At first bite
'The Vampire Diaries' begins filming in Covington

COVINGTON - Filming of the new television series "The Vampire Diaries" got under way Thursday on the Square in downtown Covington.

Small modifications have been made to the Square to create the town of Mystic Falls, Va., the setting for the series.

The law office of Alexander, Royston and Hardman and accountants Carter and Associates PC on Clark Street has been painted a dark green and bears a sign reading Mystic Grill, as the building's exterior will serve as a diner on the TV show.

Small signs reading "Town of Mystic Falls" have been placed above the street signs on the Square, as well.

Fan Ella Worley drove an hour and a half from Calhoun to witness the occasion. She said she saw a trailer for the series and decided to read the books on which it's based.

"I liked how it was different. It got into the background of the characters ... It's totally different from 'Twilight,'" Worley said of another popular teen vampire book series. "Everybody keeps comparing it to 'Twilight.' The only similarity is that vampires are in love with a human girl."

Filming was expected to last until about 6 a.m. Friday, and Worley said she might just stay the whole time.

"I'm a night person," she said.

Filming is expected to continue today and the crew will next be back in town in early August.

The show will film primarily in and around downtown Covington. Twelve episodes of the series have been ordered, according to location manager Jonathan Jansen, with filming to run at least through early December. If an additional nine episodes are ordered, filming could continue through next spring, and then, "We're hoping to get a second season," he said.

That's good news for the local economy, according to Bill Thompson, deputy commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development's Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office.

"First of all, exposure of Covington to millions of film and television viewers is something truly that money can't buy. To showcase the city and to have your locales seen on TV and in movie theaters is priceless," Thompson said. "In terms of economic impact for the city and surrounding areas, the filmmakers will inject significant amounts of monies into the local economy and create jobs for folks in Covington and Newton County. Restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, hardware stores, lumber suppliers, gas stations and other types of businesses will all see an uptick in their revenues from a film or TV production coming to Covington."

He said the TV series "In the Heat of the Night," which filmed in Covington for seven years, pumped tens of millions of dollars into the local economy.

"That's nothing to sneeze at," Thompson said. "Covington has a well-known reputation as a film-friendly city and this is why filmmakers and television producers return again and again."

In fact, Covington has long been a favorite location for film and television producers.

"Over 25 feature films, television series and TV movies have been filmed in and around the Covington area, including most recently 'Halloween 2,'" Thompson said. "Covington's beautiful town square, period buildings and homes, and the ease of transportation and working in Covington make it a very attractive site for film and television productions. The producers of the Warner Brothers TV series, 'The Vampire Diaries,' have located their production offices and studio space a short distance from Covington."

"Vampire Diaries" is based on a young adult book series by L.J. Smith and will air this fall on The CW network.

The show chronicles the love triangle between popular high school student Elena Gilbert and two brothers, both vampires - one good, one evil.

The cast will include Ian Somerhalder, best known as ill-fated Boone Carlyle on the TV series "Lost;" Paul Wesley, who has appeared in numerous TV shows, including "24" and "Everwood;" and Nina Dobrev, of "Degrassi: The Next Generation."

The series premiere of "The Vampire Diaries" is scheduled to air at 8 p.m. Sept. 10 on The CW.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.