Molly Mercer, Film Project Manager for the Cherokee Office of Economic Development
Molly Mercer was raised in Hickory Flat. She attended Berry College in Rome, GA, receiving her BA in Theatre Arts and minor in Speech Communication, and shortly after completed her teaching certification in Theatre Education from Piedmont College. Though Molly’s early career was in theatre performance, her great love was for theatre education where she was able to engage high school students in practical experiences to prepare them for careers in professional theatre.
After having children, Molly adored being able to mostly be a stay at home mom, and contributing to her community through volunteer work in the Service League of Cherokee County where she served on the Executive Board for 5 years, chaired the annual Riverfest Arts and Crafts Festival and was voted League Member of the Year in 2011. She has served as room mom in her children’s classrooms, and she has been devoted to service within her church, where she has directed children’s musicals, served as choir director for children and adults, interim worship leader, outreach secretary, and was most recently employed as a preschool music program teacher for eight years.
Molly feels her life experiences have perfectly prepared her for her job as Film Project Manager where she is able to collaborate with a creative team, meet with scouts and show them the beautiful people and places of her native Cherokee County, and encourage the development of a workforce trained for employment in the arts.
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Speaker1: [00:00:02] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Woodstock, Georgia, this is Woodstock proud, spotlighting the individuals, businesses and organizations that make Woodstock one of the premiere destinations in metro Atlanta to live, work and play. Now, here’s your host.
Speaker2: [00:00:29] Hello and welcome back once again to Woodstock, proud here on Business RadioX. I’m your host, Jim Bulger, and once again, we appreciate so much you spending a few minutes with us while we get better acquainted with some of the people who are making a daily difference here in the Woodstock community. So let me start off by asking you a question. Have you ever watched a movie or a TV show and you’ve seen a building in the background that looked familiar or you saw a park that you visited or maybe a street that you think you may have driven down and you said, hey, I know where that is? Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about today, because my guest is Molly Mercer, who for the past four years has been the film project manager within the Cherokee Office of Economic Development based here in Woodstock. Molly is the point person. She is the go to person for filmmakers and crews, and she’s the one who invites them to use locations here in Cherokee County. Molly, thank you so much for joining us here on Woodstock. Proud.
Speaker1: [00:01:35] Well, thanks for having me.
Speaker2: [00:01:37] You know, it seems like in the last five to 10 years, more and more movies, TV shows, documentaries, commercials and other productions have found locations within Georgia and specifically within Cherokee County that suit their needs. And a lot of times we’re a stand in for other locations that could be anywhere. Hmm. So let’s start out just to kind of set the stage. Let’s clear up by talking some about some of the better known productions that you’ve worked with here in Cherokee County.
Speaker1: [00:02:09] Hmm. Well, I cut my teeth working with Ozark. Netflix is the hit series. A little spooky if you ask me, but but their team is amazing to work with. They’re filming season four here right now in around Georgia. Several. I mean, gosh, there are so many. I’m looking back. There are we’ve had some teams come from superhero franchises that we’ve worked with, too, specifically, and we’ve loved working with them. They’ve been great challenges.
Speaker2: [00:02:49] Well, it wasn’t one of our airports used in the Air America was at the American made. American made with Tom Cruise.
Speaker1: [00:02:58] Yes, the Cherokee County airport up in ball ground stood in as speaking of standing in other locations. That was such a find for that film team because they were able to dress that hangar to look like multiple countries and different different the terminal as well, so that it looked like different places that Tom Cruise, his character, was then able to fly in and out of. So it saved them tons of time and money being able to stay in the same spot.
Speaker2: [00:03:25] Well, and hidden figures did some shooting here, right? Yes.
Speaker1: [00:03:29] Hidden figures in downtown Canton in the former grammar school. That beautiful scene there. Poignant scene as Octavia Spencer walks out with her children. Yep.
Speaker2: [00:03:40] Great scene. Great scene. And again, it’s one of those things where I’m sure you watch movies a little bit differently than the rest of us do because you’re always looking at the backgrounds.
Speaker1: [00:03:50] Yes, I do. And even on projects that I’ve not worked on notice. Oh, that’s that same hotel they used in psych that I watched the other day or some other, you know, something that was shot in Canada, not anywhere near Georgia, but I frequently find common locations used. Oh, yeah, sure.
Speaker2: [00:04:09] Let’s talk a little bit about how that process works. I mean, a screenwriter writes a script, and I’m sure when they’re writing the script, they envision certain surroundings for the scenes they’re writing. Where does it kind of go from there and where do you get involved?
Speaker1: [00:04:25] Hmm. So when a production when when a script is picked up, when it’s greenlit, the team, then they cast their main players, their main production team, their director and the producers and their locations folks are some of the first hired on the job. They come in, read the script, and then the scouts begin scouring the area, looking for places that look like what the script calls for.
Speaker2: [00:04:53] And that’s all they do. These scouts, they just go out and look at locations.
Speaker1: [00:04:56] That is primarily what they do. Yes. While they are there also checking to see, you know, are we able to find what what the script calls for? Does this look anything like it? And how many options can we deliver back because the production team is going to be looking for, you know, ten, a dozen at least options to consider.
Speaker2: [00:05:15] Ok, so we’re in competition a little bit with other locations around the state, around the country.
Speaker1: [00:05:22] Tons, yes. Oftentimes. In fact, even last Monday, I was showing producer and screenwriter director around downtown Canton who were trying to decide if Georgia was going to be where they positioned their project. So a lot of times we’re even pitching our state as as the location, you know, that we have feasible options for them. So even if they don’t come, even if they don’t land in our courthouse or whatever. They were scouting, you know, whatever they’re looking at, just our hospitality, our ability to answer their questions and provide creativity and providing options, even if we’re like we don’t have what you what you’ve asked for. But here are some things that are kind of close. Could any of these work? The Scouts know and those production teams know right away that we’re in it with them and we’re going to try to help them solve those problems creatively.
Speaker2: [00:06:18] So you’re focused on Cherokee County. I mean, do other counties have counterparts to you that you work with and kind of share information? Or if we’re not right for somebody, there may be another county close by that might be.
Speaker1: [00:06:33] Yes, well, to back up when the state in response to the overwhelming. Really, the landslide of projects that began coming to Georgia soon after the tax incentive was passed now almost 13 years ago. The state film office quickly realized how this works and we need some help fielding these calls because before that they were developing photos down at Wolf Camera and kept a file of all the locations they knew of in Georgia. I mean, that’s a very different and some of that had gone digital, of course, by then. But still imagine then trying to, you know, represent the entire state, which they still do. But they, alongside the Georgia Production Partnership, developed something called the Camera Ready Liaison Program. And in each county, there is a camera ready liaison. I’m that person in Cherokee working through the Office of Economic Development.
Speaker2: [00:07:34] Ok, so let’s go back to the process. And so these location scouts go out and they’re looking at multiple locations. Where does it go from there?
Speaker1: [00:07:43] They collect their locations. They go back to their team, their production team, show it to their designers, and they kind of try to narrow down, OK, what are the options that look most like what we need that really that really help tell the story the best? Because everything in that frame tells the story or takes away from it, which option tells it best? And then they look at. OK, so here are our top three picks. Which one is the easiest to work with? Who’s going to respond to us quickly? Who you know, which of them has a base camp nearby where we can park all of our equipment vehicles accommodate, you know, the crew, the crew parking is another parking lot you generally need as well. So and sometimes they’re in the same place, sometimes not depending on where you you know, what amenities you can support them with. You may be a player or not. We’re further outside of the most. Let me back up and say productions try to find places to film as close to their production office as possible because, of course, time is money, gasoline. And you know, the distance you’re asking your team to travel is adds up very, very quickly, especially if your team is 185 strong. You know, I mean, that’s a lot of people, a lot of personal vehicles, a lot of crew vehicles and all the things. So the closer in that they can film, the better. But they have a 30 mile radius from their established office and generally those are within a studio or if not, they established from the state capitol. They measure that distance from the state capitol in that 30 mile radius. Part of Cherokee makes it in usually to most of those bubbles, if you will, and Woodstock definitely does, being at the southern end of the county. So we benefit greatly. But, you know, sometimes the thing that they’re looking for is just outside of that bubble and they’re going to try to find the thing that’s the closest outside of that. And so because of that, a lot of our county benefits from their interaction.
Speaker2: [00:09:52] So then they make their selection and hopefully we get greenlit. Yep. And they say, OK, you’re the one. Hmm. Now the work starts, right?
Speaker1: [00:10:05] Oh, no. It started it starts when we you know, that first call we get from a scout, because to be a player you also have to respond very quickly. So we you know, we know that if we know, the sooner we answer, they’re there. Their inquiry, even if it’s a hey, I know we don’t have that in our county, what you’re looking for, we do not have, you know, that type of factory here or something. But here are some other options that that may be could could these work and at least they know we responded. You know, that we’ve that we’re quick to respond.
Speaker2: [00:10:41] So when you when you get those initial requests, how specific are they? Are they normally very, very specific or are they kind of vague and they’re still kind of figuring that out?
Speaker1: [00:10:53] Sometimes they say we don’t know quite how this is going to live. We’re just looking for four options that have this. You know, they may say we need a factory or, you know. A large, a large I’ll give you an example specifically, one time we were asked for specifically a float barn for a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float, you know, and so to what that entailed was basically a really large, really large warehouse that had a Rolling Bay door that was quite large as well that could go right out onto a street or into at least a good parking lot that they could fake as a street or something. We had exactly what they were looking for. We had that exactly. But I also knew of another location that had something similar to that, but that just looked really cool also and had some great texture to it and was old. And there were layers of of walls and like wiring and things that were just hanging down from the ceiling. And it just looked it had such interesting like age in between to do it, if you will.
Speaker1: [00:12:09] I mean, it was just such a cool space with different levels and layers. And so I pitched that as well. Look, you’re really close, close by. Come just take a look at this as well. And the scout came and took photos. You said this is a super cool building. I love this. They’re never going to pick it because this we found what they’re looking for is called back the next day. And they said we’d really like to bring in director scout out tomorrow, which is like the director, the producers and the top designers and, you know, the the top of each team basically to come out and just see that both faces and to see if that could work. And they like that space so much that they rewrote the script slightly to fit that space instead of using the one that they were like, no, no. This one answer to the first one you showed us is it? But we like this better. So that’s a really that’s that’s a really fun part of the process when you can creatively suggest something just as another idea.
Speaker2: [00:13:06] Well, and I think I saw it might even been on your website that. Sometimes they’ve even taken lighting fixtures from one location and use them in a different location
Speaker1: [00:13:17] Was right and hidden figures. They did that in Vegas. The city of Canton was so gracious to work with them and help them. When their designers came in, were scouting that building. They were like, oh, this these are the these are the pictures we’ve been looking for and can’t find them. Can we borrow them? And so I think they worked out an arrangement to do use them for that for that film.
Speaker2: [00:13:41] Well, in the requests have to be so varied, I mean, I know I think it was a couple of years ago we were talking and you said I got to find a cliff I can drive a car off of. Not you personally, but for a film crew. Right.
Speaker1: [00:13:57] Right, right.
Speaker2: [00:13:58] Did you find your cliff?
Speaker1: [00:13:59] Well, there are some. So. Yes and no, when you’re looking for a cliff, which is a frequently requested location, when you’re looking for a cliff, there are several questions you have to say. Are you one? Are you driving a real car off of this or do you just need it to look like it could happen? Are you doing this all in postproduction or are you driving? And then what happens? Does the car get pulled out? I mean, are you going to need heavy? How are you going to get it out? Like what how how real is this situation going to be? And is there going to be a stunt driver for real or what? You know, so and then just the practice, the most practical point of all is, is it accessible for a car to even drive down to to then launch from. So a lot of the cliffs or places that look like cliffs in our county that we’re aware of now, listeners, if you know of a cliff, please give us a shout that that a car can access. But the ones that we know most about a car cannot drive straight down to, you know, and also with good reason, I might add. We don’t want people launching off off of cliffs, but those are yet cliffs, police stations, visitation rooms and like a police precinct or, you know, the bullpen where the detectives meet the hospital’s E.R. morgues, of course, morgues always any place really where you can imagine high drama taking place bank also which banks are you know, of course, they don’t want to allow filming in there and understandably so. So if you can find a used to be a bank building, then then then that’s a great find as well. Those are really frequently asked for.
Speaker2: [00:15:47] So you get the OK, they pick a side here. What happens next for you? Where does it go from there?
Speaker1: [00:15:54] So we work with our cities and our county, depending on where they selected to provide the proper permitting. You know, we look at what are they asking to do? Are they launching a car or are they blowing up a car? Are they really blowing, you know, like if there’s anything involving pyrotechnics or even loud noises after hours or even huge lights that they’re mounting, you know, like stadium power lights, basically to to create daytime when it’s really nighttime for a shoot, anything like that. We we look at what they’re asking to do and get and go through the process for permitting, because each city and the county all have different requirements and they are exceptional to work with. We just have the best county in the world.
Speaker2: [00:16:44] Well, and there’s it seems like there’s so many moving pieces to this that, OK, we might see a scene in a movie where a car is driving down a road. Hmm. Sounds simple. Mm hmm. But that road has to be closed. There normally has to be some police escorts or presence around it that you never see on screen. Yeah. So, I mean, I think it’s interesting and there’s so much behind the scenes work that you do because we’ve all seen pictures of the film set with the cameraman and the director and the actors. But there’s so many other people involved there. I mean, you mentioned earlier, when you’re looking at a location, you have to find a pretty big field or space for them to set up a base camp. Yes. And if we don’t have that, even though we might have the right location, we might lose out to somebody else in another location, in some other part of the country. Yes. So let’s talk about those other things that surround it. Police, public safety, what other groups do you have to get involved?
Speaker1: [00:17:55] Any any emergency personnel potentially, if they’re like, for example, if there was a fire or an explosion that they were simulating, if they are simulating or if they’re going to be using guns, that fire rounds, even if they’re not really firing bullets. But, you know, if there’s any firepower or if it projects fire or or a spark of any kind, then we have ballistics people that we pull in or we have local firearms professionals that we pull in. There’s a woman here who lives in our county who is a snake wrangler. So like she I mean,
Speaker2: [00:18:32] She helped to get her on here.
Speaker1: [00:18:34] Yeah. For real. She held the contract. I don’t know if she still does, but she did for The Walking Dead. So think about if you’re if you’re walking dead fan, how much of that takes place outside walking through swampy creeks and, you know, pine trees and there’s lots of snakes out there and she would go and scout all that out. And we’ve hired her here for or we’ve recommended her to teams who have hired her here as well. So she’s awesome. Then, you know, the potential for finding a way to use your skill, your business, your hobby or interest, even if you were really skilled at what you do and reliable and willing to spend really long days on set, sometimes in the sun and heat and even handling snakes, well, then if you have that in you, then you can really be helpful to the film industry. There’s really a place for everyone there.
Speaker2: [00:19:34] So when and you mentioned earlier, I mean, some of these crews can get pretty large. Mm hmm. I mean, you mentioned 180, some people,
Speaker1: [00:19:42] 185 for a shoot that we had earlier this year in Canton. Mm hmm.
Speaker2: [00:19:47] So when when these production companies come in to do a shoot here in Cherokee County, are they also utilizing some local talent, some local businesses as far as construction, landscaping, drivers, whatever, or are they bringing all that with them?
Speaker1: [00:20:04] Well, that depends on larger productions, typically, if it is a studio based production. Those those crew members and team members are are also members of a union, and so they are hired on before they even know that they’re going to be in Cherokee County, you know, before they before locations are selected. Sometimes they’ve already been hired and locked into including like caterers. However, film teams also, no matter the size, are encouraged and as part of the tax incentive, are strongly encouraged, possibly mandated there to spend money in communities to some of their spend has to be local. And so they are looking for ways to to to spend their personal dollars and also their production dollars within the community. So when we have a 185 person crew here for a couple of weeks filming, yes, they’re eating catering that is provided for them. But they’re also kind of sick of that catering because they’ve had it for the last three months, you know, and so they’re oftentimes wandering off set when they have their quick lunch break or they’ll, you know, they’ll grab something to drill down the street and have them deliver it or whatever. So, I mean, they’re and they’re eating ice cream and they’re buying smoothies and coffees all day long to recharge. But the other part is that before that 185 person crew arrives to film, there were 30 people on set for six plus weeks creating that set building that set. And even though those weren’t all local people, those folks were we’re spending money in our restaurants. They were walking to our restaurants in downtown Canton in that particular production I’m speaking of and spending money daily, you know, on a 12 hour shift from breakfast to dinner. So snacks and everything in between filling their tanks with gas, you know, hotel rooms. Absolutely. Oh, the hotel bill for that production was you know, it was it was up there. One hundred and eighty five people for you know, for for two weeks and then even and then some because they had to come back and film a little bit more so.
Speaker2: [00:22:24] Well, and you bring up an interesting point. I mean, when, when you get the OK, when we’ve been selected. Watts and I and I realize there’s all kinds of productions, there’s the large scale movies, there’s the smaller independent films that you work with as well. It may be a commercial, it may be a TV episode, but how far in advance of shooting are you normally involved with them? Are you normally working with them?
Speaker1: [00:22:51] Well, that depends to sometimes we know a day or two, sometimes an hour or two, sometimes several months. I mean, it depends on where they are in their process. Independent productions often are scouting further out because they know that they don’t have the financial quite the same financial backing that like a studio production would have. And everyone has a budget. But the folks who are shooting independent features are independent projects are scouting further out, looking for how to to stretch that dollar as far as they can and looking for communities that can really support their needs. And Cherokee has been home to I mean, for all the for all the studio based projects we’ve had, we’ve had. We are so open and welcoming. We’ve had innumerable indie projects, local filmmakers who shoot their heart projects and their, you know, their baby here as well, and that that builds the community of filmmakers. So when they know that they have, you know, not just backdrops here, but they have a home that that is going to support them and provide their services and give them encouragement along the way. So.
Speaker2: [00:24:10] Well, and they’re trying to be as efficient as they can, cost efficient and time efficient. So, you know, as important as the the look of a location is, I’m sure just how they’re treated here has something to do with locations they choose to, right? Totally, yes. So how how do you build a special relationship with them and what kinds of things do we offer them that maybe other cities around the country don’t?
Speaker1: [00:24:40] Well, the quick turnaround is a big thing, but those are things that they would look for everywhere but what they’ve grown to expect from us, and this is based on my predecessors in this role and then, you know, including Heath Tippins, who’s our VP, and Misty Martin, who is our president at the Jersey Office of Economic Development, who, you know, before there were more team members in our group, they were handling everything. They were wearing all the hats. And they’ve handled film requests for many, many years before I came along and others, too. But such a high priority has been placed on relationships, building and keeping relationships, serving those relationships, strengthening those, continuing to provide great service to people, continuing to nurture those along the way. Colin, and saying, how can I help you? You know, and what else are you looking for while you’re here? I know you’re looking for this. What else is going to help you with? And then in those in the you know, in the keeping of those well-developed relationships, one thing we do is make sure that we. Ensure that they can trust us. And one of the greatest ways we demonstrate that is when we can keep our mouth shut about what’s being filmed in the community, because it it saves them time and money, of course, because they’re not having to redirect people because too many fans showed up to a place. You know, there’s a story about a group that was in our our community filming about three years ago for a Stephen King sequel to The Shining.
Speaker1: [00:26:16] It was called Doctor Sleep, and they were filming in our community. But right before they came here, they were elsewhere along the coastline and a newspaper got wind that they were going to be there. And they announced in the paper, hey, this is where Doctor Sleep will be filming tomorrow on this beach at this time. And, you know, so of course, they were crowd mobbed. Of course, that became a problem for them. You know, they lost time and money on it. But in addition, there was a stalker who was causing problems, of course, for a cast member. Will that and that doesn’t just affect that cast member affects the entire team. Everyone is on edge. Everyone is on guard. And if you don’t feel protected, if you don’t feel comfortable, then. You may can go through motions, but you’re not being your ability to be creative is shot, you know, you don’t you don’t have that same comfort level. So when we can guard those details, it doesn’t just help them get their work done. It helps them get their work done really well, you know, and that is that’s a big difference. And when they know that our our and that confidentiality is a huge priority for us, they they more frequently call on us so.
Speaker2: [00:27:33] Well, and I know that, you know, you have this shroud of secrecy around what you do because of the confidentiality. I mean, there’s a lot of times that I’ll talk to Molly and say, so what are we working on now? She’ll say, well, let me tell you what I can tell you, which normally isn’t too much. But like you said, it makes sense for security reasons, for privacy, for crowd control, and really just for intellectual property within the film community. They don’t want to, you know, let other filmmakers know what they’re doing or what they’re shooting or kind of where they’re going with their script. Are there a lot of script rewrites that happened before production where you have to scramble to change locations?
Speaker1: [00:28:17] Oh, sure. I mean, that happens a lot. And we we’ve been even locked in to locations and something will happen, like an actor gets selected for another project and so they have to leave the team sooner. And so all of a sudden they’re rewriting so that they can write that actor out sooner or they’re or they switch dates and they’re like, nope, that thing where we’re going to shoot two weeks from now, we need to do it tomorrow. Can we do that? Possibly. Can you talk with the school district and the county and the, you know, all the different players and the sheriff’s deputies that have to be on site? Could they also be there? You know, and we need eight of them. And so coordination. Yes, that happens frequently.
Speaker2: [00:28:57] And can you make sure it doesn’t rain or can you make sure it does work?
Speaker1: [00:29:00] And sometimes we get calls. This is VIDAZA Ormsby who held my position before I when I was Arga in their first season. There was ice on, you know, around the Blue Cat Lodge and they needed to film that day. You know, we had gotten some sleet overnight and in the parking lot was a sheet of ice. And so they she was able I’m not even sure who she called, but she called in some help and they were able to thaw out the parking lot so they could continue filming. So so sometimes, yes, we do get calls that, you know, that are weather related. So.
Speaker2: [00:29:36] Well, I’m going to assume that, you know, the back roads of this county and the hidden architectural gems in our county, probably better than anybody because, I mean, in your database, give me an estimate. How many different locations are currently in your database? Would you say?
Speaker1: [00:29:55] Close to 200. But the database, I mean, is not anywhere not anywhere near there, close to 200 on the public database, I’ll put it that way, on the real Scout Georgia database. However, we have many other homeowners who, you know and property owners who we know who prefer not to list for whatever reason and ask us if, you know, hey, listen, here’s what my home looks like. Here’s what my property is. Could you come take a look and just see? And if you ever get a call for something like this, keep me in mind. And so we do that as well.
Speaker2: [00:30:29] Let’s talk about that. So if someone has a home or they have a unique property or maybe just not so unique property, but they’re open to having film crews use their location. How do they connect with that? How do they how do they let that be known?
Speaker1: [00:30:49] They can certainly call us any time, but the best thing to do is check our website. We have a link to Georgia real scout there. That will the link on our website. Actually, if it asks, would you like to list your home or property for filming? And that will take you right to the Georgia State Film Office, their website, which gives excellent instructions on how to upload your own photos of your your property. You have to be the property owner to list there. But your it could be your business or home or 20 acres of woodlands. I mean, we have quite a variety of locations listed there. You know, even our cities are listed there. So you can kind of get a look at what Ballgown looks like or downtown Woodstock, of course, and Canton and Alaska, Holly Springs, they each have very different looks, which is part of the great appeal of our community that you can get so many different looks right in the vicinity of. But the locations to list your home is location, it doesn’t take very much time and it takes no money, and then you just wait and see. It’s just a waiting game after that.
Speaker2: [00:32:00] Well, and as you were talking, you know, I’m kind of thinking and I’ve I’ve lived in Cherokee County for over 30 years. And I think about locations and I say, OK. What topography do we have here? What kind of diversity of locations do we have here? And I mean, really, when you look at our county, it’s pretty amazing. We may not have a desert or a seashore, but we have forests, we have mountains, we have rural areas. We have cities. I mean, what what do you see filmmakers most often come to us looking for in Cherokee County or is there is there any one thing they look for?
Speaker1: [00:32:42] Well, other than always hospitals and police and crime related high drama locations, which everybody looks for, know the things that they tend to remember us for, like if they’ve been here and know as we have. Five very distinctive areas of our county that the cities, but then our unincorporated Cherokee with rolling pastures and hills and go up to Alaska, out to Silicon Valley, and you can see mountains in the distance. And I mean, it looks like it could be in the I mean, there are there are so many places in different looks that it has. If you go through battleground, it can look like this quaint town. It can look like a coal mining town. It can look just kind of the way the hills roll and the and the ebb and flow of the roads. It’s you know, people see it as different things. When they come to scout downtown Canton, we had the chance to host Dolly Parton heartstrings. That was another huge production in our community. And they positioned almost their entire production was shot for one of the episodes called If I Had Wings, was shot in home. So it was out in the country, mostly at a residence for about eight weeks. They were took over this home where this family, sweet family lives out there and changed some things to it.
Speaker1: [00:34:06] Did all the filming out there while they were here. They were they were scouting for the other episodes, you know, in that anthology, and never ended up landing on anywhere else in Cherokee for them. They were shooting closer in, but they shot if I had wings in October. The last week of November, we get a call in and the voice on the line is like, hey, this is Justin from Dolly Parton, and our plans fell through for it was I don’t know if it was Takeda’s someplace closer into the city. Wherever they were going to shoot, it fell through and it was just going to be too hard. It was a bungle. And they said, do you think we could get into Canton? And they remembered this particular street that they thought could work. And that’s where they ended up filming a week later. So, you know, in a week’s time, the city of Canton came around, then we came around, then the police department, all the emergency services that they needed to provide for that shoot and took care of it. So that’s the kind of that’s the kind of word that gets out. And they go, yep, we can come back here.
Speaker2: [00:35:09] Well, and that’s the way you treat them. I mean, the way you can be responsive, the way you can be relational with them, you know, you have to be top of mind for them in the future when they’re looking at things. And, you know, we talked about independent films a little bit for us. I mean, sometimes those independent filmmakers eventually end up working in studios and larger studios, too. And hopefully they remember us, too, right?
Speaker1: [00:35:36] Mhm. Exactly. Oh totally. And that has happened. I mean they’ll, they’ll be working on a smaller project of their own and then they once they’re you know, after each production that team, as I say, they’re kind of scattered to the wind and they all land on new productions. And you hope that, that the story they’re telling is, hey, you should check out Cherokee County. They’re they’re great to work with and they have a lot of different looks. And, you know, we want those words to be coming out of their mouths. So.
Speaker2: [00:36:03] Well, we all know that last year with covered a lot of film releases were delayed. A lot of film shootings were delayed. We saw some films that went directly to streaming services instead of the theaters. How did the whole covid situation and restrictions in 2020 affect filming here in Cherokee County?
Speaker1: [00:36:26] Well, for two and a half or three months, it was pretty. Radio silent OK. I mean, it was really quiet because if the studios and the unions were like, no, we can’t insure this, we’re not going to move forward until we get that together, there’s nothing going on. And then we began to hear from independent filmmakers kind of in the shelter in place was slightly lifted. The indie filmmakers and local production teams were, you know, began scouting for those projects and began asking. And that ramped up very quickly. So while we were very quiet for three months, once people began filming, they filmed a lot. And they they you know, they were not like just thinking about it. They were like, we’re done thinking about we thought about it for three months, let’s film. So that that was we ended up having a great year last year with higher numbers than we’ve had filming, you know, a higher number of filming projects that we’ve had in many years, comparatively. So.
Speaker2: [00:37:28] Well, it sounds like we have bounced back big. And I mean, just to give people a sense of scope. We’re sitting here now in July, hmm. How many inquiries, how many requests would you estimate you’ve gotten already this year?
Speaker1: [00:37:48] I checked yesterday it was 115,
Speaker2: [00:37:51] 115 location inquiries just in six months.
Speaker1: [00:37:55] Just inquiries.
Speaker2: [00:37:56] Yes, that’s amazing. That’s amazing. Well, as I mentioned earlier, your department is part of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development. We’ve talked about some of the economic impact. Yeah. These crews coming into town have on local businesses, restaurants, hotels and just the general economy. But I want to talk a little bit. I was amazed looking at your website. I think it listed that we have just under 12000 residents in our area who are involved currently in the film and media industry. And I know that you and your team at the Office of Economic Development are not only attracting businesses into the community, but really supporting business growth within the county. And let’s talk a little bit about the other aspects. And we’ve talked about the film locations and the film shoots, but there are some other aspects of your job that deal with local filmmakers and future filmmakers, right? Correct.
Speaker1: [00:39:05] Yes. That’s kind of the three prongs I say is the, you know, our visiting film teams that we’ve been talking about and then the second being our local filmmakers who live here, the film professionals who they’re not all directors and camera ops and they’re all, you know. But we have everything from the talent who you’re going to see on the camera to to people who work a daily job as an extra they they are in extras casting, you know, all the time to we have incredible like directors photography who live here. We have people who are creating live or new streaming platforms for media. We have people who are who do digital production and who are camera ops and who are directors and screenwriters, brilliant screenwriters here in our community and just and grip electric, you name it. We have them here. People capable
Speaker2: [00:40:06] Of doing voiceover
Speaker1: [00:40:07] And and voiceover. Yes, I fail to mention no.
Speaker2: [00:40:12] I mean, it’s amazing. I mean, when you think 12000 people in our area that are involved in that industry, I mean, that’s amazing. And thank God the Office of Economic Development is promoting that and trying to make those connections between those people and some of the visiting filmmakers and others that are coming into. And let’s talk a little bit about future filmmakers, because I know well, as an example, right now, you have a local intern working in your office.
Speaker1: [00:40:48] I do, yes. Abigail Smethwick. Shout out to Abigail. She is a man. She is amazing. She is a student at the University of Georgia, double majoring in theater and media and film studies. And she is a minor in English. So she’s a real slouch. Oh, my gosh. She’s she is amazing and has been working with us to develop some tools for to measure the economic impact of film in our community. And she’s just knocking it out of the park, along with helping us to develop databases for better connecting our local filmmakers and some even a screenwriting competition, hopefully coming up for our student filmmakers. And that’s the third prong, really, I was that we were getting at is these students in our high school. I work directly with the six educators that are the film and audio visual technology and film educators who teach that film pathway and each of our area high schools, as well as some private school teachers around the community as well, and work to try to connect their students to this industry. We try to provide opportunities for them, like the Cherokee Film Summit. We have a student version of that in the morning while we have the evening one to connect our local filmmakers to the industry. We have a morning one to do the same thing for students to connect them to the industry and to post-secondary film programs around our county and region to make sure that they know about those opportunities and can get the proper training to go into these high demand jobs, these essential jobs in this industry, in this booming Georgia film industry. But those students are there really special to work with, and it’s super exciting to see them connect as well.
Speaker2: [00:42:36] Well, I mean, the work you’re doing within the community and to bring people. Into the community is just amazing and. I’m sure we don’t thank you enough for that, but if people want to know and again, this is just one part of the incredible work that the Cherki Office of Economic Development is doing. And if you want to know more about the work that’s taking place and you mentioned before the the Web site, what does that website address?
Speaker1: [00:43:06] Cherokee Georg. OK.
Speaker2: [00:43:09] And on there, there is a filming in Cherokee section. Yes. But you also not too long ago released an app that people can also look at. Speaking of.
Speaker1: [00:43:20] Yes, speaking of film in Cherokee. So, yes, one of the gems are Silver Linings of the pandemic is that we looked around and said, how can we connect our community and excite them about film or something and give people some give people something to do in our community that gets smashed it out of their home in a safe socially dist. environment. And also maybe while they’re out, they could stop in and grab take out to carry back home because I mean. Tourism people are not really taking vacations last year for for many months, and so this gave people an option. They could go out for an hour or two and then go right back home to the comfort of their own bedroom and restroom and all the things, you know, that was a true practicality. So we created a filmed in Georgia, filmed in Cherokee app. And the app takes you takes viewers or tourists on a guide around our community. You can choose your own path on the app and visit all of your favorite filmed in Cherokee sites. We started with about 17 of our very most frequently asked about projects.
Speaker1: [00:44:34] We have many more coming and of course, we don’t put anything on there that’s not yet been released. So we’re waiting for some of those big projects to also to come out. Some were delayed during covid, but it’s an exciting opportunity for not only locals now to tour around our community and. What Greg Tauri, who worked for the State Office of Economic Development and who has a long history and filming in our state as well, said, you know, he calls this pride in place. You know, like having these these locations in our community gives us even something something else that you can’t you know, that we’re proud about that we’re excited about that. We’re eager to share with people. But film tourism. The goal is to bring people in from outside of our county to come in to Iran, to shop in our shops, to fill up in our gas stations, to eat and dine and all the things, and spend money in our community, stay in our hotels, make a weekend of it and enjoy some film locations along the way. SNAP a selfie while you’re there. So.
Speaker2: [00:45:43] Well, we know you’re, you know, shrouded by this cloud of secrecy and confidentiality in what you can talk about and what you can’t talk about. But before we wrap up any little scoop you can give us about something that is happening or has happened here that you can talk about.
Speaker1: [00:46:04] Well, we have I will say we have a lot of film activity right now, we have several things on the horizon, even like maybe as even early as tomorrow. We have lots of things filming. We have I, I know probably what you’re fishing for is what I refer to as the M word, the superhero franchise Marvel. And we have had two different Marvel teams shoot in our community over the last year. And that has been really exciting. I know that those will be fun things to include on the app in months to come.
Speaker2: [00:46:44] So so the Marvel Universe has come to Cherokee County. We just can’t say where or when or how.
Speaker1: [00:46:51] It’s OK. Yeah, I cannot say where or when or how ordinary. And I preserve those relationships.
Speaker2: [00:46:56] Absolutely. No. And we want you to do that. Yeah. But another reason to have the app and to keep in touch is that when that information is allowable to be released, you’re going to show it on the app.
Speaker1: [00:47:10] Absolutely. And not only does the app take you on a tour around those locations, it also has a button that provides behind the scenes info about what, you know, how that location was selected, why Cherokee was selected, and some just fun tidbits about different things that maybe took place or, you know, historical tidbits about those buildings or locations. But the other thing the app has is a section called How to Get Involved. And we we want for our community to know there’s a place for everybody in this industry whether that is literally getting, you know, some background work or being on set somehow or if it’s listing your home or property for filming. It gives tips on how to do all of those things and connects you back to our website if you need additional assistance or and certainly we hope that anyone would reach out to our office if they have any questions any time.
Speaker2: [00:48:10] Well, before we ramp up, let me just ask a general question here. As residents, as neighbors, as fellow residents of Cherokee County. How can we help you, I mean, when there’s filmmaking taking place in our community, how can we help you and your work
Speaker1: [00:48:28] Aimed at being hospitable and welcoming film teams and never gets old? They look for they look for that genuine hospitality. When we were trying. Yeah, when we were touring that same team I mentioned earlier around Cherokee last week who was trying to decide on Georgia or not. They were from California and one was from California, one was from Italy, Rome, Italy. So when we are able to show them that genuine hospitality, it it it never goes stale with them. They’re always eager to to be greeted with that for us to always try hard to provide back up to show them other options or opportunities in the community. And then, of course, by doing what I mentioned earlier, hopping on that website to connect to the film industry yourselves and seeing how you can not only benefit from it, but how you can benefit it and providing backup, you know, to and providing your skills, your labor, your business as a as a resource to the industry itself. So.
Speaker2: [00:49:38] Well, we will definitely find ways to do that and help you do that. Molly, thank you so much for taking time and what I know is a very busy schedule to spend some time with us today. And thank you for everything you’ve done and everything you continue to do to bring visibility and reputation and business to our community. If somebody wants to learn more in the best way to contact you is
Speaker1: [00:50:09] My email and Mercer at Cherokee. Jiegu is the best way to reach me. Just drop me a line.
Speaker2: [00:50:17] Well, thank you again. And we want to thank you for listening to Woodstock. Proud until next time. This is Jim Bulger saying take good care of yourself, stay safe and we will talk with you again real soon.