Valdosta is Camera Ready

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Film fans, are you ready for your close-up? Get to Valdosta, Georgia.

By Sandra Henriques

Move over Hollywood. There’s a new favorite spot where movie stars like to hang out. As the entertainment industry evolves, actors, directors and producers look for greener (and less technicolored) pastures. Valdosta Georgia, home to a bustling creative community, has had movie and television producers’ radars beeping for decades. From the South Georgia Film Festival and RKDS Film Fest to quickly recognizable filming locations, here are some of the reasons why Valdosta is the next big destination for movie buffs.

Visit popular filming locations

Some movies get by with mock sets and artificial lighting. For others, however, scouting for the perfect location makes the film. In Valdosta, it’s easy to find the outdoor spots, local landmarks and entertainment venues that you'll recognize on the screen.  

Would those final scenes in Zombieland be as memorable if the amusement park wasn’t real? Would this 2009 production still be one of the most iconic zombie flicks if the directors paid no attention to such details? Probably not. And the good news is that filming location, Wild Adventures Theme Park, is right here in the camera-ready community of Valdosta. 

Other must-visit filming locations include the iconic Converse-Dalton House, The Crescent and Brooks County Courthouse that appeared in the 1986 TV movie As Summers Die, starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Bette Davis. And don’t miss a trip to the Okefenokee Swamp that served as the multifaceted natural setting for Swamp Water (1941), Lure of the Wilderness (1952) and Gator (1976).

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Stroll through a star-studded town

What do Burt Reynolds, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bette Davis and the cast of TV’s Hot Grits have in common? They all roamed around the streets of Valdosta during filming and, in the case of the reality series, the film crew followed actual locals as they engaged with one another in their (unscripted) daily routines.  

Burt Reynolds loved Valdosta so much the first time around, when directing and starring in Gator, that he gladly returned to headline the first annual RKDS Film Fest in July 2018. Other stars attending the festival, organized by Valdosta-based filmmakers Roy Kirkland and Doug Sebastian, included Ricky Schroder, Simone Griffeth (who appeared in the 1973 movie Sixteen and countless classic TV hits including Magnum, P.I.), and Valdosta-born actor Sonny Shroyer (who acted in Forrest Gump but is best known for his role as Deputy Enos Strate in the famous 1979 TV series The Dukes of Hazzard).

With a growing number of movies filmed in Valdosta, stumbling upon a movie star could happen more easily than you think. However, attending the next edition of the South Georgia Film Festival and RKDS Film Fest should be enough to fulfill your wishes for star sightings.

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A touch of Hollywood, but with hospitality

As a part of the Hollywood of the South, a title that fits Georgia like a glove these days, Valdosta may be the next big destination for the film industry but hasn’t lost its touch of Southern hospitality. In fact, it’s precisely that authenticity that producers and directors look for and can’t wait to work with in Valdosta. 

Local film industry worker Tina Sauls has an impressive resume that includes jobs as a location scout for Zombieland and a production assistant for The Hunger Games. But did you know there is one piece of local knowledge that Sauls managed to immortalize on the silver screen when she was a production assistant in the 2011 remake of Footloose? It was something as simple as suggesting a T-shirt of Valdosta-based restaurant Smok’n Pig BBQ to the wardrobe team that she believed truly represented the South.

These days, chances of running into Woody Harrelson at the Smok’n Pig are slim, but you might bump into a few residents willing to tell you the tales of their former careers as zombie extras at Wild Adventures during the late 2000s filming.

The great Burt Reynolds headlined the inaugural RKDS Film Fest in 2018. Get all the details for the 2019 festival at ValdostaFilm.com.
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