Florida Times-Union By Gordon Jackson
Less than a year after a new St. Marys film society announced a goal to persuade producers to make a movie in the region, it announced it has landed one.
“Eye of the Hurricane” will be filmed in St. Marys in August, the Coastal Georgia Film Society announced Tuesday.
“Initially, we were looking for a location that could match the Florida Everglades,” movie producer Susan Johnson said, “but once we saw St. Marys, the possibilities were endless.”
After producers toured the city, Johnson said the script was rewritten to film at locations throughout St. Marys and beyond. One scene will be filmed at the U.S. 17 bridge spanning the St. Marys River to Florida. That will require special permits from both states.
Producers describe the movie as a family drama about members of a small Florida Everglades community struggling to put their lives back together after a devastating hurricane.
Campbell Scott, who has appeared in more than 20 movies, will play the leading role. Scott is the son of movie icon George C. Scott.
Jose Zuniga, who appeared in the hit movie “Twilight” and in starring roles in TV shows such as “Law and Order,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” and “Ghost Whisperer,” will also play a lead role in the film.
Doug Vaught, the film alliance’s chairman, said the movie will be a “real economic coup” for local businesses.
“Besides the hundreds of room nights in our hotels and bed and breakfasts that the production will provide, the cast will be eating in our restaurants, shopping in our shops and patronizing numerous businesses for various services needed,” Vaught said. “There will even be opportunities for locals to work as extras on the set.”
The production company’s Web site lists the movie’s budget at $850,000. Janet Brinko, director of the St. Marys Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the economic impact to the city will be felt long after the production is finished.
“People love to visit places where movies are filmed,” she said. “After the filming of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” in Savannah, their area tourism soared. Having ‘Eye of the Hurricane’ filmed here will be like having a two-hour picture postcard for St. Marys distributed all over the world.”
Writer and director Jesse Wolfe said it was more than the city’s beauty that led to the decision to film in St. Marys.
“I originally wanted to shoot the film in Florida, as it is a story based in Florida,” he said. “But from the moment we drove into St. Marys, I knew I would change my mind. Potential locations leapt out at me each time we turned a corner, and the hospitality, enthusiasm and charm of the townsfolk sealed the deal. I will be making my Florida film in St. Marys, Ga.”
Alliance members secured permits and found housing for the cast and crew within a week after producers toured the city.
Barbara Ryan, the alliance’s founder and vice-chairman, said the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act that provides a tax credit up to 30 percent was an added incentive for producers.
“Entertainment productions in Georgia have increased 400 percent since the state introduced the tax credit package in 2008,” she said. “More than 100 feature films, television series, specials and pilots have been produced in Georgia since then, helping catapult the state into the top five in the nation for film and TV production in 2009, and landing it in the top spot in the Southeast.”
Wolfe said the potential for more movies filmed in the region is “enormous.”
“The resources in this area are vast,” he said. “There are thousands of stories waiting to be told on screen and hundreds of filmmakers chomping at the bit to apply their craft here. I believe ‘Eye of the Hurricane’ can be a pioneering movie in this endeavor.”
Florida Times-Union By Gordon Jackson