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Rebranding the South

Posted: January 27, 2015, 12:28 p.m.
by Connor Fox.

The American South has long been associated with its food, music and politics, to name just a few of its many distinct qualities. While some have an outdated perception of the region, many have come to recognize its value as the film industry continues working in Southern cities and bringing new life to the entire region.

In recent years, dozens of Oscar-winning and nominated titles have been filmed right here in the South, such as “12 Years a Slave,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” Cities like New Orleans and Atlanta have attracted the attention of filmmakers who are now choosing to make their work outside of a studio in Hollywood.

Photo by Garrett Anderson via Flickr
Photo by Garrett Anderson via Flickr

According to a survey report in the LA Times, California lost $3 billion in wages from 2004 to 2011 because of film and TV production moving to other states and countries. States like Georgia and Louisiana, among a few others, offer many financial incentives to the industry with taxes and rebates, and it’s safe to say the industry has definitely noticed.

What’s happening now.
Beyond these projects visiting the South to film, a significant number of large studios have opened or already announced plans to open here. Since 2010, about a dozen film and television studios have announced plans to locate or expand just in Georgia, according to CNN. In addition to relocating, these world-class studios are also recruiting other industry players from Los Angeles to join their efforts.

Georgia has risen to the forefront of this trend in the film industry, with multiple studios and major projects relocating to big cities like Atlanta. Opening in 2015, the Atlanta Media Campus, a 114-acre property equipped with six sound stages and production support spaces, has been billed as the largest movie studio campus in the Southeast and recently enlisted MBS3, a Los Angeles-based management and production company responsible for blockbuster hits like “The Avengers,” “Captain America 2” and “Iron Man 2.”

Photo by Nikoloz Jorjikashvili via Flickr
Photo by Nikoloz Jorjikashvili via Flickr

404 Studio Partners, an Atlanta-based studio development and operations management company also constructing a new 345,000-square-foot film and television studio facility in Atlanta, has recently announced the hiring of industry experts from LA to boost sales and marketing. Co-CEO of 404 Studio Partners Brian Livesay explained, “We continue to see an increased demand from large film and television productions seeking out purpose-built studio space in the Atlanta metro area. The current demand far exceeds capacity in the marketplace.”

Along with this growing demand, several prominent television shows are garnering attention to the South, too. One of the most notable titles rooted in Atlanta is “The Walking Dead,” which has filmed on location in the city since the start of the series, and the new Emmy Award-winning hit “True Detective” was entirely filmed in Louisiana. Productions like these not only showcase the region, but also revive it with newfound energy and fresh perspectives.

Photo by Marco Alexandre via Flickr
Photo by Marco Alexandre via Flickr

Some have already begun billing Louisiana as the “Hollywood South” with its growing reputation for films. According to an ABC News article, “there are 14 films and TV shows currently in production in New Orleans, far out-pacing Hollywood, and A-listers including Sandra Bullock, Brad Pitt and John Goodman all have homes here.”

Why it matters.
This growing trend in the industry promises to be very impactful in the communications industry. As more and more studios open, relocate to the South and create even more buzz, public relations professionals have vital roles in the process, establishing foundational relationships between these film studio companies and consumers. There’s an even bigger part for them in the grand scheme of these changes — rebranding the South.

Branding is a thorough and repetitive process. We typically think about companies and individuals crafting a well-rounded identity for themselves, but there’s another element to this art with cities, regions and countries, which are all defined by the people who live there. The South’s history and actions have distinctly branded the region, but perhaps the film industry’s interest and projects will bring with them a sense of modernity.

One of this year’s Oscar nominees for best picture is “Selma,” which was filmed throughout parts of Alabama in the historic city of Selma, as well as Montgomery. Of course, the state’s civil rights history dictated the filming location choice, but the project itself rejuvenated the area and cities in which it visited. Just as other titles have accomplished, film projects based in the South seem to showcase the underutilized beauty of the area and create a more accessible image for people living outside of it. As the film industry continues to flourish here, and further expand in the region, it’s redefining the South.

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