Film industry visits Blakely - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Film industry visits Blakely

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August 31, 2007

Blakely -- Could southwest Georgia be on its way to becoming the next hollywood? That's what the organizers of an film festival are hoping. The 2nd annual Jokara-Micheaux  is underway in Early County.  The event could be a big step in bringing the film industry to our neck of the woods.

The small idyllic town of Blakely is being taken over this weekend by stages, tents, and film screenings.  "This is probably the biggest thing that has come to Early County in a long long time," said Lisa Collins, Project Manager for Early County 2055.

Friday the film festival began, but with a block party Saturday, they expect 8,000 people.  "When you keep in mind that Blakely's population is just a little over 5,000, we expect more people here than actually live in this town," said Collins.

But it's exactly what they need. Desperately needing growth and revitalization, Early County 2055 was formed.  It's a 50 year master plan to bring new life to the community.  "We looked at potential economic drivers for the community. One thing that we identified was the film industry," explained Barton Rice, Executive Director for Early County 2055.

They teamed up with Ralph Wilcox who recently built a production studio in nearby Miller county.  "I was really quite amazed at the geography and the topography of the region and I was wondering why no one was down here shooting movies," Wilcox said.

Trying to spark attention for the area, the idea for the film festival was born.  "The whole purpose is to bring people, movie industry people into the region to help them familiarize themselves with what the area has to offer," explained Wilcox.  

Rice added, "It's not overrun with development. Which has been a negative, but its also a positive because it takes you back in time 50 years, which is exactly the kind of thing that hollywood is looking for."

And if they find it in Early county or other similar south Georgia communities, it could provide a big boost for local economies.  "Now you imagine a film coming to shoot for a month or two months or so, and leaving a half a million dollars in revenue in your community. That makes a difference," Wilcox said.  Not to mention the countless jobs a whole new industry would bring with it.

Saturday in Blakely there will be plenty more film screenings, as well as a block party with live music from Sawyer Brown, and even a performance by a hollywood stuntman.

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