Dawsonville Mayor Pro-tem, James Grogan, sat quietly in the conference room at City Hall absorbing the words, $50 million budget for an upcoming film. Locations being scouted around Dawson County included a peek at two local farms.
Executive producer, Denise Kleiner, scriptwriter and singer-songwriter, Colin Kenny, and Johnny Carsons daughter-in-law, Angelea Carson presented Grogan with their ideas for setting and locations around Dawson County for the film.
I think its great that we are being considered for another movie project, said Grogan. Marty Williams and the Chamber of Commerce have worked very hard to get us camera ready. This particular movie because its focus is on a local citizen during the mid 1800s is even more relevant to our community. We look forward to doing what we can to make this project happen.
The film titled The Miners Trail, The Legend of John Gregory, spans more than 40 years of the gold rush era from 1819 1861 and will be filmed in two states: Georgia and Colorado.
Seventy-five percent will be shot in Dawson and Lumpkin counties and the rest in Colorado, said Kleiner. The films budget is $50 million and may go higher depending on what sites we may be restoring.
The movies plot surrounds the rivalry between the Russell Brothers of Auraria and John H. Gregroy. The Russells traveled to Colorado when the gold mines of north Georgia dried up, and began mining in an area known today as Black Hawk. John Gregroy found out where the Russells were mining and sneaked in undetected when they headed back to Georgia for supplies. The Russells were slow to return because of a major snow storm along their route. On May 6, 1859, John Gregory located, staked, and pre-empted the Russells mining claims in what was to become known as the Richest Square Mile on Earth, according to the Gilpin County Colorado Historial Society.
Needless to say there was no love lost between them, said local historian Jimmy Anderson. Anderson is the retired postmaster of Dahlonega. He is serving as the teams historical advisor, and he helped them locate the Russell brothers residence and the familys graveyard in Lumpkin county.
The graveyard is an absolute mess, said Kleiner. It has been neglected and vandalized over the years. One of my goals is to restore it to its original condition.
Another one of my goals is to tell the true history of the gold rush, which started in Georgia and moved west. Many people mistakenly think it started in Colorado or California, she added. I also want to set the record straight that the Trail of Tears was not about farm land. It was about Indians who were were forcibly removed so whites could stake their claims the gold.
Kleiner is dedicated to staying true to historical documents and to the north Georgia culture. She has retained singer-song writer Raidford Starke because she thought his music was a good fit. Starkes enthusiasm for history and period music came to light one cold January afternoon when he and Kleiner made their first visit to a gold mine in Dahlonega.
Denise took me to the consolidated mines and told me to bring my mandolin, said Starke whose real name is Colin Kenny. The echo, the sound of the reverb off the walls was really neat. I cant wait to come back and maybe record something there. It was kind of erie, almost ghostly. Stark is best known for his song Tall Dark Stranger from his CD Speak Me.
Marty Williams, Dawson County Chamber of Commerce VP of Tourism, said the economic benefits are hard to measure.
Its hard to know the true economic benefits, but they do spend money in the county. They (Clint Eastwoods crew) bought lumber here and the crew and cast bought gas and other things. They also hired off-duty Dawson County police officers for security, he said.
From a tourist perspective, it has brought people to the county to see if they can see the stars. Afterward, people will want to come see the Grey Squirrel Motel.
According to Williams, the movie is still in the planning stages, and it takes a lot to pull off a film of this magnitude.
It sounds like they still need to secure additional funding, and finish writing the script. It seems like things are moving a little fast, but Im not on that side of the business.
Filming is expected to begin this fall, according to Kleiner.
Other films that have used Georgia as a setting include American Reunion, filmed in Atlanta and in theaters April 6, Three Stooges also in Atlanta and due out April 13, Jane Mansfields Car filmed in Cedartown, and the Killing Season starring Robert De Niro and John Travolta is due out in 2014.
Georgia has attracted Hollywoods attention since the legislature passed tax incentives in 2008. Film, television and digital entertainment tax credits of up to 30 percent create significant cost savings for companies producing feature films, television series, music videos and commercials, as well as interactive games and animation. Georgias Entertainment Industry Investment Act provides a 20 percent tax credit for companies that spend $500,000 or more on production and post-production in Georgia, either in a single production or on multiple projects, according to www.georgia.org.