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Conjurer Premieres at Fox Theater

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 sets.

"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 elsewhere."

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 agree more.

"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 us."

"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 said.

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 staff meetings."
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."

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