Arts & Culture Film

Clayton to Hollywood: ‘I’m ready for my closeup.’

By: Contributing Writer, Tammy Joyner

If you’re a fan of the action flick Fast and Furious 7, you probably know every twist, turn and high-speed chase in the movie. But did you know the first half of the movie was shot in Clayton County?

Those gritty warehouse scenes took place at the former Fort Gillem Army base in Forest Park. And the location of the diner scene where the stars of the 2017 movie Baby Driver meet? You guessed it. It also was shot in the Clayton County town.

Hollywood is increasingly turning to Clayton County for a variety of film and television production needs.

Some 50 film and TV productions were shot in Clayton last year alone and the county is on track to exceed that number this year, says Tamara Patridge, executive director of the Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which manages the county’s film and television production activities.

With more than 100 film and television productions under its belt since 2010, Clayton figures prominently in the film making business in Georgia. Film and television production in Georgia generated $9.5 billion in economic impact – jobs, revenues for example – in 2017 making the Peach state the No. 1 filming location in the world.

Getting an exact figure on Clayton’s portion of the state’s overall film and television production business is difficult because the state does not breakdown the economic impact on the county level, Patridge said.  But she did note that the top five filming locations in Clayton generated more than $550,000 last year in rental fees alone. That’s more than double the location fee revenues for the same properties in 2016.

“We have had a lot of repeat business in Clayton which is an indication we’re probably doing a good job,” Patridge said.

When it’s not courting its own productions, Clayton has lent a hand to other movie production facilities. And other big name studios have turned to Clayton.

Southlake Mall has figured prominently in scenes in the Emmy award-winning television series Atlanta, starring Donald Glover.

International filmmaker Pinewood Studios – producer of the James Bond and Ant Man movie franchises – has a massive complex with five sound stages in Fayette County. But the British filmmaker has tapped Clayton on occasion to handle some of its production. In fact, the county’s most noteworthy projects last year came from Pinewood: Marvel Comics’ Venom and Avengers: Infinity Wars.

“You can’t film everything in a studio environment and the transportation costs of driving into the city of Atlanta can get pretty expensive,” Patridge said. “So Clayton is often a desirable alternative to driving into the city.”

Television often has a deeper impact on a community because a TV show has multiple episodes. TV production crews tend to spend more time and money in the community.

“We’re seeing a lot more activity from Netflix and other streaming services,” Patridge said. “Eighty percent of the production activity we’re currently seeing is from Netflix.”

Parts of “Raising Dion,” a Netfliix series set for release next year, was shot in Clayton, Patridge said.

Atlanta will always be a lure for Hollywood but Clayton’s ability to be rural, suburban, historic and futuristic has become very attractive to film and television producers. And where else in metro Atlanta can you find a ready-made beach?

Earlier this month, a movie shot in Clayton made history. Venom, a sci-fi thriller which opened Oct. 5, had the largest October opening in movie history. Parts of the film were shot in Historic Rex Village.

“Everyone has banded together and done a phenomenal job in keeping the film industry coming back to Clayton,” Patridge said. “If we didn’t have a film-friendly community and film-friendly business owners, they wouldn’t come back.”

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