Films put Newton in spot­light

The Covington News - - Opinion - Hunter Hall is pres­i­dent of the Cov­ing­ton/Newton County Cham­ber of Com­merce.

This col­umn is in re­sponse to sev­eral pre­vi­ous letters that have been sub­mit­ted to The Cov­ing­ton News, to clar­ify what the facts are about the im­pact to our com­mu­nity con­cern­ing the film in­dus­try pres­ence in Newton County.

Cov­ing­ton/ Newton County is highly re­spected in the state as a com­mu­nity that un­der­stands the eco­nomic im­pact the film in­dus­try has on an area. Newton County was re­cently rec­og­nized by the State Film and Tele­vi­sion Com­mis­sion as one of 16 coun­ties in Ge­or­gia as be­ing “Cam­era Ready”. Clara Deemer, our Di­rec­tor of Tourism, was hon­ored to speak as the lo­cal com­mu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tive at the un­veil­ing of EUE/ Screen Gems Stu­dios’ new sound stage com­plex at the his­toric Lake­wood fair grounds. We are highly re­spected as a com­mu­nity that is will­ing to work with the in­dus­try, but never at the ex­pense of lo­cal cit­i­zens.

Many of our lo­cal busi­nesses profit from film- ing in Cov­ing­ton. Film­ing com­pa­nies love to use R L’s Off the Square, Bradley’s BBQ, Plain Nuts, Am­ici, Trea­sure Thai Cui­sine, Ed­win Bean, Square Perk, Chick-fil-A, Scoops, Town House Café, and other restau­rants for cater­ing as well as eat­ing at those places while set­ting up be­fore ac­tual film­ing be­gins.

Many lo­cal cit­i­zens are em­ployed as ex­tras, set builders, light­ing crew, etc. Sev­eral Newton res­i­dents have started busi­nesses by of­fer­ing tours of film­ing sites.

“Vam­pire Di­aries” also use the ser­vices of lo­cal ex­ter­mi­na­tors, banks, gro­cery stores, florists, off­duty po­lice and sher­iff’s deputies, prop­erty own­ers, hair sa­lons, build­ing sup­plies, hard­ware sup­plies and many, many other busi­nesses. If they block park­ing spa­ces for a busi­ness for any length of time, that busi­ness is fi­nan­cially com­pen­sated. They started us­ing the ser­vices of Cov­ing­ton Rental for tents, ta­bles, chairs, or other items when film­ing in Cov­ing­ton but now use them ex­clu­sively for all their film­ing statewide.

They stay in our lo­cal ho­tels and sev­eral crew mem­bers stay at the same lo­cal ho­tel ev­ery time they work on dif­fer­ent movies in the sur­round­ing coun­ties.

Gaither Plan­ta­tion has been used nu­mer­ous times in movies and tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tions such as “Bobby Jones: a Stroke of Ge­nius,” “Madea’s Fam­ily Re­union,” and “Vam­pire Di­aries.” Newton County is paid for the use of this county-owned fa­cil­ity each time.

Al­though re­luc­tant to share specifics, “Vam­pire Di­aries” staff said they have in­vested well into six fig­ures in the Cov­ing­ton/ Newton County econ­omy since they started their film­ing. They have made nu­mer­ous do­na­tions to our com­mu­nity non-prof­its and civic clubs. Mer­chants tell us how much they have en­joyed hav­ing the film crews down­town and how pleas­ant they are to work with.

We re­al­ize that when they are film­ing, con­ges­tion may oc­cur on the square and Floyd Street, and this is in­con­ve­nient for sure. But we will en­counter at least two years of traf­fic in­con­ve­nience on Ha­zle­brand Road as DOT makes im­prove­ments that will ben­e­fit re­tail and com­mer­cial devel­op­ment for 30 years to come. The same is true with this film­ing down­town. A suc­cess­ful TV show like the Vam­pire Di­aries, will pay 30 years of tourism tax dol­lars into our lo­cal econ­omy. The im­pact this tele­vi­sion show has on our lo­cal econ­omy is over­whelm­ing. Al­though ev­ery­one in the com­mu­nity might not di­rectly profit, ev­ery­one does ben­e­fit by the sales tax paid by film crews when pa­tron­iz­ing our lo­cal busi­nesses.

We doc­u­ment ev­ery­one who comes into the Vis­i­tors Cen­ter and con­ser­va­tively es­ti­mate that 75 per­cent of vis­i­tors to Cov­ing­ton/Newton County come be­cause of “The Dukes of Haz­ard”, “In the Heat of the Night,” and now “ Vam­pire Di­aries.”

That trans­lates into vis­i­tors fu­el­ing cars, eat­ing meals, sleep­ing in ho­tels, shop­ping for mem­o­ra­bilia, spend­ing money in our com­mu­nity, 30 years af­ter the Gen­eral Lee jumped and Carol O’Con­nor strolled our streets.

The Cham­ber of Com­merce ap­pre­ci­ates the op­por­tu­nity to cor­rect some of the pre­vi­ous in­for­ma­tion and to set the record straight on the im­por­tance of the film in­dus­try to our lo­cal econ­omy. Please feel free to call the Cham­ber at (770) 786-7510.




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