State officials said Thursday that they view Covington as the model of a film-friendly community and will be promoting Newton County more aggressively than ever as the state seeks to increase its entertainment market share.
Newton County was one of 16 Georgia communities to be designated on Thursday as Camera Ready, which will give it extra exposure on the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s website. The ceremony was held at the renovated EUE/Screen Gems studio in Atlanta’s historic Lakewood Fairgrounds.
The designation was earned largely because of the work of Clara Deemer, tourism director for the Covington/Newton Chamber of Commerce, who has worked with the CW network’s "The Vampire Diaries" series and other productions.
"I've worked with Clara so much. She's been so helpful dealing with issues for "Vampire Diaries" and has really bent over backwards," said Craig Dominey, a location specialist with Georgia's film and entertainment office. "Newton County is a model for this program."
Deemer is one of the state's few local officials with significant experience in working with logistical issues specific to filming and solving those issues, Dominey said.
One of the requirements to become a Camera Ready community is to have a film liaison who is familiar with suitable locations and resources and who can handle requests from prospective production companies. Because Covington has hosted "Vampire Diaries," "Footloose," "The Walking Dead," "Halloween 2" and others, Deemer has had plenty of work in the industry.
Not only do productions bring revenue to a community during filming, but they also attract tourists afterwards. Covington is still a hotspot for die-hard fans of "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "In The Heat of the Night" series. At Wednesday's Camera Ready ceremony in Atlanta, Deemer shared stories about some of the tourists she's met.
Four years ago, an Italian couple visited Covington as part of a honeymoon trip that also included Ground Zero in New York, the launch of a space shuttle in Florida and a visit to California's Disneyland. The husband loved "The Dukes of Hazzard."
"(The tourism effects) go on forever," Deemer said. "(To many people) we are Hazzard County."
More than 348 productions filmed in 50 Georgia counties in fiscal year 2010, creating an economic impact of $1.33 billion. The state is in the top five in the U.S. for filming, thanks to Georgia's aggressive incentives. Productions have increased 400 percent in Georgia since 2008 when the Entertainment Industry Investment Act was enacted, providing tax incentives of up to 30 percent to productions.
Covington Mayor Kim Carter, who attended the event with Newton County Chairman Kathy Morgan, said the positive relationship with Georgia's economic development department in one area will help with economic development efforts in all areas.