Film office: County ready for close-up

COVINGTON -- Newton is one of 16 Georgia counties to be named a Camera Ready Community by the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office.

The new program is part of the state's ongoing efforts to bolster Georgia's growing film and television industry. The Camera Ready designation is the state's way of offering film and television production companies easier, faster and better access to local resources and information.

Camera Ready communities must designate a liaison to assist film and television production companies on the local level. The liaison for Newton County is Tourism Director Clara Deemer with the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce, who could not be reached for comment. Deemer represented Newton County at a ceremony Thursday at EUE/Screen Gems Studio in Atlanta, where she was a guest speaker.

Newton was well ahead of other communities receiving the designation due to Deemer's hard work, said Camera Ready Program Manager Craig Dominy.

"The most important thing is to have a point person in the community that is willing and able to help the industry when they want to shoot in the county. We hope the program will spread to every county in Georgia," Dominy said.

Information about Newton County and photos of potential filming locations are posted on the state's Camera Ready website for easy access, Dominy said.

Covington, known as the Hollywood of the South, has been featured in more than 40 TV and film productions since the 1950s, and is perhaps best known as the location for the television series "In the Heat of the Night." It is now home to The CW's "The Vampire Diaries" and most recently, a remake of the movie "Footloose" was shot here.

Other counties named Camera Ready communities are Bibb, Carroll, Chatham, Coweta, DeKalb, Dougherty, Emanuel, Floyd, Fulton, Hall, Houston, Lowndes, Morgan, Walker and Wilkes.

About 350 productions were shot in Georgia in fiscal year 2010, with combined production budgets of $744.3 million. The industry's economic impact in the state was $1.3 billion, up from $1.1 billion the previous year.

"More than 50 Georgia counties hosted a film and/or TV production this year, making this a banner year for the industry in our state," said Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Heidi Green. "Hollywood A-listers including Robert Duvall, Katherine Heigl, Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Aniston have all experienced our unique locations, talented crew base and world-class southern hospitality, helping make Georgia the top filming location in the South."