A sitcom about life in a Southern trailer park will film in Liberty County next spring.
Actor Mark McCullough made the announcement during a recent Progress Through People Luncheon, where the topic was “The Impact of the Entertainment Industry on Liberty County.”
The film industry in Georgia is growing due to a 30 percent production tax incentive that has attracted filmmakers. Georgia is a Camera Ready state, and in 2010, Liberty County was certified as a Camera Ready community, according to Leah Poole, executive director of the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau. She also serves as county’s Camera Ready liaison.
“We have become a stopping place for a lot of films in the last couple of years — for them to film a couple of scenes, film for a couple of days or film the whole movie,” Poole said.
Four guest speakers were at the luncheon. Matt Norsworthy is a local resident, producer and chief operating officer of Wonder Worthy Productions. Andrew Paderewski is an actor, location manager, producer and location scout in Savannah. McCullough is an actor who worked on Capitol Hill for a U.S. senator and as an assistant district attorney in Chatham County. He worked in the prosecutor’s office featured in “Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil.” Charles Bowen is the founder of the Savannah Film and Television Alliance.
Norsworthy discussed how filming in Liberty County can increase tourism and benefit the local economy. He said tourists will want to visit places where their favorite films were shot.
Wonder Worthy Productions has shot four films in Liberty County, including “Ben and Ara.” Twenty-three people were brought in from out of town and stayed in Liberty. Norsworthy emphasized that those 23 people had to eat, sleep, shop and spend money in the county. He said five of them plan to visit again, and two asked about buying property along the waterfront.
“Giving Liberty County the recognition of a co-friendly county of the industry in the state of Georgia, which is a film-friendly state, is part our mission with the project,” Norsworthy said. “We’ve had two of our films premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. One of them was shot in Liberty County. When that film is being shown in a foreign market and the credits roll, ‘Special thanks to Liberty County, Georgia,’ you get exposure more and more times it’s shown.”
Norsworthy is also organizing the Big River Film Festival next July in Savannah. There have been submissions from more than 30 countries, and people from all over the world will be travelling to Georgia for the festival.
“Yes, they probably heard of Savannah, but they all won’t be able to stay in Savannah. They’ll also want to come here (Liberty),” he said. “Where did we grow up? Where do we come from? What place do Samone (CEO of Wonder Worthy Productions and Norsworthy’s wife) and I know the most? Liberty County. It’s about bringing in an industry, bringing in recognition.”
Paderewski is hired by production companies to scout locations that fit with their films. He takes pictures of different areas and will help negotiate with the property owner if the filmmaker is interested. Happy Madison Productions, founded by Adam Sandler, recently filmed “The Do Over” in Savannah.
“They (Happy Madison Productions) dropped millions into the budget, into the Savannah area alone, which is big for a city, big for economic development and local businesses and residents,” Paderewski said. “Coming out to this area (Liberty County), my head is turning all different kinds of ways. You have a vast, awesome location. It’s historic. It’s beautiful. And personally, I’m going to be driving around a lot in that area for some photos for potential backdrops for films, TV shots that do come into the area.”
Paderewski is the producer of the 48 Hour Film Festival, in which teams of filmmakers, friends and family get two days to write, edit and shoot short films. He said he would love to see teams from the Liberty County area and, if enough teams participate, he could bring the festival to Liberty County.
Bowen is the founder of Bowen Law Group, which specializes in entertainment law. He started the Savannah Film and Television Alliance to help connect production companies with local businesses and keep people informed about the local film industry.
He said production companies often talk about a lack of resources available where they film. Bowen compared a film production to a full community coming to town that needs everything a town needs, such as dry cleaners, seamstresses, caterers and drivers. He pointed out that though services exist in cities, the film industry has specific and different needs. The alliance invites people and businesses who can provide services to learn about the particular needs of production companies.
McCullough is a native of Savannah. He grew up in Midway and graduated from Bradwell Institute. After leaving the political world, McCullough moved to Los Angeles and started working as an actor. He found himself auditioning for films in L.A. and flying to Georgia to film.
“One of the things I think is great about being an actor from this area, is the opportunity to see the young kids all the time who want to get into acting, and they can do it here now,” he said. “One of the things we face as filmmakers in this area is expanding and deepening our crew base. There’s some fantastic folks here but because so many films are coming to the area. … The crew base isn’t very deep. So it’s quickly depleted, and then you’re scrambling to find a crew.”
McCullough started his own production company, Fort Argyle Films. He said he is working on mentoring students from the Savannah College of Art and Design, local communities and high schools on the filmmaking process.
Projects that have recently filmed in Liberty County and nearby areas include: “Siren,” “Ben and Ara,” “My Brother’s Keeper,” “Fireball Run,” “Magic Mike XXL” and “The Do Over.” As reported by the Savannah Morning News, “Live by Night,” directed by and starring Ben Affleck and starring Zoe Saldana and Elle Fanning, filmed last week on Hampton Island, Tybee Island and Fort Pulaski and in Brunswick and Savannah.
The luncheon, held Oct. 22, was sponsored by the Liberty County Convention and Visitors Bureau and was held at the Liberty County School System’s transportation department building on Airport Road.