Hollywood Went Down to Georgia

Atlanta's Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, used in The Walking Dead as the Centers for Disease Control. Photo:  http://walkingdeadlocations.com Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, used in The Walking Dead as the Centers for Disease Control. Photo: http://walkingdeadlocations.com

In prepping for this weekend’s Walker Stalkers convention I contacted Stefanie Paupeck, Communications Manager for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, to talk about how the state lures members of the entertainment industry to Georgia. Her department does a lot of hard work to bring filmmakers, TV producers, and members of the music business to the Peachtree State.

I asked Stephanie my questions via email, and she was kind enough to provide some thorough answers.

Has Atlanta seen a rise in tourist numbers or tourism dollars since The Walking Dead started airing? What are the places people are coming to see?

We have seen an increase in film-induced tourism.

To attract event more visitors interested in Georgia’s entertainment industry, the state also launched a brand new website on March 26, 2013, http://www.ComeTourGeorgia.com. The new interactive website promotes Georgia’s film and music history, film tours, Georgia-filmed productions, film locations, destinations, festivals and other events. By increasing visitation to entertainment-related destinations across the state, the website will enhance the film industry’s long-term impact on Georgia tourism.

Visitors are traveling to communities across Georgia. It is safe to say that almost every city has seen some of type of production activity. You can find movie tours in Atlanta, Senoia, Savannah, Covington, Conyers, Peachtree City and more. For example, Senoia (The Walking Dead, Driving Miss Daisy, Drop Dead Diva), Savannah (home to 10 Academy award-winning films, Forrest Gump, Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil, Conspirator), Juliette (Fried Green Tomatoes), Covington (Vampire Diaries, In the Heat of the Night, the Dukes of Hazzard), Tybee Island (The Last Song), Jekyll Island (Legend of Bagger Vance) and many more. We anticipate an increase in visitors to Georgia when the Georgia-filmed “Hunger Games” premieres on Nov. 22.

Here are a few facts about film-induced tourism:

· Seventy-five percent of Newton County’s tourism is TV/movie related. Thousands of tourists come solely because “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “In the Heat of the Night” and “Vampire Diaries” were shot in Covington.

· The award-winning film “Fried Green Tomatoes” single-handedly revived the town of Juliette. Visitors travel from around the world to eat at the infamous Whistle Stop Café.

The real-life Whistle Stop Cafe, Juliette, GA. Photo: www.roadtripmemories.com.

The real-life Whistle Stop Cafe, Juliette, GA. Photo: http://www.roadtripmemories.com.

· And, Tybee Island saw an 11 percent increase in summer business in 2010 – thanks to the release of Disney’s “The Last Song” which was shot on the island.

· Downtown Senoia has experienced an amazing revitalization since welcoming “The Walking Dead” to this small southern town. In 1980, there were five businesses in Senoia. Today, there are 46.

I see from the website that Georgia brought in about $3.1 billion from the entertainment industry in 2012. Who benefits from those dollars? Where do they go?

Georgia-lensed productions generated an economic impact of $3.1 billion in the state during the 2012 fiscal year (July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012), a 29% increase from FY11. The economic impact is determined based on the direct spend that each production had in Georgia. So, fiscal year 2012 saw record investment in the state by the entertainment industry, with more than $879.8 million in direct spending. The direct spend is the money that a production spends in Georgia while filming a production. Georgia was home to 333 feature films; television movies and series; commercials; and music videos that were shot across the state during FY12.

Can you describe some of the ways Georgia works to attract and aid producers to coming to the state to work?

Production companies are picking locations based on the entire package – incentives, accessibility, crew base, infrastructure and quality of life. We have it all, so it makes us the perfect filming location.

The state’s Camera Ready Community Program has been a huge asset in recruiting and supporting productions. Camera Ready was created to enhance Georgia’s statewide resources for the growing number of film and television productions. Launched in October 2010, the program now includes 142 counties across the state.

What is Georgia’s most-used filming location (or, if more than one, some of the most popular)?

Atlanta definitely has the most activity because of its proximity to the airport, soundstages and crew. However, we don’t keep a running list of percentages in each community in terms of activity. As far as the most-used filming location – it is hard to pick just one since people use sound stages, private homes or buildings, state buildings like the Georgia Archives building and such. Savannah is a popular filming destination. Our Capitol building in downtown Atlanta has been used in numerous productions. Sweetwater State Park has also become popular with filmmakers.

How long has Georgia had a specific office to attract entertainment productions to the state?

The Georgia Film Office was founded by then-Governor Jimmy Carter in 1973 due to the impact that the film “Deliverance” had in the northeast Georgia Mountains. In fact, we are celebrating our 40th anniversary this year.

More about Georgia’s entertainment-industry office here.

The Mercer Williams house, Savannah. Used in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Photo: http://www.city-data.com/articles/The-Mercer-Williams-House-Museum.html

The Mercer Williams house, Savannah. Used in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Photo: http://www.city-data.com/articles/The-Mercer-Williams-House-Museum.html

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