A movie that recently wrapped up in Richmond Hill is one of many being filmed in Georgia this year.
The state’s abundance of movie and television projects is making the state known as the “Hollywood of the South,” according to Christy Sherman, the executive director of the Richmond Hill Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Speaking Tuesday to a group of Leadership Bryan graduates, Sherman said, “At least 39 productions (are) going on in the state right now.” She cited statistics that Georgia was home to 158 feature films, TV movies and series, commercials and music videos in 2014 alone, generating an economic impact of $5.1 billion.
“The economic impact from 1973 to 1998 was $2.5 billion,” Sherman said. “You can see how quickly it’s increased.”
The reason, she said, is legislation Georgia passed in 2008 that gave the state one of the most competitive tax-incentive programs in the country. Tax credits are offered for up to 30 percent of a Georgia-filmed production’s expenditures.
“The film industry is becoming more incentive-driven rather than location-driven,” Sherman said.
“Like anything, some people think tax incentives are not a good thing,” addedRichmond Hill-Bryan County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Brianne Yontz. “But clearly, you can make the case for this, especially when you look at everything that’s been done outside of Atlanta, in the Savannah area and down here in Richmond Hill.”
Along with the incentives, Sherman said, Georgia offers a network of production and recording facilities, diverse shooting locations and a skilled workforce including actors and the latest production equipment and suppliers.
Bryan County is playing a role in Georgia’s film industry boom. “The Birth of a Nation,” a biopic of slave-turned-revolutionary Nat Turner, recently completed a 17-day shoot in Richmond Hill.
The community reaped financial benefits from the shoot, according to Sherman, as crews rented 30 hotel rooms for 2½ months and leased five buildings for construction and offices. They also ate at local restaurants, bought gas for trucks and equipment and purchased lumber, paint and building supplies at local hardware stores.
“So a lot of money went into (the community with) this project,” Sherman said.
Nate Parker is directing the film and playing the role of Turner. The cast also includes Armie Hammer, Gabrielle Union and Penelope Ann Miller.
The film is now being edited. A release date for “The Birth of a Nation” is expected to be announced later this year, Sherman said.
Bryan County ‘camera-ready’
As with all movie productions in the state, the process to bring “The Birth of a Nation” to Richmond Hill began with the producers contacting the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office.
The state maintains a database of the filming locations and other resources each county can offer. Bryan County’s entry includes film-friendly sites such as Fort McAllister, J.F. Gregory Park, Bryan Neck Presbyterian Church, Burnt Church Cemetery, the Henry Ford Community House and the Ogeechee River.
All 159 Georgia counties are certified as “camera-ready.” When the state film office receives a script, it contacts the visitors bureaus in the communities that could be best-suited for the production.
Sherman said she knew right away that Richmond Hill could be a fit for “The Birth of a Nation.” The film tells the story of Turner leading a rebellion of slaves in Virginia in 1831.
“When I got the one that said they were looking for plantations, I knew that we definitely have that,” Sherman said. “And we’re close to Savannah, which is something they were looking for.”
Richmond Hill was chosen as a location for “The Birth of a Nation” after Sherman gave a location scout a tour of the area. Much of the filming in Richmond Hill was done at private homes, according to Sherman.
“The producers said that they really loved Richmond Hill,” she said. “They met a lot of people, they made a lot of good relationships and they hope to come back.”
Along with offering field locations for films, Georgia also is seeing an increase in studio production. Since 2010, more than a dozen studio facilities have made announcements to locate or expand in Georgia.
Sherman was asked if Bryan County could benefit from the massive studio complex in the works in neighboring Effingham County. Moon River Studios ispegged to have its first two buildings — two soundstages and an office — completed by December.
“I think there’s a great opportunity there,” Sherman said.
For movie fans to see what is being filmed where in Georgia, the state has created thewebsite www.ComeTourGeorgia.com.
“That’s fun to explore,” Sherman said. “You can go on there and see which towns are movie towns.”