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    Have you ever noticed the Georgia logo at the end of a movie or television program or listened to the line, "Made in Georgia", and wondered what was their deeper significance. Georgia, the Film Capitol of the South, second only to California in the nation, was the scene of more than 245 productions and generated $7-billion in 2016. The industry exists throughout the states 159 counties but really flourishes within a 50-mile radius of Atlanta due to film union regulations. There are numerous tours that take visitors to actual locations, places visited by celebrities and immersive activities that make you feel part of the film world and this is the "Year of Georgia Film" and the state is truly ready for its close-up. 

    Movies were made in the state in the 50s and 60s but in 1972 it was the profitable filming of Deliverance that made everyone really take notice. In 1973 Governor Jimmy Carter created the GA Film Commission initiating an active pursuit of the industry. Today productions, both movie and television, can qualify for a 20% tax incentive, 30% if the logo is inserted at the end of the film. The state offers other unique draws such as the only Home Depot in the world geared to film industry needs and the GA Film Academy created to teach skills needed, make-up artists, lighting, set design, etc., by studios. Currently the most costly film ever made is being filmed in GA with a $1-billion budget. #GeorgiaFilm

        

    An exploration of GA's golden circle should begin in Atlanta with Atlanta Movie Tours. They offer a variety of movie tours led by people who are working on current productions and fill you in on insider information. There most popular tours revolve around The Walking Dead (TWD). The tours are guided shuttle tours with limited walking. Season One of TWD was filmed in Atlanta and many of the iconic scenes are on the tour including the bridge where Rick is depicted riding into the deserted city on a horse. Other movies sites visited include those of Hidden Figures, Sully, The Hunger Games, Driving Miss Daisy and Captain America: Civil War and more. If you opt to take the Atlanta Heritage Tour you will visit film locations and Martin Luther King heritage sites. @ATLMovieTours                

    Cartersville, 43-miles from Atlanta, is currently one of the countries most significant film tourism locations because downtown Cartersville is prominently featured in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. The area is easily recognized in the movie and is great for selfies. Three additional projects filmed in Cartersville are due for release later this year. http://visitcartersvillega.org

    While downtown be certain to be photographed in front of the world's first Coca-Cola wall sign on the side of Young Brother's Pharmacy. It was painted in 1894 and restored and authenticated in 1994. The sign was painted without an "i" that was noticeably inserted later. 

    Prior to film fame the Cartersville region played an active role in American history. It was the location in which Sherman severed the telegraph wires to cut off communication launching his march to the sea. Michelle Robinson Obama's ancestors lived in the area and her great-great-great grandmother, Melvinia Shields is buried in Queens Chapel Methodist Church Cemetery.

    Booth Western Art Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate, showcases the largest collection of western art in the nation and it is breathtaking. Tours begin with exterior sculptures and proceed through nine galleries filled with artworks and artifacts. Many consider the Presidential Gallery featuring a picture and a letter from every president, a highlight.  A 15-minute video is available to orient visitors. www.boothmuseum.org

    The city of Senoia, 39 miles from Atlanta in Coweta County, was originally named Location. Ironically the name has become increasingly apt as the city has become the backdrop for numerous film projects, and there are more than 400 movie locations within a 20-minute drive. The city's most notable film is "The Walking Dead," but it has also figured prominently in films such as "The Fighting Temptations", "Driving Miss Daisy," "Drop Dead Diva" and "Sweet Home Alabama." It is also home to Raleigh Studios that offers four soundstages, a screening room and a town created to replicate a variety of eras.

    Senoia offers an outstanding "Touring Dead" walking tour of the downtown area that covera 2-miles and locations from Seasons 3 to 7. The tour company also offers "The Walking Wed." Fans can actually have Senoia Rick officiate at their ceremony. @GeorgiaTourCompany 

    After the tour, visitors can purchase officially licensed souvenirs and stop in the museum located on the lower level of the Woodbury Shoppe. Nic & Normans is an eatery owned by producer Greg Nictero and actor Norman Reedus. Dining here is an experience in culinary delight and star watching. @nicandnormans

     

    Nearby Peachtree City extends your interactive movie experience with the Mastermind Escape Room. You and your party can participate in a Zombie Survival Run. You have one hour to decipher the clues in a barricaded room and signal for help. It takes teamwork and only a percentage of people make it. Peachtree City's guided Southern Hollywood Film Tour visits locations, Riverwood Studios, the first special effects studio and Starr's Mill Park, a picturesque setting used in "Sweet Home Alabama." "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" was filmed near Peachtree and entering Clover on tour duplicates Oprah's entry into the town. www.visitpeachtreecity.com

     

    Juliette was a forgotten railroad town when it was selected as Whistle Stop, the fictional town in "Fried Green Tomatoes." It was so overgrown with kudzu that some of the later scenes were filmed first to take advantage of the topography. Only one structure has been built in the town since the filming and visitors feel they are walking in the footsteps of the characters. Highlights of the block-long tour of McCrackin Street are Ruth and Idgie's House, Smokey's Cabin, the site of the burial of Buddy's arm and the famous barbecue pit. The Whistle Stop Cafe, featuring the iconic fried green tomatoes, is well worth a visit. The classically Southern food is outstanding. Nine movies have been made in the area including the recent "Baby Driver."

     

    Your initial stop in Covington, 35-miles from Atlanta, must be the Welcome Center. Located around the center are items from movies made there, where you can obtain information on all aspects of the city, including maps, brochures, souvenirs and photo ops. The first film made here was "A Man Called Peter" in 1954, and the trend continued through a large number of significant film projects. People flock here from all across the globe to see where events took place in "In the Heat of the Night" and "Vampire Diaries," where it serves as Mystic Falls. Tours can be self-guided. www.gocovington.com

     

    The Newton County Courthouse was constructed in 1884 in the Second Empire-style with an off-center bell tower for $30,000. It retains original floors and moldings. It served as the Hotel Albert in Selma, the Sparta Courthouse and is seen in Vampire Diaries. 

    Before Covington was Mystic Falls it was Sparta and there are more than 16 sites connected with In the "Heat of the Night." Highlights of this walking tour are the home of Virgil Tibbs, Bill Gillespie's House and the local jail where the final episode was filmed.

      

    Many local dining establishments are linked to the "Vampire Diaries" series. Scoop's Ice Cream serves Damon's Delight in a nod to a cast member, and Bradley's Barbecue offers a sandwich that you can request be "vamped out". Your sandwich will come with tooth marks and what appears to be blood. Every visitor stops by the Mystic Grill, a replica of the restaurant in the series, the food and photo ops are the best.  Murder Alley runs alongside the Mystic Grill. It is so called because more vampires have met their end there than anywhere else. 

     

    Whitehall Mansion was built in the 1830s. The home has 12 bedrooms on three floors. Margaret Mitchell specifically requested that the mansion be the model for Twelve Oaks, the home of Ashley Wilkes in "Gone With the Wind." It is currently a B&B and has housed a number of celebrities during filming. It has been a movie set for "Life of the Party," "In the Heat of the Night" and "Bessie." 

    Vampire Stalkers Mystic Falls Tour was created by Jennifer Lowery, and is a winner of TripAdvisor's Certificate of Excellence. The tour features locations from both "The Vampire Diaries" and "The Originals." Lowery has insider knowledge and exclusive access to some sites.  The tour is both walking and riding, and is handicap accessible. #forevermysticfalls

     

    Georgia is always a fun filled destination and the "Year of Film" promises to add an extra measure of excitement. #ExploreGeorgia 

     

     

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    Public Disclosure-- Please Read
    I recently learned of a FTC law requiring web sites to let their readers know if any of the stories are "sponsored" or compensated.  American Roads and Global Highways' feature writers are professional travel writers. As such we are frequently invited on press trips, also called fam trips. Most of the articles here are results of these trips. On these trips most of our lodging, dining, admissions fees and often plane fare are covered by the city or firm hosting the trip. It is an opportunity to visit places we might not otherwise be able to visit and bring you a great story. However, no one tells us what to write about those places. All opinions are 100% those of the author of that feature column.  

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