Movies set to be filmed in region: Film industry professionals continue to find their way to Southwest Georgia
By Barbara Rivera Holmes
Barbara Best’s production company has a nation-full of choices for shooting its films, but the Orlando-based firm has picked Southwest Georgia as the setting for at least three of them.
On and off for about two months, Best has auditioned 200 area residents as extras in her movies and now has put out a call for a country band, which she hopes to cast in two of the films.
Best, director of acquisition for Off The Cuff Productions, has gone so far as to set up an office in rural Early County.
It’s no accident that the Off The Cuff, which Best said produces “21st century (family-friendly feature) films reflecting the values of earlier generations,” focused on Blakely. The town is close to Colquitt, home of the Southwest Georgia Film Commission and the Jokara-Micheaux Film Festival, in neighboring Miller County.
“We had heard through the grapevine that there were other films activities going on in that area,” she said Tuesday, “so ‘Why don’t we go over there and see what it’s all about?’ and we made some connections with Early County 2055.”
The area and Off The Cuff seemed like a natural fit.
“We’re trying to build a film community there,” said the Macon native, echoing the sentiment of all involved with the commission and in particular that of its founder, Ralph Wilcox.
“We’re trying to build industry there. … We are trying to give people opportunities,” Best said. “It’s an impoverished area, and we see the potential for a film industry to grow there and flourish.”
Community-building aside, Southwest Georgia in general is appealing.
“You’ve got beautiful weather … and just the locations are pretty. The architecture is pretty. It’s very well laid out,” she said.
“I’ve been in Albany,” said Best, who was in town in 2007 doing research and scouting locations. “I’ve spoken with several people at the chamber (Albany Area Chamber of Commerce), so we’re not just limited to Blakely. We are looking at other locations as well.”
But back to the country band; Best simply needs a good set of musicians.
“I’m wanting to audition the country music bands in that area (Southwest Georgia) instead of bringing someone in from outside the area,” she said.
“They can be a three-member band or a six-member band,” she said. “I want a band that sounds good. I want them to be studio quality. I know there are good bands in Albany, in Dothan, Ala., in Blakely, in Colquitt.”
Best said the band, and the extras, will get paid for their work.
Bands need to call and set up an audition time, a lesson Best learned the hard way when she auditioned extras.
“We had so many people coming in off the street that we were there until 10:30 one night,” she said.
She has planned for the band auditions to be June 12-14 from 2 p.m.-7 p.m.
News such as that of Off the Cuff’s work in Blakely is exactly what Wilcox, a veteran actor and Colquitt native, envisioned when he set out to make the area a film hub.
He noted that films produced by Sherwood Pictures, a division of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, has helped to put Southwest Georgia on the film map.
“Even in this region, people were doubting whether or not there was any viability,” Wilcox said. “Now people are saying, ‘My goodness gracious, it is very, very viable, and the job opportunities, construction, transportation, food services, painting, administration, all those areas literally employ people.’
“And although no one is getting rich, we just have to be steady and stay consistent … and understand that it can happen.”
Wilcox said that Gov. Sonny Perdue’s new tax incentive credit — from 15 percent before to 30 percent now — “makes us very, very competitive with Wilmington, N.C., and certainly Louisiana.”
He added that a project of the commission, The Lena Baker Story, screened recently at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival and was a red-carpet opener at the Atlanta Film Festival. Come Labor Day weekend, the film will open this year’s Jokara-Micheaux festival.
“I really am very pleased with what I see starting to happen,” he said.