What do Nicolas Cage, Ice Cube, Dakota Fanning, Jeremy Renner and Denzel Washington have in common? Here’s a hint: Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lopez and Vin Diesel share the same commonality. All have worked on movies that have filmed in Fulton County facilities.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Bob Giordano, film/television coordinator in the communications division of Fulton County’s Department of External Affairs. He’s the guy location scouts contact when a project needs to film a scene happening in locations such as a courthouse, library, airport, parking garage or even a morgue.
Once the location scout claps eyes on the potential filming spot, the producers, then directors come out to say grace over the selection, and Giordano seals the deal. County regulations specify that productions can make small changes, such as paint colors, if they agree to return the facility to its original state when the cameras are done rolling. Often, though, a filming stint winds up being a free facilities upgrade for a county building.
“Sometimes they will paint it and the county likes it,” Giordano said. “‘Fast and Furious 7’ changed light bulbs in one of our parking garages and it was better than what we had so they left them.”
Fulton County Airport at Charlie Brown Field is a big favorite with filmmakers. The ensemble comedy “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” with Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Chris Rock and others; the drama “Flight” starring Washington as an alcoholic pilot, the Jackie Robinson biopic “42” starring “Black Panther’s” Chadwick Boseman and the indie about Errol Flynn with Kevin Kline and Dakota Fanning, “The Last of Robin Hood” all filmed there.
“I’ve developed a very good relationship with the film community,” said Giordano, who previously spent more than three decades as a member of the WSB-TV Channel 2 staff. “My job is to make them want to come back to Fulton County, to provide a good experience for them with as few hassles as possible. So far, it’s worked.”
One recent Saturday found him hanging out at the Fulton County courthouse where Nicolas Cage and Don Johnson were filming a scene for “Vengeance: A Love Story.” The Ice Cube comedy “Barbershop 3” and the upcoming Tupac Shakur biopic “All Eyez On Me” also have filmed there.
“‘The Walking Dead’ filmed on the roof of one of our parking decks,” Giordano said. “‘Pretty Little Liars’ filmed in one of our libraries. ‘Finding Carter’ filmed in one of our playgrounds.”
“Finding Carter” was canceled after two seasons but there are plenty of other projects keeping Giordano busy. He estimates he’s worked with about 70 production companies in the past three years.
While all this moviemaking is exciting, it’s not particularly lucrative.
“The county has made $75,000 to $100,000,” from production companies, he said. “We get $1,500 a day for using a courtroom. That’s not a lot. Movie companies are used to paying $10,000 or $15,000 a day.”
(Two predictions: 1. Fulton County eventually increases the rates production companies pay and 2. Giordano’s phone will ring off the hook as budget-conscious moviemakers seek inexpensive locales before any changes are made).
Giordano’s usually on set during the filming process, to make sure all goes smoothly. “Kill the Messenger” with Jeremy Renner, Tyler Perry’s “Daddy’s Little Girls,” the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. drama “Selma” and episodes of “The Bachelorette” and “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” are a few of the projects he’s seen from behind the scenes. Naturally, he has a ton of stories to tell.
“I get to meet a lot of the actors,” he said. Including Washington, during the filming of “Flight” a few years ago. “I was on the set and asked to no one in particular, ‘Where can I get a cup of coffee?’ He said, ‘I’ll get it for you! How do you take it?”
A little stunned, Giordano stammered “Cream and two sugars” and the Oscar-winning A-lister got to work on his order.
“The bigger the star is,” he mused, “the nicer they are.”