Tiny, historic Rex Village got to experience the glamor of Hollywood for just one day, when it was transformed into a movie set, on Wednesday.
A production crew of 160 members, plus actors, were in Rex Village to film a scene from the upcoming Walt Disney Pictures film, "The Odd Life of Timothy Green." The movie is based on an Ahmet Zappa short story, the same name, about a young boy who shows up on the doorstep of a couple after they dream about what any child they had would be like.
The rustic-looking Rex Mill became a welcome sign for the fictional town of "Stanleyville," the so-called "Pencil Capital of the World." The scene being shot in the village had young actress, Odeya Rush, riding a bicycle across the narrow, green, slightly rusty Rex Bridge to meet actress Jennifer Garner, who previously starred in the spy television series, "Alias."
The filming brought out at least one of the village's business owners, eager to catch a star sighting. "It's very exciting," said Naomi Gilson, whose House of Naomi upholstery shop was right in the middle of the scene filmmakers were shooting. "That's why I'm here today," she said. "I don't want to miss a thing. I'm excited that they're using our location. That's great. I love it. It's such a nice historical area, and people should know about it, because it's like a forgotten area ... Hopefully, this will bring a little bit of notoriety down here."
The scene from "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" represents one of several film and television projects that have already come to Clayton County, or will be heading to the county in the coming weeks and months.
Grant Wainscott, the director of the Clayton County Film, Sports and Entertainment Office, said he gets calls on a weekly basis from location scouts, interested in possibly filming something in the county. Wainscott is also Clayton County's director of economic development.
"The Odd Life of Timothy Green" is just one of three film productions that will have come to Clayton County in February and March, Wainscott said. Another movie, "Joyful Noise," starring Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah, is scheduled to shoot scenes in Morrow next week.
Wainscott said yet another movie is also scheduled to be filmed in Morrow next month, but said he was embargoed producers from revealing the film's title. He said Clayton County has also recently hosted filming for scenes from other movies, such as "Zombieland," and "Footloose," over the past few years.
Claire Raskind, the unit publicist for "The Odd Life of Timothy Green," said production crews spent two weeks in Rex Village preparing for filming. She said crew members had to attach silk leaves to the trees around Rex Mill, to make it appear as if it were later in the year. On one tree alone, she said, crew members spent five days attaching more than 50,000 silk leaves to the barren branches.
"The site was transformed to an autumn look," she said, adding that 80 percent of the film's production crew is from the Atlanta area.
Wainscott said the increasing regularity of film productions in Clayton can be attributed mainly to Georgia's film tax credit, which went into effect in 2005. To qualify for the credit, which can go up to 30 percent, production companies have to spend at least $500,000 in a state-certified production, according to the state's Georgia Industries web site.
Wainscott said Peter Hedges, the director of "The Odd Life of Timothy Green," said Rex was chosen for a scene in the movie because of its rural look. "The director told me that when he saw the pictures of Rex, he instantly knew that was the look he wanted," Wainscott said. He added that it is too early to say how much of an economic impact the movie will have on the county, but he rattled off several areas of the local economy that can be impacted the arrival of a production crew, from hotel lodging, to restaurants, to local retail shops.
"Certainly, it [the local economic impact] has to he in the tens of thousands for this area," he said.
Questions have circled lately as to whether the incentive to get film productions in Georgia will continue. As the state's economy has tumbled in recent years, funding for state services and programs has dwindled, and there has been some talk in the media that the film tax credit may be in danger.
A December 2010 Georgia State University report on state tax expenditures estimated that the state will spend $89 million on the film credit in fiscal year 2012.
Wainscott said removing the credit, however, would have a crippling effect on Clayton County's budding position in film-production circles, as well as the state's position as a whole. "It would be devastating," he said. "You would see the number of films being produced in Georgia decrease overnight. That tax credit is the primary reason film productions are coming to Georgia. Yeah, we've got a lot of scenes, but so do a a lot of other states."