After months of being shut down, Georgia’s film industry starts up again

ATLANTA — Georgia’s film industry is starting up again, after being shut down for months due to the pandemic.

Despite the coronavirus, our state ranks No. 1 in film production. The industry pumped $2.2 billion into Georgia’s economy in fiscal year 2020.

Channel 2 anchor Jovita Moore talked to actor Toynal Davis in one of the very first productions, about her experience at Tyler Perry’s Camp Quarantine.

“Jovita, I’m telling you it was magical,” said Davis.

For nearly two weeks Davis lived and worked in a bubble at Tyler Perry Studios in Southwest Atlanta filming an entire season of the television show “Sistas.”

It is one of the very first productions since the pandemic shut down the film industry in March. The experience started with COVID-19 testing.

“Two to three weeks before we got there, we had to take tests, two times a week. Once we got there, we had to take another test,” said Davis.

Once on set, everyone wore face masks.

“Masks were mandatory even when you were outside of the house or outside the building you had to wear a mask. The only time you didn’t have to wear the mask is when you were actually on set shooting,” said Davis.

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She said Tyler Perry took excellent care of everyone. His personal chef cooked their meals.

“Rich people food tastes better. I mean I ate good,” said Davis.

There was plenty to do when the cameras weren’t rolling.

“We had church on the lawn with movies on the lawn. We had yoga,” said Davis.

After the coronavirus stopped filming for months, Georgia Film Office Deputy Director Lee Thomas said Tyler Perry’s success sends a positive message.

“Everybody’s a little tenuous, but when they see Tyler Perry pull it off successfully, I think that’s going to help people feel comfortable and move forward,” said Thomas.

She said right now demand for soundstages in Georgia is strong.

“There’s double and triple holds on stage space, you know, as we move into next year,” said Thomas.

Pinewood Studios in Fayette County, where blockbuster movies including “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom” were filmed, is gearing up using a rigorous COVID-19 testing program.

People at high risk are tested three times a week, while those working in the office are tested weekly.

“So, we have an app that allows each crew member to opt in so they can get daily self-checks,” said Pinewood Studios President and CEO Frank Patterson.

He said his studio also invested in an air purifying system that attacks viruses on contact. He said right now there is strong demand for new movies and television shows.

“Well, like last year we’re full. You know we have a couple of big feature films and several streaming projects,” said Patterson.

Ryan Millsap, the CEO of Blackhall Studios in DeKalb County, where “Jumanji” starring The Rock and the new HBO series “Lovecraft Country” were made, said the pandemic hurt his studio’s bottom line.

“We basically will lose I think like six months of serious revenue. So, it’ll be an expensive year for us, for sure,” said Millsap.

But he said with everyone following the COVID-19 safety guidelines, the future looks bright.

“Then 2021 will be a year that looks very normal, I think, in the movie industry. In fact, we’re so far behind in our backlog and it probably becomes a logjam,” said Millsap.

“Sistas” is Davis’ debut performance, but she is hoping that the backlog will lead to many more. For now, she is grateful for everything Tyler Perry did to make it such an amazing experience.

“Once it was time for me to go, I wasn’t ready to leave. Like he took care of us. He rolled out the red carpet,” said Davis.

“Sistas” is expected to air this fall.

The Governor’s office reports the state’s film industry will employ about 40,000 workers with jobs on about 75 projects this year. It’s estimated these new productions will have a $2 billion impact on Georgia’s economy.