The newest Stephen King-inspired horror film, "The Cell," could be filming in Porterdale in early 2014.
Location scouts recently toured Porterdale’s former Village Inn, a Tudor-style hotel, and The Green Room, an event rental venue on the city’s Main Street strip, as well as some other spots for "The Cell," which is expected to begin filming in the Atlanta area in January.
The film will star Samuel L. Jackson and John Cusack, who will play the lead character Clay Riddell, a struggling artist about to celebrate the sale of his first graphic novel, who finds himself stranded in Boston after a mysterious signal broadcast across the world’s cellphone networks turns those listening into violent zombies.
The film is being produced by Benaroya Pictures and will be directed by Tod "Kip" Williams, who directed 2010’s Paranormal Activity 2." The book was released in 2006.
County Commissioner Levie Maddox, whose mother and brother own the hotel and event venue respectively, led the scouts on a tour of Porterdale and said they — and some higher-ups — were very impressed with the hotel’s look in particular. If chosen for "The Cell,’’ he said, the hotel would be made to look like an apartment complex in the Northeast.
The production company hasn’t fully committed to filming in Porterdale, but Maddox said he was told chances are good for the medium-budget film to work in Newton County.
Maddox said both buildings are vacant, which is appealing for production crews.
The hotel is rented by a local church on Wednesday and Sunday evenings, while The Green Room building is being rehabbed.
An area scout working on the project said Porterdale may be too far from Atlanta, as productions usually work within a 30-mile radius.
According to Google Maps, the drive from the heart of Atlanta to Porterdale is approximately 36 miles.
The scout said the Atlanta area continues to boom, and bigger and bigger move and TV productions are coming to the area as more and larger soundstages are built.
The scout said Porterdale is an attractive city for filming crews.
"Porterdale is on everybody’s radar, because it’s very visually interesting," the scout said, noting that the city has an inactive railroad track – important for sound considerations – a river, bridge, old mill buildings and lots of old houses, including some that have been remodeled.
"(Directors) like those long entry shots into small towns," and the scout said Porterdale has a great entry with the Yellow River.
Porterdale’s scenic river was also in a prominent scene in the 2013 film, "Prisoners."
The scout said a production usually looks to film at four to five locations in any given area to reduce travel and expenses.
The 2013 Lifetime movie "The Trip to Bountiful" also had scenes filmed in Porterdale recently.
Main Street Porterdale Director Teri Haler said she’s excited by economic benefits of filming.
"As Porterdale begins to ‘get discovered’ by the film industry, we will begin to see an economic impact that will improve our quality of life here in the village. It is vital that we build a good rapport with the movie-industry folks. The tourism that follows a movie or TV project a lot of times is bigger financially long term than the money that comes from the initial filming," Haler said in an email.
The owner of Current Events Productions on the Covington square, Haler said she has seen numerous Covington businesses benefit from filming-related tourism.
"I plan on the city of Porterdale to roll out the red carpet for the location scouts and production crews. Our mayor, city manager, city employees, city council, police department and volunteer fire department are all on board with catering to their every need. We want them to return time and time again for future projects."
Mayor Arline Chapman echoed those thoughts and said the city will only benefit. "I say, ‘Bring it on,’" Chapman said.
Tourism Director Jenny McDonald, with the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce, said any filming success only works to build up the county’s "Hollywood of the South" marketing efforts.
"The only challenge we have when discussing film tours versus TV series tours is the simple fact that most of the time an entire film is not shot here. We have been looking for ways to incorporate either a QR code on a movie poster or something similar where you would be able to pull up exact scenes that were shot here," McDonald said in an email. "Our goal is to continue to work with the State Film Commission and get as much filming in Newton County as we can."