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Alabama film industry set for blockbuster year after record 2019

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February 19, 2020 - Words by Jerry Underwood

The cameras are rolling on a golden period for film activity in Alabama, which is generating a record level of production expenditures while creating jobs and elevating the state’s profile in the industry.

The Alabama Film Office reported the 20 approved film and TV productions that qualified for state incentives in 2019 spent nearly $72 million while in Alabama, up from $63.5 million during the previous year.

In addition, rebates approved to offset production costs totaled just under the ceiling of $20 million last year, eclipsing the previous record of $19 million set in 2018.

Kathy Faulk at the Alabama Film Office said 2020 is shaping up to be a blockbuster year as well.

Michael B. Jordan, right, and Jamie Foxx star in 'Just Mercy,' which was mostly filmed in the Montgomery area. The movie debuted in January 2020. (Image: Warner Bros.)

'Love & Marriage: Huntsville,' a reality TV show featuring six friends from the Alabama city, airs on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network. (Image: OWN)

 

Since Oct. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, more than a dozen entertainment productions have already qualified for tax rebates to film in Alabama, Faulk said.

She expects incentives to once again reach the $20 million cap, indicating a high level of expenditures in the state.

“With the increasing popularity of streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Studios, Disney+, HBO Max, CBS Access and Apple TV+, there is a growing demand for original filmed content,” Faulk said.

The Alabama Film Office projects that the escalating level of production spending in the state has created thousands of jobs over the past few years.

In 2012, for example, expenditures by qualified productions in Alabama totaled $33.5 million, less than half today’s level.

“Film productions have a huge economic impact when they come to a community. Many local behind-the-scenes crew such as carpenters, electricians, painters, technicians, make-up artists and extras are hired. Creating jobs is what this is all about,” Faulk said.

“A production will use local businesses such as catering services and equipment rentals. They also rent office space, homes, buildings, public and private property, etc. for locations. Cast and crew also fill up area hotels and neighborhood restaurants,” she added.

Two movies are now being filmed in Alabama, and another is on the way.

Lansky,” being shot in Mobile, stars Harvey Keitel as the notorious mobster Meyer Lansky and features Australian actor Sam Worthington, who appeared in “Avatar.” In Birmingham, director Dolph Lundgren, who also stars, is filming “Castle Falls.”

An Amazon Studios production, “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things,” begins shooting in late February in Fairhope and Mobile. Leading the cast are Kathryn Newton (“Big Little Lies”) and Kyle Allen (“American Horror Story.)”

ECONOMIC IMPACT

Brian Jones, also with the Alabama Film Office, said the state often sees lasting economic dividends from films beyond just the jobs they provide while shooting in Alabama.

“A major motion picture such as ‘Just Mercy’ will attract thousands of visitors to Montgomery’s civil rights sites, much like the music documentary ‘Muscle Shoals’ attracts visitors to the Shoals area,” Jones said.

“These movies will continue to impact the state’s tourism industry for years to come as new audiences watch them on video, streaming services and cable networks.”

Just Mercy,” starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx, was partially filmed in and around Montgomery beginning in August 2018. The Warner Bros. production recounts the true story of how attorney Bryan Stevenson (played by Jordan) cleared inmate Walter McMillian (Foxx), who was wrongly convicted of murder.

The film entered wide release at theaters in January and has earned critical praise.

ANTICIPATED RELEASES

Meanwhile, movies filmed in Alabama during 2019 will soon make their debuts.

One of them, “I Still Believe,” had a private screening earlier this month in Mobile, where it was shot. Distributor Lionsgate has set widespread release for March 13, and it will become the first faith-based movie to play in IMAX theaters, beginning March 11.

Jean and I were thrilled to attend a private screening of “I Still Believe,” a new movie based on the true story of Christian music star Jeremy Camp.

View image on Twitter

I Still Believe” is the fifth film from Birmingham brothers Jon and Andy Erwin to feature Alabama. It depicts the true story of Christian music star Jeremy Camp and his journey of love and loss. Stars include Gary Sinise, Shania Twain, KJ Apa (“Riverdale”) and Melissa Roxburgh (“Manifest”).

The Erwins’ previous features include “October Baby”, “Coffee Shop“, “Mom’s Night Out”, and “Woodlawn.”

Another anticipated Alabama-filmed release is “The Devil All the Time,” a Netflix psychological thriller with an all-star cast that includes Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Bill Skarsgård, Sebastian Stan, Mia Wasikowska and Eliza Scanlon.

“The Devil All the Time” is described as a Midwestern Gothic tale that unfolds over two decades and features a cast of nefarious characters that includes a serial-killer couple, a faith-testing preacher and a corrupt sheriff.

Principal photography took place in locations in and around Birmingham, Anniston and Pell City between February and April 2019.

TELEVISION APPEAL

Faulk said Alabama is also becoming an increasingly popular location for television series productions.

These include “Love and Marriage: Huntsville” for Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network“Sweet Home Sextuplets” for TLC (Guntersville) and “The Cowboy Way: Alabama” for INSP (Wiregrass area).

Alabama also boasts the long running syndicated series “Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford,” which films in Mobile and is entering its 22nd season.

The state is very popular with the high-profile HGTV channel, which films a large number of episodic shows here. HGTV also filmed a full season series, “Beach Flip,” in Gulf Shores that aired in 2016.

ATTRACTIVE LOCATIONS

Faulk said Alabama offers a wide variety of locations for film production crews, with a completely different look from one end of the state to the other, ranging from beaches to mountains and just about everything in between.

“Birmingham and Mobile continue to be our largest draw for film due to their size, diversity of locations and availability of crew. Huntsville also draws a great amount of interest, especially at the Space and Rocket Center,” she said. “Because we have so many beautiful and diverse state parks, they continue to be extremely popular for filming.

“But activity is taking place in many other cities across the state. Last year, we had filming in a wider range of locations, including Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, Dothan, Fairhope, Anniston, Jacksonville, Montevallo, Bessemer, McCalla and York,” she added.

The Alabama Film Office is part of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

 


 

Trey Williams

The Wrap January 23, 2020

Dakota Johnson, Casey Affleck Drama ‘The Friend’ Picked Up by Roadside Attractions and Gravitas Ventures

Roadside Attractions has partnered with Gravitas Ventures to acquire U.S. distribution rights to Dakota Johnson and Casey Affleck’s “The Friend,” which premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.

The heartfelt true story is based on Matthew Teague’s award-winning autobiographical essay published in Esquire Magazine.

“The Friend” tells the story of Nicole (Johnson) and Teague (Affleck), who, after receiving life-altering news, find unexpected support from their best friend, Dane (Jason Segel), who puts his own life on hold and moves into their family home, bringing an impact much greater — and more profound — than anyone could have imagined.

 “Everyone knows the value of a great friend, yet it’s rare to see friendship dramatized in film,” Roadside’s Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff said in a statement. “To see these three great actors shine the light on what friendship means when the going gets tough adds up to something quite profound.”

In addition to Johnson, Segel and Affleck, “The Friend” features Gwendoline Christie, Cherry Jones, Isabella Kai, Violet McGraw and country music sensation Jake Owen.

The two companies are planning on a fall 2020 release for the film.

“The Friend” is directed by acclaimed BAFTA nominee, Gabriela Cowperthwaite (“Blackfish,” “Megan Leavey”) from a script by Brad Ingelsby (“The Way Back,” “Run All Night”).

“Gabriela and her outstanding cast have crafted a profoundly moving portrait of the emotional bonds that sustain us,” Gravitas Ventures’ vice president of acquisitions Tony Piantedosi said in a statement. “We are thrilled to be partnered with Roadside Attractions in presenting ‘The Friend’ to U.S. audiences this fall.”

The film is produced by Black Bear Pictures and Scott Free Productions. Producers are Academy Award-nominee Kevin Walsh (“Manchester by the Sea”), Michael Pruss (“Earthquake Bird”), Ryan Stowell (“Thoroughbreds”) and Academy Award-nominee Teddy Schwarzman (“The Imitation Game”).

Ridley Scott, Ben Stillman, Michael Heimler, Ted Deiker, Ingelsby, and Matthew Teague, who consulted with Ingelsby on his screenplay adaptation, will serve as executive producers.

The production was filmed on location in Fairhope, Ala., where the Teague’s real-life story took place.

“We are thrilled to partner with our friends at Gravitas and Roadside Attractions to present the special journey that is ‘The Friend,'” producers for the film said. “This personal yet universal story, which the Teague family was generous enough to share, makes us laugh, cry, think, feel, and is a beautiful reminder of the compassion that exists in this world. We cannot wait for audiences everywhere to see it.”

Nolan Gallagher and Tony Piantedosi negotiated the deal with Endeavor Content. STXinternational handled international sales and is releasing directly in the U.K.

Read original story Dakota Johnson, Casey Affleck Drama ‘The Friend’ Picked Up by Roadside Attractions and Gravitas Ventures At TheWrap


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