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State tourism officials seek to spotlight movie industrys presence in 2017
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Ryan Provence, left, helps others set up silks to create even lighting while filming Feb. 29 on the movie set for “Thank You for Your Service” at the old Regions Bank building in downtown Gainesville. The movie is about military members returning from war with post-traumatic stress disorder. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Gainesville and Hall County are positioned to reap benefits from a $7 billion film industry that state officials are promoting this year in a new travel guide and tourism promotion unveiled last week. And there could be opportunities for local residents to get in on the action and drama.

The movie business supports a full 10 percent of the workforce in the state, adding to Georgia’s growing reputation as the Hollywood of the east.

Approximately 300 film and television productions are scheduled in the state this year, and Hall County has already proven to be a ripe location for such major motion pictures as “Creed,” “Hall Pass” and “Blended,” featuring the likes of Michael B. Jordan, Owen Wilson and Adam Sandler.

“It's extremely exciting for film to serve as this year’s tourism theme,” said Catiel Felts, tourism director and spokeswoman for the city of Gainesville. “Recognizing the amount of economic impact that is generated from even just a few days of shooting a scene, the Gainesville (Convention and Visitors Bureau) has been working with several city departments to create a film permit in order to streamline the process for companies who are interested in shooting here.”

Felts said she dreams that one day Gainesville will be home to a television series like “The Vampire Diaries” or the “The Walking Dead,” which have been successful elsewhere in Georgia.

“We would encourage residents to think of what is unique to their home or property that might be added to the camera-ready list for Hall County,” Felts said. “You never know what a movie producer is looking for, and we want to make sure Gainesville is ready when they come knocking.”

Stacey Dickson, president of the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Hall County will benefit from the “Year of Georgia Film” through itineraries, blogs and other promotions on the state’s tourism marketing website.

“Here is where visitors will learn about films and television shows that have been filmed in the area, and they can visit locations or take part in experiences they’ve seen on the big screen,” Dickson said.

However, locations in private property will not be promoted without the owner’s permission.

“As we continue to work as the ‘camera ready’ office for Hall County, we will keep building our local filmography with productions and keep adding to the sites to see from the movies and TV,” Dickson said.

The old Regions Bank in downtown Gainesville transformed into a post office last April for filming of a portion of the major motion picture “Baby Driver,” which stars Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm. The film is set for an August release.

Two other projects filmed at the old Regions Bank earlier last year.

“Thank You for Your Service,” a movie about soldiers coping with post-traumatic stress disorder, shot a scene in the downtown Gainesville building in February. That film is being produced by Amblin Entertainment, which was founded by Steven Spielberg.

In January 2016, the old bank was the setting for a bank robbery scene for the PlayStation Network show “Powers,” where two homicide detectives investigate people with superhuman abilities.

The History Channel also came to Brenau University in July 2015 to film part of its special “Roanoke: Search for the Lost Colony.”

The production filmed scenes that pertain to the Dare Stones — a collection of historic artifacts housed at the local university.

The film industry’s boom in Georgia is directly tied to tax breaks offered to production companies, and the state is working on a study to calculate the costs of these incentives compared with the overall economic benefits.

“The economic impact from this kind of tourism is tremendous and benefits the entire community,” Felts said.

For more information, visit exploregeorgia.org.

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