News of Britain-based Pinewood Studios coming to town has made waves throughout Fayette County and the much wider area as locals look for jobs and leaders across Georgia dream of what this may mean for the state’s economy. But what impact will the addition of such an industry giant have on the players in the existing local television and film industry?
Pinewood is known globally for facilitating the production of the latest “James Bond” and “Harry Potter” films among others.
Scott Tigchelaar, who captains Senoia’s Raleigh Studios Atlanta, says he welcomes Pinewood Studios to the area. Far from seeing Pinewood as competition, Tigchelaar says Raleigh and other Atlanta area studios stand to gain a lot from Pinewood’s immigrating to Fayetteville.
Pinewood Studios Atlanta, which is a collaboration between local investment group River’s Rock LLC and the studio company based on the outskirts of London, England, is expected to open in January with five soundstages totaling around 200,000 square feet. Raleigh Studios Atlanta, on the other hand, has four soundstages that together add up to 45,000 square feet.
Studio size isn’t everything, though, which is apparent in Raleigh’s ability to attract producers of AMC Network’s popular “The Walking Dead” television show. Part of what makes Raleigh special, according to Tigchelaar, is its offering of a large, rural studio campus and its less-than-a-mile-away proximity to Historic Downtown Senoia, which is literally wired for sound. The lower part of Senoia’s Main Street has been refurbished to include specially designed power drops, accentuating its attractiveness as a filming location. Tigchelaar says Senoia’s historic and period-looking buildings make its downtown district a virtual studio back lot.
Beyond being able to compete as a “boutique” studio, Tigchelaar says he foresees opportunities to actually work alongside Pinewood in serving the movie and television industries. What if, for example, Pinewood doesn’t get all of its buildings in place before filming opportunities arise? Raleigh stands ready to back them up, Tigchelaar says. He also says it is routine for studios to refer work and collaborate in order to gain a better standing in the industry.
Each studio will bring something different to the industry, Tigchelaar says. “I think it’s pretty complimentary,” he said. “You’ve got to work together. I expect we’ll have a good, cooperative work relationship.”
Tigchelaar noted that Pinewood is the fifth studio company to located on Atlanta’s south side. Just up the road from Senoia, Sony Pictures Television has locations in Peachtree City along Dividend Drive where the popular “Drop Dead Diva” television show has been filmed for several seasons. Screen Gems has set up shop at the old Lakewood Fair Grounds just south of Downtown Atlanta, and Tyler Perry Studios is a growing phenomenon on the west side of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Adding Pinewood to the neighborhood, Tigchelaar says, is already attracting more behind-the-scenes businesses and talent that will benefit all of the studios. ISS Props (Independent Studio Services), for example, is said to be the largest studio props company in the world. ISS, which currently has a presence on Raleigh’s campus in Senoia, is now expanding its offerings with a new facility located in southern Fayetteville.
Having a growing ISS franchise so close to hand is a boon to Raleigh, because the whole purpose of a studio company is to make film production companies’ dreams turn into realities quickly and on budget. “It’s a convenience thing,” Tigchelaar said. “And that translates into a cost savings.” Over time, Tigchelaar says he looks forward to seeing more of these behind-the-scenes companies move to the area, which will help him offer more to his clients.
At the moment, shows for “The Walking Dead” Season Four are being filmed at Raleigh Studios, and studio representatives have been granted permission to again use lower Main Street in Senoia as the “Town of Woodbury” set for filming, which is expected to take place sometime mid-July.
According to Senoia City Hall officials, parts of Main Street will also be closed for a portion of this coming Wednesday to accommodate a television commercial shoot.