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“Sweet Magnolias” plans return to Covington production in early 2021
But COVID-19 dictating “what we’re doing and when we’re doing it,” producer says
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Brooke Elliott stars as restaurant owner Dana Sue Sullivan in "Sweet Magnolias" — Georgia Film Office.

The man responsible for bringing “Sweet Magnolias” to Covington says he looks forward to beginning production on the Netflix series in early 2021.

Daniel Paulson also said he is “glad I’m not the first one out” working to produce a TV show under unprecedented conditions that governments and his industry are requiring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, he also said he will do all in his power to keep his staff and actors safe during production in Covington and Georgia.

“I’m a producer who believes safety is No. 1,” he said.

The show’s official Facebook page announced July 23 that Netflix renewed "Sweet Magnolias" for a second season. Netflix is a subscription streaming service that offers original and classic TV shows and movies. 

The first season of “Sweet Magnolias” featured 10 episodes and became one of the hottest shows on Netflix earlier this year, according to ratings numbers reported by industry publications.

The show is based on a book series by Sherryl Woods and centers on the lives of three women, including a restaurant owner, attorney and a recently-divorced woman, in the fictional town of Serenity, South Carolina.

Covington doubles as “Serenity” and such locations as the Craig law firm, the Lee-Porter House, Mystic Grill restaurant, Southview Cemetery and The Depot Sports Bar & Grill have been used in the show.

Paulson is president and CEO of California-based Daniel Paulson Productions that produces the series.

He said preparations for production are set to begin in January, with principal photography beginning in late February.

“That looks like the timetable,” he said. 

Paulson said production schedules are “relative to where we are in terms of COVID-19.” 

“That’s going to dictate what we’re doing and when we’re doing it,” he said. “One can only hope that the pandemic will be mitigated.”

Showrunner and executive producer Sheryl Anderson said in a story on that, “I don't know how to do this show without kissing, so we want to make sure everybody is safe and feels comfortable returning to the passion of Serenity.”

Paulson said filming the show under the state and industry guidelines around COVID-19 is “indeed a new world” for the longtime producer.

“Obviously, there will be a new normal.,” he said.

He said he is glad others are working on film productions now so he can see what “somebody else can do and kind of shake it down.”

“We’ll take it one step at a time,” Paulson said. “Obviously, there will be changes. We’re not going to be able to go as fast as we did because there are a lot of safety precautions.”

All those working on sets will wear masks and observe other health standards, he noted.

“We’re going to have to deal with it because we don’t want anyone getting sick,” Paulson said.

The company chose Covington after scouting locations in Savannah as well as Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Charleston, South Carolina, Paulson said.

He said he chose the city as the primary outdoor location for the show — it also uses locations in McDonough and Decatur — for a variety of reasons.

Georgia’s generous film tax credit for productions shot in the state was a major factor in the business decision, he said. 

Covington’s abundance of prime locations, such as its historic homes and downtown area, also made it “just the best location” for a series set in a small Southern town, Paulson said.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Paulson said. “The people are great. They’re really receptive to the production, and that’s important to us.

“We want to be good neighbors obviously but it’s nice when the people appreciate our coming there,” Paulson said.

The company seeks to be “good neighbors” while in production and works to contribute to the local economy, he said. 

Filming in Covington also works for the producers “shooting wise” because the logistics of filming in a small town are more easily managed than in large cities like Atlanta, he said.

However, he considered other production companies’ favorable experiences with Covington on such shows as “Vampire Diaries” but they were not a major factor.

“I got a nice feeling about the town — the way we were welcomed,” Paulson said of Covington. 

“The police force, the various store owners, they welcomed us,” he said. “Some places may not be as welcoming and friendly — that happens.”

Paulson founded his company in 1994 after working in business affairs for NBC-TV and doing editing and production for 20thCentury Fox.

His company has 40 productions to its credit, including numerous cable and broadcast TV films and such feature films as “Passenger 57” starring Wesley Snipes and “Comes a Horseman” starring Jane Fonda and James Caan. Its 1996 film “Sunset Park” included Rhea Perlman and a then-unknown Terrence Howard. 

In addition to “Magnolias,” it produces the popular Hallmark Channel original series “Chesapeake Shores” which is shot in British Columbia, Canada. 

“Magnolias” and past productions like “Diaries” have been a boon to Covington simply because of the exposure it gives the city and the tourism it helps generate, said D.J. Waller, film liaison and tourism director for the city of Covington.

He noted one Facebook posting about a film production on the Discover Covington page reached tens of thousands.

“It’s bringing people from all over the world,” Waller said.

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From left, Jamie Lynn Spears and Chris Klein star in the Covington-filmed Netflix series "Sweet Magnolias." — Georgia Film Office