Atlanta is trying to fashion itself as Hollywood South.
The signs are easy to see on the streets of metro Atlanta, from Grant Park to Covington. Clusters of trailers, purposeful people walking around with wireless headsets, cameras strewn about. Movies and TV shows have become commonplace in these parts.
But most TV work is done on sets, inside former warehouses in Peachtree City (Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva”), Decatur (the CW’s “The Vampire Diaries”) and Southwest Atlanta (VH1’s upcoming “Single Ladies”). Tyler Perry shoots his two shows (and soon a third) at his own studios which aren’t open to other companies.
Therein lies the need for an independent studio space that opened last year where the Lakewood Antiques Market used to be: EUE/Screen Gems Studio Complex.
Three TV shows have already committed space there: BET’s gospel competition program “Sunday Best,” BET’s biggest scripted show “The Game” and USA’s upcoming drama series “Necessary Roughness,” which begins production next week.
“Necessary Roughness,” about a tough, sexy Long Island divorcee who gets a job as therapist for a professional football team, is being housed in a new 37,000-square-foot building. It’s one of the largest domestic soundstages outside of Los Angeles.
The locale is a convenient mid-way point between Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and downtown Atlanta. “The actors like to be near the city,” said Kris Bagwell, executive vice president for the studio and a former executive at MTV and Nickelodeon. “The executives like to be near the airport.”
Damien Sneed, “Sunday Best” music director, said he was impressed with the studios. “When we drove up, I felt like I was in Los Angeles,” he said, thanks to the Spanish mission architecture. “Everything was very functional, the way the studio was positioned for sound. We were able to tape three shows in one day.”
After the antiques market left, the buildings were empty for about four years, populated by homeless people, stripped of anything portably valuable and filled with acrid water. “It was the Wild West,” Bagwell said. “We got there just in time because water was leaking into the foundations.” The only living remnants of this ignominious time are a few stubborn pigeons.
EUE/Screen Gems invested more than $7 million to renovate the place. Last summer, the company quickly fixed up one 13,000-square-foot stage in a mere ten weeks so “The Game” could shoot. It now has five usable buildings, two sound proofed.
“What we sell is incredibly responsive customer service,” Bagwell said. “The power doesn’t go out. We have 24-hour security and no stalkers.”
ABOVE: I wasn’t able to take photos inside the BET’s “Sunday Best” studios so I took a shot outside with a sign leading you to the stage. Use your imagination! (The show will air this summer.)
ABOVE: This is the new building where “Necessary Roughness” is being shot. It’s not as pretty as the original buildings on the exterior but inside, it’s very very functional.
By Rodney Ho, firstname.lastname@example.org, AJCRadioTV blog