On Location: “The Color Purple,” “A Man in Full” add prestige to Georgia filming

While the Covid-19 pandemic is certainly not over yet, what has improved is the ability of people to work around it, with vaccinations and boosters, as well as frequent testing availability. The Georgia Film Office is a perfect example of an outfit forging ahead during these times. Filming across the state is still going swimmingly, says Lee Thomas, deputy commissioner of the office.

“Thanks for being the first state to with safety guidelines for the film industry, a new direct-spend record was set in the state reopen during the last fiscal year, and filming numbers remain very strong,” she says, with final numbers anticipated in late July. “Stage space is growing and new projects are consistently coming online here, with several new production company announcements and expansions in the last few weeks.”

The summer season does tend to be a slightly slower time for filming. Nonetheless, it’s still busy, with 34 projects being made all across the state.

Although two of the bigger series in Georgia production history — Ozark and The Walking Dead — have wrapped filming, other shows are still around and have paved the way for future shoots. “We’ve loved hosting Ozark and The Walking Dead, and their success in Georgia has led to additional opportunities coming here,” Thomas says. “Stranger Things is now airing their fourth season on Netflix and setting new records for the [streaming] service, and we look forward to welcoming the production for a fifth season. Streaming demand is stronger than ever, and we will continue to work with productions to get results that benefit our workers and communities and our productions.”

Lee Thomas, deputy commissioner of the Georgia Film Office, says the success of the Georgia-filmed “Ozark” and “The Walking Dead” “has led to additional opportunities coming here.”

Just over half of the projects in production now are reality programs, but there are some films and television narrative series also in the mix.

The big feature film lensing in the state is The Color Purple, Produced by Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones and Georgia’s Alice Walker, who wrote the novel. Directed by Blitz Bazawule, it’s based on the musical adaptation of the material, which premiered at the Alliance Theater in 2004 and on Broadway the following year.

The film stars American Idol’s Fantasia Barrino, who joined the Broadway cast in 2007, as Celie, Georgia-born Danielle Brooks as Sofia and Taraji P. Henson as Shug. Others in the large ensemble are recent Oscar nominee Aunjanue Ellis and Colman Domingo. Spielberg’s 1985 movie was loved by many but others found it sanitized, so it will be interesting to see what the new version looks like. The musical certainly ups the Celie-Shug relationship. Look for it in theaters next year.

Amazon’s One Fast Move and A24’s Road Trip are other features that are also filming, although there is not much information about either project available.

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A rundown of what’s filming for TV

In terms of television shows, Citadel is an upcoming spy series, with plenty of action and emotion, starring Richard Madden, as agent Mason Kane, and Priyanka Chopra. It’s created by Patrick Moran and the Russo Brothers, being made by the ubiquitous Amazon.

Echo is the new Disney Marvel series about a deaf superhero. The cast includes Alaqua Cox, Zahn McClarnon and Oscar nominee Graham Greene (Dances With Wolves). It’s a spin-off from Marvel’s hawkeye, which partly filmed in Georgia. Superhero fans will also be excited about WB/DC Comics’ new mofongo, although — in what is likely to be an alias title — not much is known about it at the time.

The FX series Kindred, A TV adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s novel, is an eight-part science fiction about a young Black woman, a writer, who decides to move to Los Angeles but gets hurled back in time to a 19th century plantation. Another high-profile series is A Man in Full, to be directed by Oscar winner Regina King for Netflix. David E. Kelley will act as the showrunner, and Jeff Daniels headlines the cast. It is an adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s 1998 bestseller novel of the same name, set in Atlanta.

A few shows filmed in the state recently are now streaming. Father of the Bride, which airs on HBO Max this week, stars Andy Garcia and Gloria Estefan. It’s a remake of the 1950 Spencer Tracy-Elizabeth Taylor film, as well as the 1991 reboot with Steve Martin and Diane Keaton.

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“Lost’s” Elizabeth Mitchell at home in ATL

Sarah Catherine Hook (left) as Juliette and Elizabeth Mitchell as Margot Fairmont in “First Kill.” Filming in Atlanta, she said, was like receiving “a nice big hug.” (Photo by Brian Douglas/Netflix)

Elizabeth Mitchell of Lost fame is part of the cast of Georgia-filmed first kill, now airing on Netflix and based on the short story by VE Schwab. The lesbian vampire series shot in Savannah and Atlanta.

Mitchell was a huge fan of Schwab’s work and recalls fan-girling all over the author when they met. ‘I’ve always wanted to play a vampire,’ Mitchell admits. “I also wanted to come play with all of these women [who are part of the show, in front of the camera and behind].”

The actress stars as Margot, the mother of teenage vampire Juliette, who is about to make her first kill but instead falls for her intended prey. “When we meet Margot, she seems like a wealthy lady and she rules her world. It’s great fun. The only thing that bothers her about this crisis of puberty that her daughter is going through is that she’s probably going to self-destruct if she doesn’t do the one thing she needs to do as a full vampire.”

While Savannah is a mystical, magical and amazing place, she says, Atlanta is where she filmed the most. “I lived for Piedmont Park. I was in the park all the time. And the food — I was so captivated. I was so welcomed so beautifully. People were so kind. I felt so at home. It was a nice big hug Atlanta gave me and I loved it.”

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Jim Farmer covers theater and film for ArtsATL. A graduate of the University of Georgia, he has written about the arts for 30-plus years. Jim is the festival director of Out on Film, Atlanta’s LGBTQ film festival. He lives in Avondale Estates with his husband, Craig, and dog Douglas.

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