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GA Community Taps Into Film Industry

A scene from a new movie was being shot in Georgetown, Ga., on Saturday. At the same time independent films were being screened in downtown Blakely, Ga.

The recent upsurge in film production in Southwest Georgia can be attributed in part to Early County 2055.

Early County 2055 is a 50-year plan that was drawn up in 2006 after a study was done on the countys economy. The study determined film was in the top 10 industries that showed much potential for growth in the area.

In 2006, the Jokara-Micheaux Production Studio conducted the first film festival at the studios location in Miller County, Ga.

This year, officials with Early County 2055 stepped it up a notch and hosted the Jokara-Michaeux Film Festival in Blakely, along with a block party at the town square.

This year we are building on the momentum that Jokara-Micheaux Film Festival began last summer, said Ralph Wilcox, founder of the festival and director of Southwest Georgia Film Commission. Our vision is for Southwest Georgia to become home to a thriving film industry business, like other successful areas.

Lisa Collins, project manager of Early County 2055, said many people in the industry have moved their business to the area.

A 35-year costume director has relocated to Blakely, she said, as well as a casting director and stuntman.

Within the film industry, the plan explores different venues the area can offer other than film production such as videos and web casting.

Writer and director Jonathan Flora said the venue is especially appealing.

Theres so many inherent story locations, he said.

The reception from the community was also very impressive, he and his wife Deborah agreed.

Deborah was the lead actress in his film A Distant Thunder.

Im expecting things to come from this area and Ralph (Wilcox), Deborah said.

Their film won the Highest Achievement Drama award, and Jonathan said he looks forward to doing future projects in the area.

Dennis Johnson, head of ABC, NBC and Showtime and an executive producer in the industry, is also pleased with what the county has to offer.

He said in conjunction to a good atmosphere, the area also offers something the larger cities do not  cheaper production costs.

I dont think you have to be a metro or big city to do big things, he said.

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