Hollywood movie makers move into our neighborhood

The Hollywood-based Raleigh Studios has entered a long-term management agreement with Senoia’s RiverWood Studios. And RiverWood’s co-owners Paul Lombardi (third from right, standing) and Scott Tigchelaar (far right, kneeling) could not be happier for their city and for Coweta and Fayette counties. Photo/Ben Nelms.

A different kind of history was made in historic Senoia last Saturday. It was marked by an event that signaled a new partnership and one that will bring even more of Hollywood to Senoia and Coweta and Fayette counties.

The occasion was the Sept. 18 open house at Senoia’s RiverWood Studios that celebrated a long-term management agreement that christened the facility Raleigh Studios Atlanta.

Standing just outside one of the sound stages and commenting on the new business relationship with Hollywood-based Raleigh Studios was the company’s executive vice president of studio operations Richard Nelson, who noted the significance of the occasion and Raleigh’s move into Senoia and Georgia.

“What this facility means to Raleigh is that is gives us a great presence in Georgia. It’s a great facility, it’s kind of an under-utilized jewel. RiverWood and Scott [Tigchelaar] and Paul [Lombardi]’s company still exists. The studio now is managed by Raleigh Studios and it’s a long-term management contract that we have to support the film industry in Georgia,” Nelson said, also referring to the facility as Raleigh Studios at Riverwood.

“We hope to bring in a great entertainment environment that can really support all the productions, not just here at this facility, but anywhere you’re shooting in the Atlanta area or Georgia. The difference is that when you come here you’ll be able to get all of the resources that you need to take care of your motion picture or television show. It’s all existing here. And it can be packaged all in one umbrella.”

But beyond Georgia’s burgeoning film industry, why should Raleigh establish a presence in Senoia? The answer, said Nelson, comes in one word: RiverWood.

“It worked out because with Scott and Paul and RiverWood, they had a great facility that was already here. We wanted to have a place to set up and it made perfect sense to come out here. They had the place, we had the contacts and connections in Los Angeles, so we hope this marriage can build an infrastructure down here in the southern part of Atlanta,” Nelson said, adding that Raleigh’s presence on the ground comes with a number of other companies that are central to the film industry.

“All of these guys here today have worked together for years. We have companies like ISS here, the biggest prop house in Los Angeles, Branam (Enterprises) trussing and Hollywood Rentals, the biggest lighting grip company in the country. All these companies will be on the ground here at this studio. So it’s an entertainment process, more than bricks and mortar. When you look at doing your project you can get everything you need here. It helps create an enhanced film industry here. And that’s the key.”

Raleigh Studios Director of Marketing and Client Development Michael Newport explained what the long-term management agreement means for the company.

“For Raleigh it means we can set up our flag in Georgia. It’s a great opportunity for us. We’ve done a lot of expansion lately and we know that Hollywood’s moving out of California, they’re moving to tax incentive areas so it’s only smart for us to move where that direction is going. And (with Georgia’s tax incentives) it’s a great opportunity for us as well,” Newport said.

Nelson agreed that the tax incentives offered by Georgia make a substantial difference in the financial considerations that were understandably linked to Raleigh’s decision on RiverWood.

“We have a great opportunity with a wonderful tax credit,” said Nelson. “Now you have to take advantage of that by building an infrastructure that supports it. And having companies that are very successful in L.A. and having great local companies all under one umbrella and to be able to develop a great crew base and synergy among everyone, that’s what’s going to sustain the opportunity that the tax credits have given.”

In and out of the studio buildings during the open house were RiverWood co-owners Paul Lombardi and Scott Tigchelaar. Scott offered his thoughts on the economic potential that accompanies Raleigh’s move to Senoia and the tax incentives now available in Georgia that is helping to bring the film industry to the state, a move in no small part thanks to Sen. Mitch Seabaugh.

“Movies are a huge economic shot in the arm and it happens instantly as soon as that movie starts up. So the more films that get shot in this area because of this infrastructure and because of the partners that are here to service that film, the better it is for the greater community. Money goes not just into this business, it goes into hotels, gas stations and restaurants. The economic impact is enormous. So we want everybody to get a piece of that,” Tigchelaar said of the economic impact to Senoia, Coweta and Fayette counties.

“I think the high tide floats everybody’s boat. Obviously, Fayette County has a base of hotels and restaurants for any production that’s been here or in Peachtree City. Senoia is growing, and we can all see the benefits going on there attributed to the film industry.”

Lombardi agreed, citing some of the ways that the film industry adds to the economic vitality of a community.

“The monetary ramifications locally are huge. The best part about the motion picture business is that it brings money to a community and wants nothing (from the community). It shoots the picture and it leaves. They’re going to the restaurants, the cleaners, the hotels and grocery stores. They’re doing everything everybody does. They’re happy to do it when they have an environment they like. And they don’t like it here, they love it,” Lombardi said.

“These guys, as they travel around the area will get to know different places and will keep those places in mind when they need ‘looks.’ And that’s what studios need, ‘looks,’ places like Starr’s Mill. So they go for ‘looks,’ and while they’re there they’ll keep their eyes open for other locations in the area to be cost effective.”

One of the new companies represented at the studio is Independent Studio Services, also known as ISS Props based in Sunland, Calif. The family-owned and -operated business of 33 years also has operations in six other states, now including Georgia. Company executive vice president Gregg Bilson took a few minutes from showing visitors some of the weapons used in various movies to give his take on establishing a presence in Senoia.

“I am rather smitten both with Senoia and Georgia. It’s a great place to film. It’s very business-friendly. The people are great. It offers an incredibly diverse filming environment. You can do 18th century, you can do 21st century and all points in between in a very, very friendly place to work,” Bilson said. “We have a permanent facility right now, and as the industry grows so will our inventory and support services that we offer. There’s nothing that we do today in Los Angeles that can’t be in Georgia.”

For his part, Lombardi sees the corporate “marriage” as something that is not easy to duplicate. Raleigh’s long reach helps put the company in a good position, especially when cemented with RiverWood in the Georgia market.

“The marriage of RiverWood and Raleigh is an important thing for each individual company because its a win-win deal. Raleigh has a long history of running studios throughout the world. They have their hand on the pulse of the industry. What I mean by that is they know who is making movies, not just now but in six months and 16 months and 24 months. So they’re working with a lot of people on projects that aren’t even on the board,” said Lombardi.

The new relationship between the companies also comes with a significant amount of Hollywood history. Perhaps unknown to some in the Coweta and Fayette area, Lombardi grew up around the motion picture industry, with his father, Joe, working with RKO and Desilu studios. Paul continued in the family business and, today, North Hollywood-based Full Scale Effects is the largest physical effects company in Hollywood.

Given his background, the idea and significance of history is front and center in Paul’s thinking and in his business outlook for the marriage of RiverWood and Raleigh.

“You have people here that have been in the motion picture business, not for 10 years or 15 years, but for generations. And with that long life in the industry there are relationships that are developed, like any other business,” Lombardi explained, citing a couple of examples. “I’ve known one of the Raleigh principles for over 30 years, ISS for over 20 years. My business, Full Scale Effects, has been in business many, many years. So we bring all this stuff together.

“And what’s so cool about this is that these guys are really into it, I mean really into it and they love the town. And the way the town dovetails into the studio is very, very interesting. Frankly, I didn’t really appreciate it as much as I should have because I’m looking at it from one perspective (as a long-time resident of Senoia). These guys are coming, never having seen the place, with a clean slate, and they’re saying, ‘Wow, look at this. This is beautiful, everybody’s so nice to us.’ These guys coming in have been all over the world. They’ve been there, done that, seen it all. And they come here and say, ‘This is really cool.’”

Though Lombardi and Tigchelaar have been lived and worked in and around Senoia and have also been involved in its commercial and residential development for quite some time, the two in no way resemble what many would consider as being so directly connected to Hollywood. The two are about as laid back as it comes and much more likely to be seen around town in shorts and sandals.

Anyone who knows the duo also knows they care about their city. An example of that is in their most recent commercial building at Seavy and Main. Though constructed to “look” 100 years old, the three-story building was also constructed to withstand an F-5 tornado.

And Nelson in his comments at Saturday’s open house didn’t fail to mention the two and their outlook on their hometown.

“One of the real treats for us to be here is the partnership with Paul Lombardi and Scott Tigchelaar. They’re terrific people and they have such a passion for the film industry and the local community,” Nelson said with a smile. “They care about what’s good, and what’s good about creating a great environment here. And every one of the vendors are excited about helping them be successful in this community. It’s because of the people they are and how much the success of this project and the success of this community means to them. It’s a great environment and very rare. You don’t come across that as much as you should these days. They’re special people, and Paul’s passion for making it right is very infectious. We’re proud to be a part of it.”

The longest continually operating studio in the United States, Raleigh Studios operates in Hollywood, Playa Vista, Manhattan Beach, Baton Rouge, Budapest and now, Senoia. Support services operating out of the Senoia studio include Hollywood Rentals, Branam Enterprises, Hollywood Trucks, ISS Props, Cat Entertainment Services, Full Scale Effects, Radish, Movie Rags, Laurent’s Catering and, perhaps as important as any service, tax credit financing.

A mainstay of the Senoia area while operating as RiverWood and now as Raleigh, the studio features a number of amenities of which many area residents might be unaware.

Those include four sound stages ranging from 7,500-15,000 square feet and with 2,400-amp power to all stages, a 10,000 square-foot mill and production space, a 140x24-foot Cyc (Cyclorama) wall, 18,000 square feet of office space, make-up and dressing rooms, more than 100 acres of back lot that includes a six-acre lake and two creeks and close proximity to Hartsfield Airport.

Ruger
Ruger's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/22/2007
southern part of Atlanta

Let me start by saying I'm a 24 year resident of Senoia, my home is 156 years old.
I personally like what the "movie people" for lack of a better term have been doing to our town.

My life has never been disrupted by a movie shoot, even when it's been in my house.
The development that it has brought has been of the highest quality, while keeping the charm
of our city.

However, I am deeply offended by Mr. Nelson comment.
"down here in the southern part of Atlanta,” Nelson said,"
He started off on the wrong foot, that right there is the biggest insult he could have said and
If he considers Senoia south Atlanta, we and I say we because I'm sure I speak for most
Senoia residents, DON'T WANT HIM AROUND. Maybe Mr. Tigchelaar and Mr. Lombardi
can educate him before he offends anyone else.

NUK_1
NUK_1's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/17/2007
Senoia filmmaking....what am I missing?

Are they going to be shooting porn or something? What's the big concern about our neighbors in Senoia and whether they are going to like this or not?
I think Senoia can handle its own affairs probably a lot better than PTC at this point. After all, when Senoia came to PTC with hat(and money) in hand wanting some sewer access, the Brown regime told them to go pound sand even though WASA was totally for it and made a financial case of how it would benefit both WASA and PTC. THen, they got double the capacity from Coweta so they can develop twice as much. Does anyone think that Senoia really gives a damn about what a bunch of PTC/FC residents think in any event?

Give Mark Holumns of DAPC now and candidate for Council then as being one of the few to publically come out in support of the idea of extending sewer to Senoia.

The movie "Zombieland" with a pretty solid budget and "major motion picture release" did filming in downtown Newnan for a month or so and I don't remember hearing about that disrupting everyone's lives and causing great consternation. Matter of fact, when I saw the movie and recognized downtown Newnan in a lot of scenes, it was a big surprise to me because I had never heard that parts were filmed there to begin with.

In any event, I'm sure Senoia will manage to survive a few independent films being made in their city or they'll do something about it. Or not. Who cares? Nice to see that everything is so nice we can worry about Senoia and whether they are doing what WE think they should.

AtHomeGym
AtHomeGym's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/18/2007
Nuk &" Worry" about Senoia

Just who said anyone was "worrying" about them and where has anyone said anything about them "doing what WE think they should"? You are obviously reading what you want to see into comments that have not really been made. Not much value in that.

NUK_1
NUK_1's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/17/2007
AHG: Not reading into it

First comment is how the whole city is going to be "raped" by this event and then you assuming on the reasons why a lot of people live in Senoia to begin with and how this will be a disruption to that.

Maybe there are a lot of people in Senoia that live there because it's cheaper than living in a lot of other areas? Maybe they live there because they have no other viable options? Maybe they like Senoia and grew up there and will never leave? Maybe they like Senoia but would like to see some more growth/convenience? Maybe they actually LIKE this whole moviemaking studio being active? Maybe they don't have an opinion yet since nothing has changed at all yet for them and they are waiting to see if this is "good" or bad?"

What I don't see is people from Senoia posting here about "this is great" or "this sux!" but I see FC out already making declarations for them, even though there has been zero mention of how any of this will affect anyone and whether there will even be an actual movie filmed in Senoia in the first place.

AtHomeGym
AtHomeGym's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/18/2007
Movie Makers Move Into Senoia

I'm just guessing, but I bet a number of Senoia citizens are not too happy to see this happen--chances are, many of them moved there, hoping to escape just such activity and what it may bring with it. They treasure the laid-back peace and quiet that Senoia promoted in order to attract folks to move there.

bad_ptc
bad_ptc's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/18/2006
AtHomeGym, not my experience

"hoping to escape just such activity and what it may bring with it."

From what I've seen the businesses and the 'just plain folk' love the attention.

The film crews and actors spend their money locally and Senoia gets the credit.

Good for them.

pumpkin
pumpkin's picture
Offline
Joined: 08/19/2009
BEEN THERE FOR YEARS

Senoia's film studio has been there for years, they are just joining forces with the big guys and bringing in that big buck and no telling what else, it will make for some interesting stores.

pumpkin
pumpkin's picture
Offline
Joined: 08/19/2009
JUST AMAZED

Yep it amazes me and nothing I can do about it. Just goes to show ya.
Bet I could give you a list the length of which would fill up this arena and not enough room to even begin. O don't you just know who is in bed with these folks. And it will come out eventually after some good folks are screwed and the 'will be's' stuff their pockets.

Wow normal what a comment, got your finger in the pie have ya!

pumpkin
pumpkin's picture
Offline
Joined: 08/19/2009
AND SO THE RAPE BEGINS

Please dont we know these outfits are ? The money that will change hands the deals that will be made, welcome to hollywood you naive southern nitwits.

normal
normal's picture
Offline
Joined: 08/11/2009
Well pumpkin

You are such a pig today. Bet you felt better after that comment.

Recent Comments