Friday, August 27, 2010

Robert Pattinson’s “Water for Elephants” Leaves Million Dollar Impact on Chattanooga

In a recent article WDEF News dicusses the impact of shooting Robert Pattinson’s latest project Water for Elephants in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Read the entire article after the cut.

20th Century Fox’s new film “Water for Elephants” recently wrapped a two week shoot in Chattanooga—leaving a $1 million footprint in local economic impact.

Based on the New York Times #1 bestseller written by Sara Gruen, the film has stirred a cult following and has been billed by those in the industry as Academy Award material.

And now the film has put Chattanooga on the map for filmmakers—building momentum toward future filming projects.

The role of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) in providing a vintage train and dedicated 3-mile track for the film set was the key to landing the shoot with 20th Century Fox.

“The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is what makes Chattanooga unique for filming,” says TVRM Marketing Coordinator Steve Freer, who has been working for almost two years to attract “Water for Elephants” to film in Chattanooga. “Vintage trains are getting harder to find, and we have several steam engines which are even more difficult to find because they are expensive to operate and maintain.”
Railroad museums have historically been involved in filmmaking, according to TVRM President and CEO Tim Andrews, who adds that the Tennessee Valley Railroad has enjoyed a long relationship working with Hollywood films from shooting train scenes for George Clooney’s multimillion dollar movie “Leatherheads” to the CBS television series “Christy” to the 1971 Jimmy Stewart film “Fool’s Parade.”


Nathan Lux, Tennessee Film, Entertainment & Music Commission, says, “This film will showcase Tennessee’s beautiful locations to the rest of the world which is one of the reasons we fight so hard to bring productions to our state. FOX didn’t want to shoot this feature outside L.A. but our trains and landscapes were just too compelling.”

During the film shoot at Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, Chattanooga Southeast Tennessee Film Commission officials and TVRM President and CEO Tim Andrews had the opportunity to visit the set and speak with producers and crew.

Walking along the railroad track, with the train hissing and bellowing in the background, the Film Commission Officials focused their conversation with the producers and location scout on filming in Chattanooga—what they liked about the city, what was most helpful to their filming experience, and if they would consider coming back to shoot future projects in the area.

When a film chooses to locate production in a city like Chattanooga, there is a significant impact to the local economy. In the short two-week period the film “Water for Elephants” spent shooting in Chattanooga, the team spent nearly $1 million on local accommodations and services.

20th Century Fox footed the bill for nearly $100,000 in hotel rooms alone—with offices located at the Sheraton Read House and crew housed at the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo and the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown.

Executive Producer Kevin Halloran commented, “I’ve only been here a short time, but we’re using everything—dry cleaners, grocery stores, drug stores, hotel, restaurants.” Having spent time exploring the city, Halloran says he definitely sees potential in Chattanooga for future filming locations—perhaps for a Speakeasy or gangster setting.

What draws a film crew to shoot in a city like Chattanooga ranges from local crew available to work on the film set to locations for shooting to state incentives for filming. But beyond the tangibles, film crews also appreciate a welcoming local culture and people.

Producer Andrew Tennenbaum says, “You guys have helped us a lot between the crews, the locations, the film incentives, and ultimately the people. The people have been so incredibly welcoming and gracious and open—from the local retailers to some of the restaurateurs. We’ve become friendly with some really, really cool people down here.”

Working behind the scenes with 20th Century Fox for over a month, helping location scouts and crew connect with local accommodations and services, Education, Arts & Culture Administrator and Film Commissioner Missy Crutchfield says, “They love our city because the people are so nice and that they have been able to come in and out without being bothered, and that is very important.

We have to respect that to keep attracting these projects. They are here putting money into our economy, which is great. With every production dollar budgeted, there is a multiplier effect leveraged at about 2.5 times in the local community.”

In its four years, the Chattanooga Film Commission has attracted advertising projects such as DIRECTV commercials and a shoot for the George Clooney multi-million dollar movie “Leatherheads.” And there are a number of other commercials, industrials, and feature films to come. Simultaneously, the film commission has also partnered with Chattanooga State to offer a film production certificate program to build a film production crew base in Chattanooga.

During the same month “Water for Elephants” was relocating offices to Chattanooga, a national Yamaha commercial was shot locally. And most recently, a network television pilot and a high-profile Civil War-era film are both scouting locations in the area.


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