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Hall County has become a hub for Hollywood productions, but now county officials are addressing some of the downsides of having film crews descend on towns and neighborhoods.
Full-length movies like “Blended” starring Adam Sandler and the Academy Award-nominated “Creed” starring Michael B. Jordan have been made in Hall, among many in Georgia. Filmmakers have responded to the state’s attractive tax credits, mild weather and local residents eager to welcome them.
Yet while most residents have been accommodating, a handful of complaints have come in, according to assistant county manager Marty Nix. In response, he is writing an ordinance that would curb liberties film crews have in Hall.
“This ordinance will be a reflection ... that (complaints) haven’t fallen on deaf ears,” said Katie Crumley, county public information officer.
The ordinance would restrict production companies from “unreasonably disturbing the peace,” Nix said.
It would allow residents and the county to oversee what impact film crews have and ensure safety.
An example, Nix said, would be if a crew was filming a bank robbery scene, local businesses and residents would be notified before they started filming lest anyone think it was real. If a road were shut down, crews would have to notify schools and make sure traffic wasn’t heavy at the time.
Since August, John and Clarice Bailey’s property off Gaines Ferry Road near Van Pugh Park has been used to film the Netflix original series “Ozark” starring Jason Bateman. A home built by John’s father in the 1950s was primarily used for the show. The house is on the back of their property and is mostly used by the couple’s grandchildren when they visit.
The Baileys had no problem with the filming crew and were happy to be a part of it, and got to meet Bateman.
“Everyone was extremely nice, not anything but nice,” Clarice Bailey said. “It was enlightening to see how these things are made, how hardworking these people are.”
She said the crew was courteous and didn’t leave as much as a cigarette butt behind. When they arrived, she said they specifically mentioned how they would make sure to give back to the community.
When they came to town, Blue Cat Productions’ trucks carrying equipment, food trucks and other personal vehicles would park on both sides of Misty Cove Lane, a road in between the Baileys’ property and that of their neighbor, Vicki Bentley.
Yet Bentley didn’t have a positive experience with the film crew. Her main grievances were directed toward the production company, whom she said refused to move vehicles, parked in her yard, blocked the road, ruined the grass, displaced gravel and parked in front of a fire hydrant, among other complaints.
Someone also damaged a drainage pipe on her property, which will have to be replaced, Bentley said. Misty Cove Lane is covered with cracks and what looks to be the beginnings of a sinkhole.
The road is owned by the county. Bentley said she tried reaching county officials several times over the issue.
Bentley said Blue Cat parked a large lift halfway in the road for several days the week of Jan. 20 before it was moved. She said grass on the other side of the road was damaged from people driving through Bentley’s neighbor’s yard.
By Feb. 17, the company had wrapped filming and put down fertilization pellets to reduce the amount of damage to grass.
Bentley also expressed her concern over her elderly parents, who live off Misty Cove Lane and have health problems. She was concerned an ambulance wouldn’t be able to make it through the space filled by the production company’s vehicles.
Clarice Bailey said the crew had paramedics on hand and two Hall County Sheriff’s Office officers were on scene most of the time.
“If anything ever happened, they would be able to help,” she said. “It made me feel safer to have them there.”
Wes Hagan, locations manager for Blue Cat Productions, said the production crew tried to accommodate Bentley.
“We fixed everything we damaged and we obtained all permits required,” he said.
The county’s ordinance, which should be in the final drafting stages by the end of next week, will address some of these problems. It will then be proposed to the Board of Commissioners for approval in March, Nix said.
Hagan said such ordinances are something production companies to work with often.
“I see nothing wrong with them working that out,” he said. “Most cities have them.”
Blue Cat Productions, the production crew for the show, would often cater Moonie’s Texas BBQ, a restaurant in Flowery Branch, and bought their gas in town. They also hired local security for the set and used storage spaces in the Baileys’ storage business.
“I just believe in helping your neighbor,” Clarice Bailey said.
“I didn’t do it for the money,” John Bailey said.
Crumley said she wanted to make sure Hall residents still welcome film crews and are easy to work with.
The Baileys weren’t the only ones whose property was used for the show. Clarice said their neighbors, two University of North Georgia students, were able to pay their tuition with the money they earned from allowing the studios to use their property. They live in a smaller house across the street from the Baileys.
Another neighbor, Jean Niles, was able to get a new roof and floors with the money she earned from the production company. She also didn’t have a problem with the crew.