Top of the mornin’ to you, Seekerville!
Hope your Irish eyes are smiling and you’re wearing green because everyone’s Irish on St. Patty’s Day. Dust off your brogue, pick up your shillelagh, shove a shamrock in your pocket and start looking for the pot of gold in your local neighborhood.
A few weeks ago, I found a close-to-home treasure I had never explored and wanted to share what I discovered with you.
The Atlanta Southern Crescent Alumnae Panhellenic Association, of which I’m a member, was invited to tour Riverwood Studios, in Senoia, Georgia. Just a few miles from my home, Georgia’s premier production facility has produced some of my favorite movies, such as Sweet Home Alabama and Fried Green Tomatoes.
Riverwood President and CEO Scott Tigchelaar (right) warmly greeted us and ushered us into the screening room where Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher had watched their dailies.
His uncle, Academy Award winner Paul Lombardi and great uncle Joe Lombardi, who won a lifetime achievement award from the Academy, built Special Effects Unlimited, the largest physical effects company in Hollywood.
Their work can be seen in numerous films, including Clear and Present Danger, We Were Soldiers, Uncommon Valor, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, as well as television shows such as CSI Miami, X-Files, Wipe Out and “24.”
In the late 1980s, Paul expanded his Hollywood operation into Georgia. The cost of filming is significantly cheaper in the South, and the mild climate and easy access to the Atlanta airport made the small town of Senoia a choice location.
(Do you recognize the home, in the above photo, from Fried Green Tomatoes?)
The quaint historic homes and surrounding rural areas provide authentic backdrops that have been used in a number of films. The main street was covered with dirt to replicate the 1930s in Fried Green Tomatoes, but remained contemporary for the TV show, Meet the Browns.
Always looking to the future, Scott recently bought additional property and is refurbishing many of the older buildings in town to be used in upcoming films.(The Veranda B & B, photo below, is where Jessica Tandy stayed while filming Fried Green Tomatoes. My son ran into her, literally, in our local grocery store. I stood in line behind Kathy Bates at BlockBuster and wondered who the stagehand was.)
Partnering with Southern Living Magazine, the industrious filmmaker is overseeing the production of the Southern Living Idea Home 2010, a brownstone (photo below) which will draw some 40,000 visitors to Senoia this summer. Scott will showcase the row of homes in future movies and plans to build a Whistle Stop Café, larger than the one featured in Fried Green Tomatoes and located in Juliette, Georgia, to expand tourism as well.
“Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil changed Savannah forever,” Scott said, speaking of the movie based on John Berendt's book by the same name. "Tourism increased significantly after the movie’s release, and the same will happen to Senoia.”
“Northern Exposure but with a Southern twist,” he was quick to reply.
“So quirky Southern?” I said.
“That’s right. As well as family entertainment, like Little House on the Prairie, and character driven dramas.”
Although 3-D is big, Scott calls it a gimmick. “At the end of the day, what’s popular will be good entertainment. You can have big names, but if it doesn’t work, the film will flop.”
“The important thing,” Scott said, “is a good story. Start there. A good story is always in vogue.”
The studio’s most recent film, Killer, will be released on June 4th and stars Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl. The photo above shows the two-story, Victorian home built within the sound stage for the movie.
The Andersonville sign, in the photo above, is from the TV movie of the same name. Propellers, top left, were in Clear and Present Danger. The Rose Hills Convalescent Home sign is from Fried Green Tomatoes, and Scully wore the tin form, bottom right, in X-Files.
Anyone recognize this horse? Actually, it’s made of rubber foam. Tom Cruise rode the “animaltronic” horse in The Last Samurai, filmed by Warner Brothers in New Zealand. The rubber horse runs on a track and can be programmed to fall, drop and/or roll as if wounded or maimed.
Visiting Riverwood Studios was a lot of fun. I've signed up to be on their mailing list in case they need extras for their films. Wouldn't that be a hoot! Plus, I could blog about it in Seekerville!
What are the special treasures you've found in your local neighborhood? Leave a comment and your email address to be entered in the drawing for KILLER HEADLINE!
Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!
Wishing you abundant blessings,
Stop by the Craftie Ladies of Suspense to read the conclusion of The Irish Mystery!
Folklore claims the fairies of old hid a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Down through the ages, leprechauns have guarded the treasure.
A leprechaun left something special on my doorstop yesterday. Can you guess what it was?
That's right! My latest Love Inspired Suspense, KILLER HEADLINE, in large-print hardcover!!!
I love the cover, and the back of the book contains a blurb and short bio, which mentions some of my other writing credits.