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Movie shoot boosts local economy in Thomasville

Movie production helps Thomasville businesses
Posted at 6:41 PM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 22:24:59-05

THOMASVILLE, Ga. (WTXL) — South Georgia is getting the Hollywood treatment right now. Big names like Kevin Bacon, Storm Reid, and Machine Gun Kelly are currently filming in Thomasville.

"I get to film in a lot of cool places all over the world, but there's something really special about being able to come and do it here," said producer Allen Cheney.

Cheney was born and raised in Thomasville. He's back now shooting his movie "One Way".

The movie follows Freddy, played by Colson Baker, more commonly known by his stage name Machine Gun Kelly on the run after a business deal gone wrong. Cheney says the best part about filming a movie at home is getting to share the ins and outs of his job with his loved ones.

"The people I grew up, the family. To be able to bring them here and show them what I do firsthand. It's really foreign to a lot of people, what's goes into a movie," said Cheney.

And it's generating buzz around town. Crowds of fans surrounded the production Monday wanting to get an autograph or picture. Storms and a more remote location brought out a smaller crowd Tuesday.

"We came to look at a truck but then Machine Gun Kelly ended up being over there," said Will Snipes.

Snipes says it's been chaotic in his friend circle trying to get a picture of the movie and the celebrities.

"We couldn't ask for better support from the city to the store owners and restaurant owners to everyday citizens that come out and watch and cheer us on. Everybody's been really welcoming and that's what makes all the difference. The whole cast and crew feels that love and it makes them want to come back. Some places aren't that welcoming," said Cheney

Thomasville Tourism Manager Bonnie Hayes says that's just one quality that makes Thomasville a great choice for a movie location.

"Thomasville just has a look all of its own. It's going to be fun for us to go to the movies and see these shops, and streets and sidewalks that we know so well on the big screen," said Hayes.

Another added bonus-- the movies serve as an economic boost. That's especially necessary as businesses try to get back on track during a global pandemic.

"When these films come into Thomasville, they use up the hotel rooms, they use up the short term rentals, they're visiting our restaurants, they're stopping to get gas, they're renting cars. They are making expenditure all over the city. Everybody can benefit," she said.

About 40 people make up the crew for the movie. Hayes says it also brings out more people supporting local businesses while also seeing the movie magic happen.

Hayes says because of the production, the city could potentially see another $100,000- $200,000 put into the local economy. But that's not nearly as big an economic driver as the last movie made in Thomasville.

In 2019, Cheney and his company produced "The Tiger Rising" starring Queen Latifah and Dennis Quaid. That movie put about $1 million into the economy.

"They were here over a three week period. They brought in over 50 crew members and they were all over the city. Their economic impact, just that one film, was about a million dollars to our city," said Hayes.

Cheney says before the pandemic, movie production was different.

"On 'Tiger Rising,' which we filmed in 2019, it was much bigger," said Cheney. "Probably twice this size, maybe 200 cast and crew. Every night was a social event. After filming all day long, we were this family doing creative things. We would have dinners together and go on trips together. We have not had that level of camaraderie on this one."

That's due to strict COVID-19 restrictions. Everyone involved in the film has to get a COVID-19 test daily. Everyone must wear a mask. The only exception is for actors while they're filming. And if anyone tests positive, the production shuts down.

"It's the industry itself. In order to be allowed to film right now, for the agencies and the managers to allow you to use the talents, for the unions to allow you to use their crews to work, you have to have a very strong plan for how you are going to run that production and keep everybody safe," said Cheney.

The film is set to wrap in about three weeks.

Bonnie Hayes says the city is already in talks with the production company to film a third movie in the spring.

That would be the fourth movie shot in Thomasville.