‘Booming:’ Film and TV production soars in DeKalb County

A photo of a recent shoot in the city of Tucker. Photo by Dean Hesse

DeKalb County, GA — The dogwoods and azaleas are in bloom across DeKalb County, but there’s a black and yellow variant on seemingly every corner these days as well. It’s the signs with the codes for film and television productions in the area, and they are ubiquitous. 

DeKalb is seeing triple the amount of active productions right now compared to this time last year, and the numbers even dwarf those of pre-pandemic times. If it’s not a Byrde family member tempting fate with drug lords in “Ozark” somewhere in DeKalb, it’s the kids from “Stranger Things” battling monsters here for Season 4 of the smash hit Netflix show.

“Television filming and production are booming in DeKalb County, and DeKalb Entertainment Commission couldn’t be more thrilled,” DEC Director Shelbia Jackson told Decaturish.

The DEC processed 11 filming applications and saw nine active productions across the county last March. This March, those numbers skyrocketed to 39 applications and 28 active productions.

“The permitting process has been very consistent this first quarter of the year, which is drastically different from this time last year,” Jackson said.

And all 13 soundstages in DeKalb are booked through the end of the year, according to the DEC.

DeKalb has been helped in part by following COVID-19 guidelines for film and television productions.

“The goal was always to get DeKalb County residents back to work in the safest manner possible, and I am confident the extra level of precaution we mandated is why things are looking much brighter,” she said. 

Decatur shines on Netflix, HBO, ABC, Disney+

Decatur in particular has been awash in film and TV productions lately. The city had 13 filming applications and 11 active productions between January and mid-April of last year. This year, it had 29 applications and 28 active productions during the same time period.

Studios are more and more attracted to Decatur because of the clarity of the process, according to Downtown Program Manager Shirley Baylis.

“For larger projects, we will meet the crew onsite for initial scouting and talk about the impact on residents and businesses,” she said. “We also discuss what the needs will be for road closures, safety, staffing such as police and fire.”

“We really try to make this something that works for everyone involved,” she added.

And filming can provide long-term residual income because people like to see where their favorite movie or TV show was set. Baylis cited the blue lights in Decatur Square, which featured prominently in HBO’s hit 2020 show “Watchmen.”

“I was on the Square a couple of weeks ago and heard a woman telling her friend all about the lights and their appearing in ‘Watchmen,’ and I have witnessed people wanting to get their photo in front of those lights,” she said.

Productions filmed so far this year in Decatur include the CW’s DC Comics’ shows “Black Lightning” and “Naomi,” the Disney+ series “Just Beyond,” the Starz series “Black Mafia Family,” the film “The Conjuring 3,” ABC’s “The Wonder Years” reboot and the Netflix series “Raising Dion,” “Sweet Magnolias” and “Ozark.”

Disney+’s high-profile Marvel series “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” also filmed in Decatur last year. 

Stone Mountain, Avondale, Tucker, Doraville line up projects

Nearby Stone Mountain has hosted productions recently including a Fox series reimagining “The Goonies,” the CBS series “MacGyver” and “Raising Dion.” And the “Stranger Things” cast and crew is coming to film in the area in the next few weeks, according to Tourism Manager Kim Cumbie.

“Filming is good for our community and we strive to be a film-friendly destination,” she said. “Along with the recognition of, and for, our community, film companies have been an economic boost to our local businesses, homeowners and churches.”

Filming in Avondale Estate has gotten a little busier lately too. The film “Forgotten” shot scenes on Stratford Road last September. This month saw two productions in the area: a SCAD student thesis film on Franklin Street and the film “Long Slow Exhale” on Dartmouth Avenue. 

The city does not have its own established initiative to attract film and television productions, according to Permitting Concierge Coordinator Ken Morris. 

“Avondale Estates does however participate in a communicating network of cities within DeKalb County related to location referrals and requests,” he said. 

Tucker has also gotten in on the Hollywood action. “Black Mafia Family,” “Sweet Magnolias” and “Ozark” have filmed there this year. 

And Doraville in north DeKalb got some huge filming news last month. Atlanta media company Gray Television is in the final stages of purchasing 128 acres of land there to construct 10 film studios, according to the AJC. That would make it one of the largest film production sites in the state. 

But what about deciphering those sometimes-misleading production codes on the signs posted around DeKalb? 

The popular Filming in Georgia group on Facebook tracks all the productions going on in the Peach State. The group also posts a monthly cheat sheet to help unmask the production codes. April’s list of productions in DeKalb include EYE or EYE5 for “MacGyver,” FAM for “Black Mafia Family,” RD for “Raising Dion,” KRAZO for “Ozark,” JB for “Just Beyond,” and WEYLAND, MCFLY, M247 or MULE for “Stranger Things.”

Happy hunting, and happy viewing. 

The Tucker Observer is a new community news website owned by Decaturish.comWe provide locally sourced news about Tucker, Clarkston and Stone Mountain.

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