Tuesday, November 16, 2010

North Fulton urged to court film companies.

By Ralph Ellis
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The message delivered to North Fulton cities wanting to capitalize on the movie-making boom in Georgia is this: streamline the permitting processes and put up welcome signs for production companies.

“It’s all about speed,” Craig Dominey of the Georgia Department of Economic Development last week told the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce. “When we send our requests for locations or something, we need to get information back as soon as possible.”

Three hundred and fifty movies and television shows have been shot in Georgia this year because the state offers generous tax breaks. That's expected to create a $1.3 billion economic impact in the state, up from $1.1 billion last year, according to the economic development department.

It’s harder to measure locally, but Covington, a town of 14,000 located 40 miles east of Atlanta, has benefited, said Clara Deemer of the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce. The economic impact of “The Vampire Diaries" has been well into the six figures this year, Deemer said.

Covington has been portrayed as Mystic Falls, Va., in "The Vampire Diaries," a television hit. The town previously has served as Sparta, Miss., and Hazard County in an unidentified Southern state.

“It’s not just economic impact while they’re actually filming; it's the economic impact it can have 30 or 35 years later," Deemer said. "Seventy-five percent of our visitors come because of ‘The Dukes of Hazard’ and ‘In the Heat of the Night.’”

North Fulton hasn’t gotten involved yet, but Roswell Council member Betty Price was enthusiastic. She said "it's a win-win situation," though the city needs to make sure film companies obey the rules.

Local filmmakers and brothers Matt Young and Jared Young said Roswell isn't known as a film-friendly town, with Matthew Young telling that city council last week that the permit process can be slow, which puts off movie-makers.

“As soon as they get the vibe the city or council will be a problem, they move to the next town,” he said.

The Youngs asked the council to support a movie they want to make in Roswell, one that is a cross between “Goonies” and “National Treasure.”

On Monday, Roswell spokeswoman Julie Brechbill said Mayor Jere Wood plans to write a letter of support. She also said the city has been revising the permit procedures to facilitate film companies.

Decatur, where "Zombieland" was filmed, is an example of a film-friendly city, by posting permits and filming regulations on the city website, according to Dominey, who has urged cities to make lists with photos of potential locations for shooting.

Fulton County recently was designated as one of Georgia’s 16 “camera ready communities” by the state economic development department. Communities with that label must identify a person who film companies can contact.

Fulton is so big, the county is broken up into three sections: north, south and Atlanta. Tedra Cheatham, vice president for economic development at the North Fulton Chamber, is the northside contact.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for this industry to do business up here,” she said.

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