvonne.

For water scenes, TV and film productions call the pool guy

A single drop of water can contain millions of microbes. Most don’t bother humans, but some can be harmful. TV and film productions who shoot water scenes proceed with extra caution.

Dewey Wright, co-owner of Aquatic Environments, takes sanitation of water seriously and uses his decades of experience in the pool and spa business to ensure the safety of actors and crew members who film in water.

The film industry has been a great opportunity for Dewey’s company. He and his team have worked on more than 70 productions since 2010.

“The Georgia film industry has been a great revenue stream for our business,” says Dewey. “We’ve added almost 20 percent to our bottom line. The film work is demanding and challenging and so we’re able to increase our profit margin on those projects.”

Aquatic Environments, a family-owned Jonesboro company started in 1984, got its start in the film business from a former client who was the special effects coordinator on the horror film “The Crazies.” Dewey fixed a pool that wouldn’t hold water and brought in temporary equipment for the shoot.

After that first production came “The Vampire Diaries” during filming in a watery cave system. Dewey helped rig equipment around the underground rivers and stalactites and ensured the water was warm and balanced so the crew wouldn’t get cold and sick. For another scene, Dewey figured out a way to get fake blood in a hot tub that looked real and was sanitary.

The extra work from the film industry has helped create more hours for Aquatic Environment’s employees. The company has increased its workforce, many of them highly skilled technicians to clean and repair equipment. Dewey also brings in vendors to supply specialized equipment and products like large heaters from Atlanta Boiler and special chemicals from Momar, a chemical manufacturer.

And the work doesn’t stop at the productions. Aquatic Environments is getting more clients for its pool work from people working in the film industry who have moved to Atlanta and purchased homes with pools. Dewey’s teams maintain many high-end pools used in productions or rented to people in the industry. Its clientele has grown from 250 weekly customers to 400.

“We thoroughly enjoy working with the amazing special effects people,” says Dewey. “This work is interesting. It’s fun. And it’s profitable.”

Family-run lumber business doubles in growth stimulated by the film industry

Carl E Smith 2During 10 seasons of “The Walking Dead” viewers from across the world have become familiar with the sets and Georgia landscapes featured in the riveting series. From the village of Alexandria to the giant windmill, the sets are massive, detailed and built to last.

That’s where Carl E. Smith & Sons Building Materials, based in Turin near Senoia, found an opportunity. The company caters to the special-order market and since 2011, it has provided hard-to-find custom building materials for “The Walking Dead” and many other productions.

“Since 2012, we’ve doubled in growth, due to film industry accounts,” says Alex McDonald, vice president of Carl E. Smith & Sons Building Materials. “We had about 23 employees and now we have 44 full-time employees, all from Coweta and Fayette counties.”

About 25 percent of the company’s business comes from the film industry. And it’s not just productions. The people who work on them need homes. They need clinics, grocery stores and gas stations. Alex says building the infrastructure is a large part of their business.

Carl E Smith 1The revenue from the film industry has been a great way to diversify Carl E. Smith & Sons’ business and even out what can be a seasonal industry.

“During the economic downturn of the housing bust, other people were shutting their doors, but South Atlanta was experiencing a boom from the film industry that helped us greatly,” says Alex. “It has been a consistent revenue stream to provide materials to housing developments that cater to the film industry’s workforce, like Serenbe and Pinewood Forest.”

Alex says his team has developed a tight-knit relationship with set designers and purchasers. For “The Walking Dead,” Carl E. Smith & Sons provided the bulk of the material for the walled city of Alexandria and worked hand-in-hand with the team that built the 65-feet tall windmill that towers over Senoia.

“The film industry has been great for people in commercial and residential construction. Film people are wonderful to work with and the productions employ a ton of locals,” says Alex. “Look at all of these homes and infrastructure that have been built for the them, all of those projects would not have existed without the influx of the Georgia film industry.”

‘Georgia can be the place of what’s new and what’s next’

Some people have a vision for Georgia’s expanding role in film, television and digital entertainment. Others actively make their vision happen. Paul Jenkins is one of those others.

His work goes beyond film and television to include the creation and production of graphic novels and video games. This is the world of cross-media development filled with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and comic characters like Spider-Man, Batman, the Incredible Hulk and Wolverine. He has been nominated for two BAFTA awards for his video game work, and also wrote and directed “Axanar,” a notable Star Trek film project.

Because Paul believes in Georgia as a growing center of entertainment production, his mantra is simple: “If not here, where? If not me, who?”

Paul is firmly committed to continuing to create these opportunities in Georgia.

Paul Jenkins

“Georgia can be the place of what’s new and what’s next,” says Paul, an industry catalyst who has helped educate Georgia lawmakers on the evolution of digital and interactive technologies. “The Georgia film office is doing a great job attracting larger film projects, but we must build on that by teaching people to move across different creative disciplines.”

Paul brought the same message to the advisory board of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and as an instructor at Kennesaw State University.

Born in the West County of the United Kingdom, Jenkins came to the United States in 1987 as an instructor in music and drama for learning-disabled children. He now lives in rural Forsyth County.

He started his company, META Studios, in 2014. In Greek, “meta” signifies a change or alteration, but Jenkins used the word to stand for Media Education Technology Advancement.

“My objective is to move things forward for the community we live in, to provide opportunities to younger people,” he says. “I’m encouraging people who have been told they can’t do something by showing them how they can.”

For example, Paul is currently developing a YouTube channel that allows people to “look behind the curtain” to learn how products are made.

Paul has seen the talent and infrastructure develop in Georgia, and he recognizes that demand for talent is expanding faster than the supply. That growing demand reinforces his mission to pursue the development of professional excellence in local talent.

“I’ve watched the quality of the crews in Georgia get better through a constant pursuit of excellence,” he says.