Film commission feature film

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com
A search to find a specific location has state officials scouting the geography of East Tennessee as a possible scene site for a major feature film.
The Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music Commission has sent a letter to the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce asking for help to research sites matching a film company's specifications to shoot a scene for a film scheduled to start production within one year. The film commission actively markets Tennessee as an on-location site for filmmakers around the country.
"We look through our files or scout for it if we don't have it in the files," said Niki Conolly with the state film commission. "We are pretty proactive if we think a site might work as a location for the project."
The state film commission works with the state's regional film offices such as the East Tennessee Film Commission -- a regional agency that represents Knox, Blount, Sevier and Jefferson counties. That commission serves as the official liaison with all television and film productions and is the official representative of the East Tennessee region in matters of film and television productions.
"We'll send out the photographs and they will do a scout, which will include a couple of other states as well," said Conolly. Once a decision is made, film production crew move quickly to set up production offices and prepare to film the scenes at the chosen location. The film commission works with various state departments to accommodate needs of filmmakers during production.
"If they need assistance in closing down state highway and roads we help with that," said Conolly. "If they are shooting on any state property, it has to go through the commission."
Tennessee has proven to be a popular place for Hollywood films shooting on location. Memphis, had a television movie of the week "The Painted House" aired on the ABC network was filmed on location in Memphis. The crime drama "21 Grams" starring Sean Penn and Benicio Del Toro also recently finished shooting in Memphis. Last year's "The Castle" was filmed in Nashville. Perhaps one of the best known films is "The Firm" starring Tom Cruise, which was shot in Memphis and featured the cityscape prominently in several scenes.
Hollywood has visited Northeast Tennessee before, although it has been quite a while. Production crews spent several weeks in 1983 filming the scenic farmland of Hawkins and Sullivan counties as the backdrop for "The River" starring Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek.
Even if one location is not chosen, the film commission retains an extensive file of locations with over 20,000 photos and a digital location database for future location inquiries. Needless to say, convincing a studio to film on location is highly competitive. Professional creativity is a must to stretch to film commission's limited resources, Conolly added.
"It helps to have liaisons and to have somebody who might know something we are looking to find," Conolly said.