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Filmmakers find friend in Forsyth
County steps up marketing efforts
Film WEB 1
Dale Sizemore, left, founder and CEO of FLIPSFilm, and Anna Brostrom, director of tourism with the local chamber of commerce see economic potential in the movie business. - photo by Autumn McBride

They say there’s no business like show business.

And it seems many in Forsyth County are agreeing with that sentiment more and more.

In a span of less than 18 months, major film production companies have twice used Cumming’s Mary Alice Park to shoot motion pictures.

The Farrelly brothers’ “Hall Pass” was filmed there in spring 2010. Just last month, the “American Pie” franchise shot scenes for its fourth installment, “American Reunion,” at the park on Lake Lanier.

As a way to better promote the county to filmmakers, county commissioners in late July approved a contract with FLIPSFilm.

For $600 a year, the Alpharetta-based company works to promote the community to the film industry.

It also helps filmmakers coming to the county with any permits or other logistical issues involved in shooting.

“We’re a one-stop shop for filmmakers,” explained Dale Sizemore, the company’s founder and chief executive officer.

Film production has become a big business across the state in recent years, particularly since the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act of 2008.

The act offers an across-the-board flat tax credit of 20 percent based on a minimum investment of $500,000 on qualified productions in the state. An additional 10 percent can be earned by including an imbedded Georgia logo on projects.

Apparently, the tax credit is paying off.

According to information from the Georgia Department of Economic Development, more than 700 movie and television projects shot in the state in 2009 and 2010, investing more than $647 million.

Sizemore said there are many facets to filmmaking that most people probably never think of.

Among the factors are filing the appropriate permits with governments and securing law enforcement to ensure sets are closed to the public and traffic is rerouted if a portion of a road must be closed.

“There could also be needs for medical personnel on sets or even veterinary services,” he said.

There are also needs from area vendors.

“They might need a local antiques shop to buy props or equipment for filming,” he said.

That’s where Sizemore’s company comes in.

He explained that he and his small staff maintain localized information about each community with which they do business, thus speeding and streamlining the process for production teams.

Sizemore said vendors in his client communities are also invited to sign up for a listing.

“That way when teams come in, they don’t have to weed through a huge list of vendors throughout Georgia,” Sizemore said. “Instead, we can find them what they need locally.”

Anna Brostrom, the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce’s director of tourism, said helping bring movie crews to Forsyth is a part of her job.

She’s working closely with Sizemore to better promote the county.

“Right now, we’re developing a photo library of different areas in the county,” she said. “We’re also encouraging businesses to join Dale’s vendor list.”

Brian Tam, chairman of the county commission, said officials considered the economic impact.

“The county entered this agreement to help enhance economic development by making it easier for film companies to streamline productions,” he said.

Brostrom agreed the impact can be large.

For example, she said for the filming of “American Reunion” last month, a total of 400 room nights were booked at two Cumming hotels.

Dave Horton, director of the Cumming Fairgrounds who worked closely with the production crews at Mary Alice Park, said there are many benefits when crews shoot locally.

“They really participate in the community when they’re here,” Horton said. “I know when they were shooting ‘American Reunion,’ they were buying our gas and going out to the local restaurants and bars to watch the game at night.

“If something broke and they needed duct tape, they just ran down to our Walmart to get it.”

Sizemore said filming can also have a long-term economic impact.

“If local site is used in a popular film, that can be big,” he said. “Like Savannah and ‘Forrest Gump.’ People came for years after that movie came out to see areas where it was filmed.”

Sizemore said filming can also have lasting effects on individual businesses, citing an example of a south Georgia barbecue restaurant.

“Can you imagine what kind of an endorsement it is to have Robert Duvall say he loves your barbecue,” he said.

Local officials hope their deal with FLIPSFilm can have some of the same effects. 

“We have so much to offer here,” Tam said. “We have a number of great locations that would make great backdrops and it will be great for the economy.”