Atlanta Production Ramp-Up Underway Despite Surge In COVID-19 Cases In Region

Tylaer Perry's "Sistas" BET

Film and TV is back in action in Georgia, where the state’s film commission says 14 projects are currently prepping for or are in production. Those are the ones it can name. Deadline has identified others, with most in early prep that’s ramped up sharply this week, a sign of progress for the industry and the Hollywood hub that like other hotspots has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases recently.

A spokesperson for Pinewood Studios Atlanta, which has 18 sound stages, said “advance teams are back.”

Blackhall Studios, with nine sound stages, has had “bodies on the ground” prepping since Monday for two film productions by 20th Century Studios and Universal, said CEO Ryan Millsap. More key personnel are expected to land over the next two weeks. “It will be a ramp-up,” he said.

Activity on Lionsgate’s Step Up, which shot its first two seasons for YouTube at Blackhall, was paused after the tragic drowning death of star Naya Rivera. The show is coming back for a new reimagined season on Starz, which was in the process of being written when Rivera went missing last week.

Millsap declined to name the other Blackhall productions. The 20th Century film was already underway before sets across the county were abandoned in March because of COVID-19. The Universal project is new.

New productions can require two to three months of prep before principal photography, he said.

The Georgia state film site listed other projects including Season 13 of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta; the sixth season of Lifetime’s Little Women: Atlanta; and as previously reported here, the second seasons of two Tyler Perry BET shows in Sistas, which started filming last night, and The Oval.

Indie films Home Safe and Double Kidnapped are also now filming in the Peach State.

Also on the list are indie film The Inheritance reality shows including TLC’s 1000 LB Sisters, Fox’s Dish Nation, Bravo’s Married to Medicine, UMC’s Terror Lake Drive, The Ride That Got Away, Season, along with the TV One movie Don’t Waste Your Pretty.

“We are very grateful for the commitment recently made by industry leaders to get back to producing more films in Georgia, and it’s gratifying to see our productions begin to get safely off the ground. We will continue to work with the studios to answer their questions and help them make plans,” said Georgia Film Office director Lee Thomas.

Georgia was a state that opened for business early, starting to loosen restrictions in April, but Blackhall CEO said the studio remained a ghost town as guilds and producers worked through health and safety protocols.

On June 12, Gov. Brian Kemp said major motion picture, television, and streaming companies planned to bring back and hire an estimated 40,000 production workers for an expected 75 production projects that will invest $2 billion in the Georgia economy over the next year and a half.

The state, however, has seen a COVID spike recently with reported cases surpassing 100,000 this week. Kemp has recommended but not required masks. Last week, the Republican governor basically overruled Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ attempt to roll back reopening plans for the city to Phase One.

Pinewood is in Fayetteville, GA, outside Atlanta. Blackhall has an Atlanta mailing address but is technically in unincorporated Dekalb County.

Separately this week, a federal court judge struck down a Georgia state anti-abortion bill permanently, removing a cloud as some in the entertainment industry had expressed doubts last year about continuing to film there if it was ever enacted. Kemp signed the bill into law last spring, reproductive rights groups sued and Judge Steve Jones of the Northern District of Georgia last fall issued a stay stoping it from taking effect in January.

Both sides presented motions for summary judgment at a June hearing. Jones’ final ruling, which called the so-called “heartbeat bill” unconstitutional, came Tuesday.

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