by Bob Pepalis / Appen Newspapers
November 25, 2008 MILTON – While the weather and the tax incentives to film in Georgia proved very attractive to the producers of "The Joneses," which was wrapping up filming this week in Milton, the people of the neighborhood made it a very pleasant experience.
On a cool, windy afternoon, David Duchovny, in character as "Steve," was spending his time getting in and out of a car driven for Lauren Hutton, who portrays "KC," a high-level executive with interest in his family.
Movie terms such as "rolling," "action" and "cut" could be heard called and repeated up and down the street within The Manor subdivision serving as the filming location. But the term most used was "watch your back."
Plenty of people live in the hundreds of homes in The Manor, and whenever someone needed to get by, the call came out to "watch your back" as security let the car through, passing right next to the filmmakers. Even when lighting equipment was being taken down and reconfigured, the call came out again: "Watch your back."
Time after time Duchovny stopped "jogging," peered into the car, exchanged some dialogue and then climbed in for a scene with Hutton's character.
If you aren't a film buff or an actor, it can seem tedious, not glamorous. For the actors, it's certainly work, though it is their craft. For a comparison, think of the time spent standing in line to vote or to get a driver's license. The wait was horrendous, but the payoff was sublime.
Only $8 million is budgeted on this independent film, kept a bit lower thanks to the 30 percent tax incentive provided by the Ga. Department of Economic Development.
The 27-day shoot wraps up in time to let the two families who turned over their homes to the filmmakers celebrate Thanksgiving at home.
The top six or seven actors flew in from Los Angeles and New York, but the bulk of the actors are Georgians, including a few from The Manor neighborhood who got the chance to be a part of a party scene.
Producers Kristi Zea and Andrew Spaulding, president of Echo Lake Entertainment, said those Georgia actors made filming here a treat. Often producers and directors are faced with one of two problems in filling out the cast away from a studio. Either they have to fly someone in from L.A., New York or Vancouver for just two lines in the movie, or they are stuck using local actors whose talents are lacking. There was no such problem in North Fulton.
Filming in The Manor was just as much a delight for filmmakers. Residents were happy to see the film crews and have been very cooperative in what is a disruption to their lives.
"It's kind of like being on a back lot," Zea said, "with a lot of people that have been incredibly cooperative."
Zea, whose credits include "Fame," "Terms of Endearment," "Philadelphia," "Goodfellas" and "The Departed," helped pick the location at The Manor – and several other nearby sites – for the film. She said she was looking for somewhere in the country in which the real estate market boom of the past 10 years could be seen. Atlanta was it. Being easily accessible, with Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport offering direct flights to almost anywhere in the world, was another plus. Most of the places that offer such strong incentives require connecting flights.
The two homes Zea picked in The Manor fit the tone of the movie – upscale, but seemingly attainable by many people.
"We wanted some houses that people can relate to," she said.
The film crew needed an open floor plan for the home of the Joneses, while the neighbors, portrayed by Gary Cole and Glenn Headley, had to have a home with a pool. All the furniture had to be taken out of the home for the Jones, while the neighboring home used the furniture already inside.
What worked out even better for the crew was the grass lot just behind the homes off Hopewell Road that allowed space for parking and the catering van and tent. With the reception they received in Georgia, expect more movies to be filmed in the area, Spaulding said.