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Behind the Scenes of Taken 3: They Are Going to Take You….to Georgia

go What is that sound? There’s a shatter of broken glass from the other room, and footsteps of several men who are breaking into your home. You receive a phone call from a familiar, brooding voice giving you instructions on how to survive, and says, “The next part is very important. They are going to take you…”

taken 3
Liam Neeson Behind-the-Scenes of Taken 3

click Does this sound familiar? Fans of the series of Taken movies should immediately recognize this famous quote by Liam Neeson’s former CIA agent character, Bryan Mills. It’s the suspenseful moment in the first Taken movie that sets the stage for the action-packed ride that encompasses these thriller films. The first two movies were filmed mainly in California and Paris, but French producers of these films had a different “take” on how to complete the principal photography for the third and final movie in the series, released in 2015. The plot twist is also much different in this film, since Liam Neeson reportedly told producers he would agree to shoot a third movie only if ‘nobody gets taken’.

click here After 17 days on set in Los Angeles, California, the Taken 3 production crew wrapped and packed up their gear to move to Atlanta, Georgia for the next three weeks of shooting. In these 21 days, cast and crew made a special appearance to nearby Newton County for scenes filmed at the old Newton High School. The high school has since been demolished, but you can still pick out scenes including the blue lockers in the hallways, the blue tile in the high school bathrooms, and various classrooms within the administrative building. The interrogation between Kim [Maggie Grace] and Detective Dotzler [Forest Whitaker] is among these particular scenes. [Fun fact: the old Newton High School gym was also used in the filming of American Reunion!]

taken 3

taken 3

The French production team of Taken 3 decided to take advantage of the film incentives in our state with this final film in the Taken series. Georgia is known to have some of the most generous film incentives of anywhere in the United States, in which filmmakers can recover up to 30% of their production costs. The transferable tax credit offered here in 2008 was undoubtedly a huge benefit for the producers since they also shot the last 26 days on a sound stage in Paris, so cutting costs wherever possible would be a huge plus.

taken 3

taken 3

Considering the growing repertoire of big-budget films produced and released in Georgia, it’s a fantastic place to live and work if you have a “very particular set of skills.” After all, Georgia is the new Hollywood, and Newton County is the original Hollywood of the South™! If you haven’t seen it yet, rent Taken 3 today, and enjoy the concluding chapter of this thrilling series. The plot twist in this film may have you taken by surprise…

Come Back Home with Sweet Home Alabama

“Big wheels keep on turning, carry me home to see my kin.” – Lynyrd Skynyrd

sweethomealabama2There’s something about being raised in the South. It’s an effervescent feeling, the need to return to your roots, no matter how far you may roam. Sweet Home Alabama is a story that is truly about coming home again.

Melanie Smooter grew up poor in a tiny town, in rural Alabama, but always dreamed of having more. After an interesting childhood and a subsequent marriage to her childhood sweetheart, Melanie runs away from her hum-drum Southern life and makes it to New York City. You know what they say, “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” images (1)Melanie changes her last name to Carmichael, invents a romantic background story of Southern privilege, and becomes a New York fashion designer and socialite. But, after snagging the mayor of New York’s handsome son and becoming engaged to him, Melanie is forced to return to her humble roots and ask her high school sweetheart (who she’s still married to) for a divorce.

The film is a 2002 release from Touchstone Pictures and directed by Andy Tennant, who also directed such films as Ever After, Fools Rush In, and the Academy Award winning Anna and the King, starring Jodi Foster. Sweet Home Alabama stars the precious Reese Witherspoon as Melanie, Patrick Dempsey, Josh Lucas, and Candice Bergen.

Did you know that Dakota Fanning played the young Melanie Smooter in the first scene of this film? In fact, Dakota is originally a Conyers native, having graduated from the local Montessori School of Covington with her younger sister, Elle! How’s that for a small-town connection?

Inside the Smooter Trailer

Naturally, filmmakers sought out the perfect Southern towns for their film locations. While the film showcases many Georgia landmarks, like Berry College’s Oak Hill, which was chosen as Melanie’s fictional home, it was in Covington where they found the location of Melanie’s true childhood home: The Smooter’s trailer. To re-create the backwoods Smooter homestead, producers chose Covington as the ideal location.

Scouts searched throughout Newton County and found a scenic trailer court complete with a pond, which served as the Smooter property. They hauled a prefabricated trailer to the site, which had been refitted to accommodate the filming equipment and cameras, and refurbished it with props to create that distinctively Southern feel. In fact, every scene in the Smooter trailer feels just like visiting your Grandmother’s house. Which is probably why the filmmakers chose Covington. Because it’s just like coming home again.

Sweet Home Alabama

Where is Chief Bill Gillespie’s House from ITHOTN?

chief gillespie's houseIn the Heat of the Night was an extrodinary achievement for Covington, Georgia. The entire town was transformed into fictional Sparta, Mississippi for six years while the cast and crew worked their filming magic. The show would run for seven seasons and would inspire 4 made-for-television movies. Because of the incredible amount of work that went into creating this show, Covington has become a walking “museums” of sorts. Visitors can tour all of their favorite filming locations, like the Covington Square and the Newton County Library aka Sparta’s Police Station, and Chief Bill Gillespie’s House, of course!

But, the most important character of the show had to be Chief Bill Gillespie. Played by the incomparable Carroll O’Connor (who also wrote for the show, under the name Matt Harris), the Chief of Sparta was a kind but firm man, who led his community with honor. He faced the challenges of Sparta head on, with his loyal coworkers and officers by his side.

chief gillespie's houseYou can still visit Chief Bill Gillespie’s house, located on Monticello St. The home is a two-storied Colonial, painted yellow, with a small balcony off the upstairs front windows. Unfortunately, you can’t tour the inside of the property because it is a private residence, but the owners will let you take pictures of the front of the house.

It was long before the locally-lensed In the Heat of the Night became a legendary show, because of glimpse into the lives of southern men and women, and the challenges that law enforcement face every day. Celebrate this great show by visiting the home of Sparta’s favorite son, Chief Bill Gillespie!

Where is Chief Bill Gillespie’s House from ITHOTN?

A Look at Twelve Oaks in Film | Popular Film Location

popular film locationHave you ever stopped by Twelve Oaks Bed and Breakfast in Covington, GA? This beautiful 10,000 square foot antebellum is a popular film location with some pretty incredible history. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, was chosen by GPB as one of Georgia’s Most Romantic Places, and named one of the top 10 B&B’s in the country by The beautiful home has also been featured in numerous publications & books, and is considered a prime example of true antebellum architecture. Twelve Oaks has even become something of a celebrity amongst the Hollywood elite. But we’ll touch more on that later.

Twelve Oaks was originally built by Judge John Harris as his town house in 1836.  The house would change owners a few times, immediately following the Civil War.  In 1903, Nathanial S. Turner, an affluent cotton broker who owned Covington Mills, purchased the home and named it Whitehall.  Turner added the third floor with the dormer windows, an expanded colonnade, and a second-floor, making the house into the stunning, stately home it is today. But, how did Turner’s Whitehall become Twelve Oaks as we know it today? Why, with the help of Margaret Mitchell of course!twelve oaks gone with the wind

In his book Antebellum Homes of Georgia, David King Gleason writes, “Margaret Mitchell saw a photograph of the house in the Atlanta Journal in February, 1939. She sent the clipping to Wilbur Kurtz, an Atlanta historian and Civil War authority who was in Hollywood consulting with the set designers of Gone With the Wind, saying, “I like this for Ashley’s home,” referring to Twelve Oaks.”

This clipping can be seen in the book, David O. Selznick’s HOLLYWOOD and a copy of this book now resides in the Twelve Oaks Bed and Breakfast.

And from there, Hollywood kept calling! Some of the most films to be made at Twelve Oaks are the latest Vacation reboot, the 70’s indie horror flick Scalpel (also known as False Face), and scenes from locally filmed In the Heat of the Night. The home was also the setting for a Cindy Crawford Home Furniture Collection commercial by Rooms to Go. However, most fans will recognize Twelve Oaks as Lockwood Mansion from Season 6 of the Vampire Diaries!

twelve oaks film location

The Vampire Diaries is still the biggest tourism draw for Twelve Oaks. Fans from across the globe have visited Newton County for film tourism. By our count, Covington has seen fans from 37 states and 16 countries, including visitors from Brazil, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Panama, and Portugal, just to stand where the Salvatore brothers once stood.

Care to check it out for yourself? Head down to Twelve Oaks and stay in one of their incredible “Hollywood” themed suites! You can choose among rooms like “Suite Home Alabama,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and “Steel Magnolia’s Spa Grand Suite.”

We personally recommend Katherine’s Mirror Image Grand Suite, with an original, working ribcage shower from the 1900’s. The other cool feature about this suite is that it has a connecting door to the “In the Heat of the Night” room if you wish to stay with a group of family or friends.

Make sure to take the Mystic Falls Tour with the Vampire Stalkers while you’re in town, which highlights the other great local spots where the Vampire Diaries has been filmed. Channel your inner Scarlett or inner Salvatore and book your stay at popular film location, Twelve Oaks, today!


Producer Nate Kohn Advocates for Film in Georgia

film in georgiaLast night we attended a local screening of the 2013 documentary, Bayou Maharajah. This film tells the story about the life and career of world famous pianist, James Carroll Booker. The screening was hosted by the Porterdale Film Crew and attracted several locals with an interest in film. Also in attendance was the film’s producer, Nate Kohn.

You may know of Kohn’s production work in the popular indie film Zulu Dawn, starring Burt Lancaster and Peter O’Toole. Kohn is also the director of the Roger Ebert Film Festival, Ebertfest, and worked alongside Ebert for 15 years programming the event. In his involvement with the festival, Kohn aims to help productions that have been overlooked by audiences, critics, and distributors alike. Currently a Georgia resident, Kohn is also a huge advocate for locally produced TV and film. We took a moment to speak with Nate about his passion for film in Georgia, and why he thinks our region is so valuable to filmmakers.

Kohn is currently a professor at the University of Georgia, teaching screenwriting and production for film and television. He has noticed in his time there that there are many extraordinary students who have crafted very well-written screenplays. In his career, he has observed that our region is teeming with a vast amount of talent, and also stressed the importance of filmmaking to our state as well, saying that film is a “tremendous asset to Georgia.” (And, did you know our beautiful state is currently the third largest production center in the country?!)

Not only does Kohn see a great deal of potential in our state, but he is also a supporter of local stories and folklore. “I am a great believer in regional, indigenous storytelling. People tell these stories from their heart and their passion because it involves their hometown or where they were born.” Kohn noted that it’s the personal history that makes all the difference.

Storytelling has been around just as long as mankind itself. The institution of oral tradition is so important in a culture to pass local stories, myth, and traditions through the generations. And, as Kohn said himself, “Folks in the south know how to tell stories!”