News Column

Studio conjures dreams

July 26, 2013

YellowBrix

July 26--Glynn County has been on Hollywood's radar lately.

Paramount Picture filmed scenes for "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" on St. Simons Island this past spring. 20th Century Fox was on Jekyll Island two years ago for parts of "X-Men: First Class." Scouts for three other potential movies have been in the area recently.

While the Golden Isles clearly has the backdrops for movies, it does not have a production facility like the $90 million studio Hollywood-based Medient Studios will begin building in August in Effingham County, about 95 miles northwest of Brunswick.

Glynn County is generating a buzz within Hollywood circles, and needs to build on that to attract more business, said Scott McQuade, executive director of the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We're still in the beginning phases of attracting attention."

That's not to say the county couldn't land a studio, because there is potential here, he said.

If a production company wanted to build a studio in the area, Brunswick Mayor Bryan Thompson says city and county officials would try to facilitate it. "I can't imagine anyone being opposed to that," Thompson said. "I think this community would be open to it."

However, Thompson suggests that constructing smaller sound stages in the area could attract movie production just as well. A conversation with a crew from "X-Men: First Class" led him that conclusion.

The crew was having trouble finding an area in which to shoot a scene, and having a large, soundproof area with high ceilings available would have come in handy.

Thompson, a former professional actor, says a soundstage could also attract television production to Glynn County.

A sound stage, which comes in a much smaller size compared to a studio, with some being as small as 6,000 square feet, could find a home quicker in Glynn County than a large studio because of a number of empty buildings readily available, said David Hainley, Glynn County Community Development director.

"Savannah has some sound stages, and Atlanta is riddled with them," Thompson said.

John Henry, chief executive of the Industrial Development Authority in Effingham County, which beat out Atlanta and Savannah for the Medient Studios project, says the studio will have a major impact on the county, and the potential for an immense impact on the entire Georgia coast.

"This project will go a long way in establishing Coastal Georgia as an even better destination for film production, as it will establish additional essential infrastructure, making it easier for others to take advantage of this wonderful area as well," Henry wrote in an email.

That is just the kind of possibility that promoters of Southeast Georgia for movie productions want to hear.

The Effingham County facility, which could be operational early next year, has the Coastal Georgia Film Alliance optimistic about the potential for more film projects coming to Southeast Georgia.

"It's great news," said Barbara Ryan, vice chair of the four-county alliance of Camden, Charlton, Liberty and McIntosh counties. "We will be promoting this."

Ryan says scenic backdrops throughout Coastal Georgia will be attractive to movie makers once the studio is built. Most areas in Coastal Georgia that could be locations for scenes in a movie are less than 90 minutes from the studio location, she said.

The film alliance's long-term goal is for a similar studio to be built closer to south Coastal Georgia, Ryan said.

Whether the Golden Isles can ultimately get a movie studio or not, city and county officials are preparing for future films to be shot in Glynn County.

McQuade, Thompson and Hainley met this week to discuss creating a film commission within the next year.

Having a film commission that could handle the bulk of the work that comes with getting movie production to the area would be a great benefit, Thompson said.

"You need to have a chain of command and contact points," he said. "They would be the first call (a producer) would have to make."

The Medient Studios' studio and entertainment facility with a concert venue capable of holding 25,000 people and an auditorium with a capacity of 9,000 is expected to create 1,000 jobs. An estimated eight to 10 movies a year are predicted to be filmed at the studio.

Medient Studios' productions largely have limited distribution. Among them are "Aakshagopuram," an Indian film produced outside of that country, and "Storage 24," a British horror film released this past year by Universal Pictures.

-- Reporter Martin Rand III covers local news. Contact him at mrand@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 324. Reporter Gordon Jackson contributed.

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(c)2013 The Brunswick News (Brunswick, Ga.)

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