Lights, Camera, Atlanta: Hollywood continues growing Atlanta film industry

Beginning+late+August+2015%2C+Universal+Studios+began+filming+Neighbors+2+in+Atlanta+neighborhoods%2C+including+Candler+Park+and+Inman+Park.

Beginning late August 2015, Universal Studios began filming Neighbors 2 in Atlanta neighborhoods, including Candler Park and Inman Park.

Mei Nathan

   

Beginning late August 2015, Universal Studios began filming Neighbors 2 in Atlanta neighborhoods, including Candler Park and Inman Park.
MEET THE NEIGHBORS: Beginning late August 2015, Universal Studios began filming Neighbors 2 in Atlanta neighborhoods, including Candler Park and Inman Park.

    This year, over 240 large-production films and TV shows, including The Divergent Series: Allegiant Part I and The Walking Dead, are filming in Atlanta, helping the city live up to the nickname, “the Hollywood of the South.’’

    The entertainment industry is benefiting from tax credits which encourage movie production in the state, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

    “Atlanta has become so much more affordable than Los Angeles that for [Neighbors 2], instead of renting the two homes [from the original film], the production team actually built a set,” said Brandi Boblett, whose home is used in Neighbors 2. “They’re shooting the majority of the entire movie here.”

    The economic benefit of filming in Atlanta isn’t the only factor driving the city’s film production boom.

    Atlanta offers inherent benefits, such as: direct flights to and from Los Angeles, an abundance of rental studios, great local workforce, and variety of shooting locations, James McKinney, a cinematographer and camera operator whose past works includes The Hunger Games and Glory.

   McKinney said Atlanta “has places that look like New York—has places that look like Iowa.”

   The allure of Atlanta has spurred film companies to utilize the entire state. According to WABE 90.1, the FM station whose broadcast license is held by Atlanta Public Schools, Georgia’s film industry has seen over a 500% economic increase  since 2008. Film companies began shooting in Georgia when President Jimmy Carter created the first state film commission outside of California in 1973. However, as Canada and other American cities began offering film incentives, the Hollywood industry largely left Georgia.

     McKinney cites the 2004 biopic of Ray Charles as a pivotal moment in Georgia regaining its appeal to the film industry.

     “Louisiana has an extremely generous tax incentive, so we were losing a lot of work to Louisiana that we felt should’ve come to Atlanta,” McKinney said. “I remember thinking, ‘That’s Ray Charles; that should have been shot in Georgia.’”

     Fast forward 11 years, and it’s now common in Georgia to see the filming of a movie or TV show, especially in an Atlanta neighborhood. Atlanta has burst on the national filming scene with hits such as Anchorman 2,  filmed in Piedmont Park, Red Band Society, filmed in the High Museum, and The Blind Side, filmed at The Westminster Schools and Atlanta International School. James Haverstick, junior at Ben Franklin Academy, remembers receiving a flyer from a location scout inquiring about using his house for Neighbors 2.

     “It was really surreal,” Haverstick said. “There were people I had seen only on TV before right in front of me working. The set took two days to build and the scene took three hours to film, but it probably isn’t even 20 seconds long.”

     The majority of filming is located in the Atlanta’s Zone 5, a policing district which sprawls from Piedmont Park to downtown and includes Grady.

     Grady has been the backdrop for numerous Hollywood productions, starting with Remember the Titans (2000). Most recently, Grady has been featured in The Duff, starring Mae Whitman, Bella Thorne and Robbie Amell.

     “I never thought a movie would be filmed in Atlanta, much less my school,” junior Audrey Sullivan said. “It was surprising, actually. I felt a little bit of pride seeing our school so nice.”

     Sullivan was not the only one who felt school pride after seeing Grady appear in films.

    “I really enjoyed seeing our school being the backdrop of a whole movie,” senior Robi Roberts said. “On screen, I would see the actors in our cafeteria and our hallway, and see how they changed our school to fit the movie.”

     Other than the inconveniences of taking a detour or waiting for a short period to access public spaces, Boblett has had no negative experiences with the rise of filming in Atlanta.

     “If the neighborhoods and community are supportive to filming and the film industry as busy as it is, then it’s a great thing,” Boblett said. “Everybody on my street was really accommodating. I don’t think anyone has said anything, which really impressed me.”

     McKinney agrees the experience has been positive in the community, but is unsure of the city’s future in filming.

       I think [the film industry] is insanely healthy right now, but knowing the film business has its ups and downs, no one knows how long it’s going to last,” McKinney said. “We’re going to enjoy the ride while it does last and try and keep it good for everybody. As much as I love the film business and it runs through my blood, I’m as much an Atlanta boy and love Atlanta.”