Lights, Camera, Action: Workhorse Films comes to S.Ga. | News

VALDOSTA – South Georgia may be feeling the heat, but the Workhorse Cinema Production Company is bringing something a little cooler to the region — the holiday spirit.

For the past three weeks, production has set up shop in Tifton for filming of “The Holiday Dating Guide,” a film that Fitzgerald actor and producer Alexander Kane describes as the “Hitch” meets “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” of Christmas films, bringing in the whole “Christmas in July” spirit.

“Nothing like sweating to death in 100-degree heat under 13 layers of clothes trying to pretend it’s 8 degrees outside and snowing. We have lots of fun with the actors when we are all in shorts and they are in scarves and jackets … that’s the only time an actor wishes they were behind the camera instead of in front of it,” he said.

Based out of Fitzgerald, Workhorse was created in 2020 with the goal of stimulating the economies of smaller South Georgia cities through film production. In the company’s first year, the team managed to produce $8 million worth of projects for the city and attracted top Hollywood talent such as Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson and Luke Wilson. Now, with an economic impact of $60 million in just three years, the company plans on bringing the same payoff to cities such as Tifton and Valdosta.

“I grew up here, I live here, this is home. When I go to other places, I bring South Georgia with me. It’s in my heart, it made me, it’s an undeniable part of me and I always pitch everyone on what’s great about our neck of the woods. The people and the resources down here are second to none,” he said.

“I relocated (to Valdosta) from Fitzgerald to move all our films down to Valdosta and the surrounding South Georgia area. So many films will be coming down here starting this fall. Both (Valdosta and Tifton) have amazing mayors, councils, committees, etc. … the overall leadership of Tifton, Valdosta and Quitman are great examples for other small South Georgia towns to learn from. They embrace new opportunities and do their research before getting on board so they have a plan in place to support the industry and make sure it benefits their citizens as well as the new venture.”

Since the WCPC’s formation in 2020, other film institutions such as PhilanthroFilms Summer Film Camp and the South Georgia Studio and Film Academy have also seen South Georgia as a coveted location for the entertainment industry, spending two summers filming short films in Quitman.

The film camp’s latest project is the short film “The Buick Special,” slated for an Aug. 30 premiere at the Brooks County High School Performing Arts Center. 

Described by PhilanthroFilms co-founder Honnie Korngold as a redemptive tale about intergenerational friendship sparked by a shared admiration of a retro car, Korngold said the camp’s goal is to provide film industry opportunities to South Georgia residents who may have not had it otherwise. They accomplished that goal when Lowndes High School senior Isaiah Gentry, an attendee of the camp, was selected to be an assistant director intern for “The Holiday Dating Guide.”

“How cool is it that he was in our film camp a few weeks ago, learned the skills to confidently navigate his way around a set, and now is working as a production intern on a feature film? That is exactly what we envisioned for these young people in South Georgia – great opportunities to work in an industry they never thought possible in their own backyard,” she said.

For his part, Gentry said he has been interested in filmmaking for as long as he could remember, doing photography on his phone, making cinematic videos, researching different quality cameras and buying them. He is also a part of the Audiovisual program at Lowndes High, where he heard of the opportunity to work at PhilanthroFilms’ summer camp.

“Immediately, I so badly wanted to be a part of it and applied. My experience there was amazing, all the mentors are from the area and they are so fun to work with. I made many new friends and learned many new things (about) how my knowledge could be applied to a legitimate film set,” he said.

He didn’t think the opportunity to work for a major studio production would come so soon.

“So, my discovery about the Tifton film set was actually from Honnie; she came to all of us students one day at camp and told us of an opportunity for an internship on a legitimate film set not too far away. I was so excited to get out into the cinema world, so down went my contact information,” he said.

“I love it, the people up there are super amazing and have worked with me as an intern. The best part is seeing your dream/favorite camera being used and learning firsthand everything about it but also meeting all these professionals and hearing about their experiences.”

The WCPC crew will continue to shoot in Tifton for the next two weeks and plans for the film to hit the big screen in winter 2023.

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