New Yorker: Finding Truth and Fiction on Film Sets in the South

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From the desk where I write this, in my house in the Cabbagetown neighborhood of downtown Atlanta, I could toss a hunk of Georgia red clay and hit the bungalow where the actor Jason Momoa was rumored to have lived while shooting “The Red Road,” a discontinued TV series set in the fictional town of Walpole, New Jersey. That house sits beside a former field where a façade was erected, in 2013, to shoot a scene set in Rhode Island for the movie “Dumb and Dumber To.” Around the same time, a casting director spotted a friend of mine—a lawyer, not an actor—walking his dog. This friend, who can grow a great mustache, ended up in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.” That film was also shot here, although its drama takes place in San Diego and New York. Not that all the productions based nearby have depicted other places: Donald Glover’s show “Atlanta,” on FX, is mainly shot in and around town. The famous “Teddy Perkins” episode, from Season 2, was filmed, it turns out, in the same mansion that was depicted, three decades ago, as a retirement home at the end of “Driving Miss Daisy,” which also was set in Atlanta.

Over the past decade, Georgia has become known as “the Hollywood of the South.” According to numbers published last year, it hosts more feature-film productions than any other U.S. state and is ranked No. 2 internationally, second only to the entire country of Canada. Generous tax incentives offered to productions by the local government have had much to do with this, but so has the state’s unusual variety of settings: mountain, coast, island, big city, country town, and what bills itself as “the Southeast’s finest Bavarian village.” (This odd place, Helen, Georgia, also appears in “Atlanta.”) The photographer Alex Harris, who is based in Durham, North Carolina—where he has taught documentary photography at Duke University—has been grappling with the interplay between production sets and physical locations in his recent project, “Our Strange New Land,” which is on display at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art. The show is part of the museum’s “Picturing the South” project, which has been commissioning artists to create “new perspectives on the South’s social and geographical landscapes.” See more at New Yorker.

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