Filmmaking fallout: City needs to find better way to spread the pain — and gain
May 15, 2014 04:00 AM | 3828 views | 0 0 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Downtown Marietta will be standing in for Selma, Ala., later this month when scenes are filmed for an upcoming biopic about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unfortunately, as things now stand, it will be “the little guy” who pays the price while the city enjoys the benefits.

The movie will be filmed here May 23, May 28 and May 29, part of a production put together by megastars Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt.

And as often happens for such productions, various downtown streets will be blocked off. Among them will be the block of Atlanta Street immediately south of the Square. Not surprisingly, that has some of the businesses on that block upset, including Johnnie MacCracken’s pub and The Local eatery. In addition, the private parking lots nearby will be closed. Motorists can expect a considerable “ripple effect” from the closures.

But the impact will fall hardest on the businesses. Their owners, not surprisingly, complain the closures will hit them — and their employees — in the wallet.

“These people don’t have financial means to weather a week without work,” MacCracken’s owner Leake said. “If (customers) have nowhere to park, they’re not coming here. They’re literally locking down the whole street.”

Added The Local owner Jim Tidwell, “I understand it may be good for the city, but it’s not good for our business.”

He’s right such filming is good for the city. Not only does it help raise the city’s profile among the filmmaking community, such productions typically are crewed in large part by local people — metro-based lighting, camera and sound technicians, caterers, gaffers, teamsters and, yes, local-based actors as well. Thanks to changes a few years back in Georgia’s tax laws, our state now has the third-most popular destination in the country for filmmaking, behind only California and New York. The number of further such productions in Marietta and Cobb is likely only to increase, not decrease.

But it’s also becoming clear that the city needs to establish an equitable way of compensating those who are bearing the brunt of the associated closures, etc. At present, there is no policy for determining whether to compensate businesses for lost revenue, or how much. And obviously, there also is no way of ensuring that if such compensation were established, that a share of it would go to the affected employees and not just into the business owner’s pocket.

“I think that’s a legitimate thing to address,” Mayor Steve Tumlin said of the concerns raised by Leake, Tidwell and others. “I personally don’t have the solution.”

He added the city should “look at the individuals who make sacrifices.”

Marietta has worked its way high up on filmmakers’ radar, and hopefully will stay there. If such productions were a once-in-a-lifetime interruption, the affected local business people and others could shrug it off. But with film companies coming here more and more frequently, the city needs to come up with a more equitable way of spreading the pain — and the gain.

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