Albany Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Executive Director Rashelle Beasley “plays dead” atop one of Albany’s sand dunes to help film scouts determine if they want to choose Albany as the site of an upcoming Investigation Discovery television show film shoot. (Special photo)
ALBANY — As the entire state of Georgia continues to see an unprecedented increase in film and television productions being done throughout the state, Southwest Georgia may also see increased exposure as production companies look for new and interesting film locations.
Location scouts from Atlanta-based ATL Locations recently visited Albany looking for sites at which to film part of an upcoming Investigation Discovery television show.
Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Rashelle Beasley and Albany Marathon Assistant Race Director Kristen Schuette spent the majority of the day this past Wednesday shuttling ATL Locations owner Valerie Warren around Albany and Dougherty County as she scouted for possible filming locations.
Although the exact details about what program is looking to film in Albany isn't known, Beasley said the general feeling is that things are looking positive.
“We’ll know for sure in the next couple of days if it’ll happen, but things went pretty well,” Beasley said. “Naturally they have to look at everything and run it by the producers before they make a final decision.”
Beasley said Warren and her location company are just the latest in a growing list of location scouts and different media production companies that have inquired with the CVB about filming locations in and around the Good Life City.
“You’d be amazed. We get calls all the time,” said Beasley. “We’re on the state film commission’s website as a camera-ready community, so anybody filming in Georgia might potentially be interested in Albany.”
While Beasley notes that not all calls translate into site visits or actual film productions, it only takes a couple to generate future interest in the area and to generate economic impact.
Albany has already gained some exposure in the film world recently thanks to the success of Sherwood Picture’s successful films "Flywheel," "Facing the Giants," "Fireproof" and "Courageous," all of which were filmed in and around the community.
Albany and neighbor Dawson also served as one of the filming locations for Disney’s 2012 release “The Odd Life of Timothy Green.”
“Between Albany and Dawson, there were crews filming here about a week,” Beasley said. “That’s huge for this area in terms of economic impact. As a rough estimate, I’d say that production generated about $70,000 in economic impact.”
Bealsey said the majority of that impact comes from lodging, food beverages and the use of local vendors. For “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” the production used local vendors to rent tents and trucks, as well as to purchase last-minute supplies.
“It’s actually one of the things that’s good about Albany,” Beasley explained. “We have lots of different locations that we’ve already scouted around town to choose from, plus we’ve got all the different amenities lined up and ready. We make it really easy.”
So easy, in fact, Warren said she has already suggested Albany as the site for the upcoming shoot based not only on the locations available, but because of the prep work Beasley and the CVB have done.
Warren explained that different communities throughout the state are listed as camera-ready on the Georgia Film Association’s website, and each community has a designated liaison for scouts to contact for information about shooting in an area.
That information typically includes not only identifying areas in which to film, but also assistance with acquiring permission from the owners and cooperation with local agencies, such as government and law enforcement.
“My experience in Albany was really good,” Warren said. “They not only understand what they’re doing, they understand what we’re doing. When we’re looking at a location, we need things to happen fast. Time is always our enemy. I’ve dealt with some entities in Georgia that didn’t really know what to do. We’d call and then they’d give us other people to call for permits, lodging, etc. and that takes too much time.
"Rashelle and Kristen were great. They took me to different places and they already had everything lined up. We need to deal with someone who’s in the know.”
Warren said that having an experience like the one she had in Albany made it easy to recommend the community not only to the production company she was scouting for, but to others in the future that are looking for locations.
“We let the Georgia film office know,” said Warren. “That’s very important.”
In addition to having knowledgeable people in place to assist scouts, Albany also has a lot to offer in terms of locations, said Warren. Citing places like Radium Spring and other blue holes, as well as a variety of homes in various areas, Warren said she was impressed with what she saw.
“There are a lot of things in Albany I didn’t realize were there,” Warren said. “I went ahead and shared with Rashelle and Kristen ways to market that and let folks know what’s there, maybe set up their own web page. We can call the film office and request a package be put together, but that might take time. If we can go to a website and see homes, community buildings, medical buildings, schools, industrial buildings and nature scenes, that makes things a lot easier.”
Beasley said that as interest grows, the CVB will continue to provide as much support as possible to the efforts to get filming done in Albany in the hope that it continues to a be destination for future filmmakers.
“Naturally it’s going to be more expensive than filming in Atlanta, but we have things here a lot of other places don’t have,” Beasley said. “We’ve got sand dunes, the river, blue holes, tree-lined streets, you name it. We also have big city amenities and all the needed vendors.”
Schuette for the past three years — when not in Albany working on the marathon — works on the production of one of Georgia’s biggest film and television projects, AMC’s "The Walking Dead."
“'The Walking Dead' has completely transformed Senoia (a town in Georgia 25 miles south of Atlanta),” Schutte said. “In 2000, there were like nine stores in the downtown area and now there are over 50. People come from all over to see where it is filmed. It’s amazing.”
While Senoia’s close proximity to Atlanta makes it an ideal option for expensive film productions, Albany’s camera-ready designation, coupled with the expertise and enthusiasm of Beasley and others at the CVB, can only help when productions consider the area for their next attempt at a blockbuster.