Entertainment industry yields exposure, economic gains
by Marie Nesmith
Sep 17, 2013 | 1592 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Crew members for "Hamlet and Hutch" begin moving their lighting equipment inside The Grand Theatre in Cartersville. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Crew members for "Hamlet and Hutch" begin moving their lighting equipment inside The Grand Theatre in Cartersville. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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As a member of Cartersville’s arts community, Angie Alexandersen was thrilled to serve as an extra in “Hamlet and Hutch.” While her family joined about 225 people in an audience scene at The Grand Theatre, the resident of White — who also works at the Cartersville venue — pretended to be an usher for the film starring Burt Reynolds.

“I worked as a house manager [for The Grand], so I was there with the film crew and the people that morning, up until that evening when they were done,” Alexandersen said. “So I was there pretty much all day, meeting with the film crew and different people, all the way down to the lady who made sure that there was food for the actors and actresses and the crew. ... When we had the extras fill up the auditorium as the audience, Mr. Reynolds — his filming for the day was over. So he wasn’t going to actually be onstage.

“They just told us what kind of reaction we needed to give. But before they started filming the audience’s response, he was gracious enough to come out and talk to us. He was really sweet, and he talked about how much he really liked downtown Cartersville and how nice everybody was. ... He said, ‘If they ever kick me out of Florida, I’m moving to Cartersville, Ga.’ It was really gracious of him to come out and do that. He didn’t have to. He could have just gone to his trailer and just settled in for the night. But he was just very sweet. It was just a very fun experience.”

Filmed in April, “Hamlet and Hutch” is one of about eight productions, ranging from movies to commercials, shot in Bartow County this year. Among the productions that currently are filming is “The Red Road,” a Sundance Channel show featuring Martin Henderson, Jason Momoa, Julianne Nicholson, Tamara Tunie, Annalise Basso, Allie Gonino, Kiowa Gordon and Tom Sizemore. Primarily shot in Bartow, the series is filming at various local locations, such as Red Top Mountain and private residences, from Aug. 19 through October.

Along with Bartow’s varied locations and close proximity to Atlanta, Regina Wheeler — deputy director for the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau — credits the county’s designation of being Camera Ready as a top reason for the filming increase.

“In the number of years that we’ve worked here at the Convention & Visitors Bureau and have fielded calls throughout the years looking for various locations and assisting as we could, this is certainly the highest number [of inquiries and films],” Wheeler said. “The film industry has grown greatly here in the state of Georgia. Much of that has to do with efforts that have been put into place by the Georgia Department of Economic Development. The film division has created Camera Ready communities, which of course Bartow County became one of those several years ago. It gives a very broad online presence to our locations.

“Before, a film scout may call us up and just be looking vaguely, ‘I need a barn with old tractors or something like that’ — a very vague description — and they would know it when they saw it. But it took a lot more time and a lot more effort to get them around the state and seeing everything. Now that there are online catalogues of still photography basically, it really can help them narrow what they’re going after. So when we say, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words,’ it can also be worth money in getting them here to our community.”

Along with traditional structures, such as the 1903 Bartow County Courthouse — which drew the eye of “Devil’s Knot” in 2012 — the Camera Ready distinction also is promoting private, less familiar buildings as well.

“I think we just have a really good presence within that site and the more that we work with location managers, the more apt they are to bring more projects back,” Wheeler said. “For instance, we do have one location manager, I believe, that’s brought us three projects this year. ... [Location managers] see the ease that we can provide in terms of working in our community. We’re very receptive and that is bringing a lot of people back.

“.... Just to give you an idea, before the Camera Ready effort from the state of Georgia, we might have three, four, maybe five people interested per year. Occasionally, there might come a small commercial, something like that. They’d be looking for a road or they would be looking for a building. ... Now we have just about one every few weeks. Right now, we’re just sort of logging those that are actually materializing and on location filming. So it really has [made a difference]. We are spending more time going after this effort, but again this is an effort that does meet our mission of increasing economic development through lodging tax increase.”

To be released this year, “Devil’s Knot’s” preliminary estimate of economic impact for filming in downtown Cartersville for five days in July 2012 is $69,625. The total does not include the renting of two buildings or the cost for fueling trucks. Lodging — 70 rooms for five nights at $60 per night — was the film’s top expenditure at $21,000.

“Economic impact can be somewhat hard to sum up at times. When we have a series-type situation filming, that’s six, seven weeks. The film, which starred Reese Witherspoon, also was here multiple weeks,” Wheeler said, referring to “Devil’s Knot,” which also features Colin Firth. “When you bring in large crews that need housing, they dine out at night, they need catering during the day. All of those things add up. And they benefit in a lot of different ways.

“[‘Devil’s Knot’] was a county-owned locale so rather than the county accepting money for that, donations were made to local charities. So there’s a lot of benefit in some very unique ways. We are looking always at putting heads in beds and increasing tax for our community through lodging tax. And we’re always looking for those multi-faceted, over a period of time-type locales.”

Along with economic benefits, Wheeler also said the county gains exposure with each production.

“From the public relations standpoint, we’re always looking for that film that’s going to be big at the box office that will be somewhat identifiable with the South, that would have a recognizable entity, much like ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ did for sections of Atlanta, ‘[Midnight in] the Garden of Good and Evil,’ what that did for Savannah,” Wheeler said, adding the local CVB currently is working on securing filming sites for two productions. “... People want to see these locations in person.

“So we are looking for things like that. I think people will begin to come our way and find it very unique to stand on the steps where Reese stood. But the more that we get, the more that we’re looking forward to that iconic filming that’s going to come.”