By Vallorie Wood
November 20, 2007 (CARROLLTON, GA) Hollywood has
come to Carrollton, and West Georgia has opened its arms to the
film industry. Through grass root efforts and a dedicated production
team, Richard Mix, executive producer/CEO of Mix International,
fulfilled a six-year vision with the release of Conjurer,
which premiered in Atlanta at the Fabulous Fox Theater on November
12. Presented by Carrollton Film Partners, the Red Five Entertainment
production played to a packed house and confirmed Mix's belief in
Carroll County as a production hub for the film business.
"I've deemed this 'Carrollwood.' I've felt from
day one when I came out here that Carroll County was ripe for film
production," said Mix, adding that the topography of West Georgia
lends itself to just about every type of location and setting imaginable.
"It has it all, from areas that look coastal
to mountains, urban to rural type settings," he said, "and
Carrollton is right in the center of it."
Perched between Atlanta and Birmingham, Alabama, Carrollton looks
into the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and purports to
be the largest town in Carroll County with its population of around
21,000. Easy access right off I-20 makes this county seat accessible
from any direction. Carrollton is also home to the University of
West Georgia with about 10,000 students. Mix calls the school a
tremendous institution and a great access to resources. "We
have joined forces with the university out here. I'm a firm believer
that you have to build from within. If we want to build an industry,
which this community seems very interested in doing, you have to
build from within."
Conjurer employed a good many student interns who
earned college credit while getting hands-on training "behind
the scenes." The graphic arts department at Carroll TEC (Technical
Educational Center) worked with the film's art department to complete
"It was a win-win," Mix said. "The students got
experience, we got labor." But community involvement went way
beyond the university, as businesses opened their doors to the film
community. Tanner Health Systems, the main marquee sponsor for the
Fox premiere, allowed production crews to film in the emergency
room at Higgins Memorial Hospital. Mix said, "The community
reaped tremendous benefits, and we reaped tremendous benefits from
the West Georgia community that I don't think we could have gotten
Slater Barr, CEO of Carroll Tomorrow (a public/private trade and
industry organization seeking to improve the life of Carroll County),
and a staunch advocate for film production in Carroll County, couldn't
"The film business makes sense for us. We're not that far
from Atlanta. We think that embracing the arts makes the economics
better, too." Barr optimistically forecasts that as the artistic
community grows, high-dollar jobs will strengthen the county's economy--and
that means growth for the community.
"For one," said Mix, "the film industry spends a
lot of money, employs a lot of people. And it's clean--we made a
film here and we didn't pollute."
Barr gives Mix full credit for opening the economic community's
eyes, and educating them on the potential of the business side of
"show biz." "He just wouldn't go away," Barr
emphasized. "He kept coming back, talking about the film industry
and bringing reinforcements. We captured what it could mean for
"Most people only see the show side and they have no comprehension
of the business side," said Mix.
Shay Bentley-Griffin, associate producer and casting director for
Conjurer and long time activist for film production in Georgia,
wants to see more projects come to the area. "For Conjurer,
a lot of our principal roles came out of the Southwest, Georgia
talent--including one of the main players who claims Georgia roots-John
Schneider. The other two major roles, we cast out of LA," Griffin
Andrew Bowen and Maxine Bahns star in this thriller with a fast
moving story that doesn't disappoint--and its twist of an ending.
Bowen's believable performance as the husband trying to find the
truth about an old cabin on newly acquired property, rates an Academy
award nomination. Bahns holds her own through the storyline, leaving
the audience with a gasp.
For the most part, Conjurer was filmed in Carroll
County with the exception of one scene shot at a local art gallery
in Decatur, Georgia. The main setting is an old farmhouse located
in Whitesburg, Georgia. "They gave us the key to the city,"
Mix said. "From the mayor to the police chief, they were great.
The police provided security. The people of Whitesburg came out
in mass to provide us resources, locations."
The Future of Carrollwood
Mix and Griffin continue to work together to develop a base camp
operation in Carroll County for the film industry. Mix said, "We
know that if film production comes to Georgia, they can't possibly
not come here because we have it going on." Griffin agreed.
"The support and backing we had coming out of Carrollton was
tremendous. I'm very optimistic."
More projects are on the table for production offices located in
the Burson Center, managed by Carroll Tomorrow. Mix likes the set-up
because office space can be as big or small as the production needs.
"We were able to go from one office, to expand to all the offices
here and back down as we geared up for pre-production, geared up
for cast and crew, having warehouse space, conference rooms to hold
Film partners Clint Hutchison (writer and director of Conjurer)
and Lance Dreeson (Conjurer Producer) of Red Five
Entertainment, both native Georgians and graduates of UGA, plan
to do another project in Carrollton, which goes into production
in the spring of 2008. And cameras are still rolling long after
production has shut down on Conjurer.
"Because the community was so involved and so helpful,"
Mix said, "I made a commitment that we would utilize our resources
and expertise to do something back to the community." He formed
Vids Media and now has completed several PSAs for the county, including
the sheriff's department and a campaign to 'Keep Carroll Beautiful.'
"We've got all sorts of stuff going on. We kind of went from
the big screen to the small screen, but it's still sort of the same
thing. We continue to stay busy and employ a lot of the people we
employed on Conjurer."
As the word gets out, and more film companies learn about the convenience
and vast locales of Carroll County and West Georgia, Mix stands
ready to welcome the film industry to "Carrollwood."
For more information, go to www.conjurer-movie.com.