29 March 2012

Lights, Camera, Action

For my Feature Writing Class, I wrote an article about the Film Industry in Georgia. It gave me a great excuse to read AJC Buzz for a few hours. Luckily my great friend, David, let me interview him about his experiences on film sets. Enjoy reading! 

Lights, Camera, Action for Georgia’s Film Industry
     The state that rose from the ashes so many years ago is finally ready to see its name in lights. According to a recent statement by the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Georgia is now considered one of the top five states in America for film and television production. Between July 2010 and June 2011, the sector created a $2.4 billion impact in the economy. This fiscal year, revenues are expected to be even higher with the multitude of film and television shows using Georgia as the background for productions.
     Georgia Department of Economic Development commissioner Chris Cummiskey said, ”The economic impact created in FY11 accounts for 22 percent the entire film impact produced in the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment division’s 38-year history.” That 38-year history includes films like “Forrest Gump”, “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Deliverance”.            
     Complicated filming permits and high costs of production have caused studios to think twice before filming in the standard locales of New York and Los Angeles. Instead, many companies have found the state of Georgia to be more conducive to their needs and the state has been happy to oblige.
     Atlanta native and Set Production Assistant David Oster said, “They’ve turned big warehouses in Decatur and airport hangers in Peachtree City into sound stages and backlots for television shows. The cast and crew who may be used to studio lots in LA have had to adapt to that and make it close to what it’s like there.”
     The Georgia Department of Economic Development has seen a rise in film productions as a result of the 2008 Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act. Since the legislation passed, production companies spending over $500,000 within the state are entitled to a 20% tax credit with an additional 10% if the final production includes a Georgia emblem in the end credits. These tax credits apply to “feature films, television series, music videos and commercials, as well as interactive games and animation.”
     The ‘Camera Ready Community’ Program was created in 2010 to ensure counties in the state could meet the needs of a large-scale production. Currently, 136 of the 159 counties in Georgia are certified as Camera Ready Communities, each with different scenery to offer filmmakers, from cities and hilly forests to beaches and sleepy small towns.
     Georgia’s climate year-round makes the state an attractive location for filming. Oster said, “There is a great variety of locations that can work for anywhere that the film script calls for. For example, Atlanta can pass for New York or Chicago etc. About the only thing you can’t get are big mountains and deserts.”
     During the last few years, films like “The Blind Side”, “Water for Elephants”, “X-Men: First Class” and Tyler Perry’s “Madea’s Big Happy Family” were filmed in Georgia.       
     Tyler Perry Studios in southwest Atlanta has made significant contributions to the state’s new nickname, The Hollywood of the South. He employees over 300 people with a studio considered to be one of the best in the country with multiple soundstages, a backlot and post-production facilities. Last week, Perry hosted a fundraiser at the studios for President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign, followed by a small event at his home with guests like Oprah Winfrey. Here, Tyler Perry Productions films TBS’s most popular show “Meet the Browns” along with all his feature films.
     Major most pictures come in town for several weeks or months, but television shows filming around Atlanta have a more lasting impact on the local economy. AMC’s hit series, “The Walking Dead” will film its third season in metro Atlanta this summer. The CW’s “The Vampire Diaries” films in Covington, Georgia and has created a frenzy in the town for eager fans, some of whom travel hundreds of miles to see the sets and locations of the series. An article in the Covington News, located about forty miles southeast of Atlanta, estimates a $10 million dollar increase in tourist spending between 2009 and 2010, before and after the show about immortal vampires in a small town first debuted. Those numbers skyrocketed in 2011 as the show gained popularity.
     A statement by Covington’s tourism director Clara Deemer said, “More than 19,000 tourists came to Covington in 2011, representing 46 states and 28 countries - motivated by filming location tours of ‘The Vampire Diaries.’ A large number of these guests are staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants and shopping locally in Covington.”
     In today’s struggling economy, Georgia’s film industry is a bright spot for the state. Union and non-union jobs are plentiful. Productions find it most attractive to film in places where the local population is knowledgeable and can be hired on site, instead of bringing crew in from Los Angeles. These roles bring attention to the state and money to the community with jobs and increased revenue in hotels and restaurants. 
     The Camera Ready Community Program hopes to assist the local communities use their resources to fill below the line crew jobs like electricians and security crews. The investment in infrastructure has been a blessing for young crew members like David Oster, who can live locally and work instead of moving to Los Angeles. He began working as an extra on “The Blind Side” two years and several films later; Oster has been promoted to Set Production Assistant. Oster works on different sets every day, moving from “Vampire Diaries” to Limetime’s “Drop Dead Diva”.
     Oster says, “As long as the incentives are here there will continue to be more productions here [in Georgia] and now, there is more infrastructure for it with the studios. There are now at least three places to rent cameras in town, multiple catering services, at least five extras casting agencies, and a whole lot of local actors and talent that are working.”
     At least four more Georgia-based productions will be released in the upcoming months including “Jayne Mansfield’s Car” with Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Duvall and “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, an ensemble film starring Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez.
     More films and television pilots are making their way South in the next few months, including a new FOX drama starring Kevin Bacon. Only time will tell how long this trend will continue but at least for the next few years, Georgia’s time in the limelight has no sign of slowing down.

27 March 2012

Malta, a perfect piece of the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean sea isn't a barrier. It's a pathway for sharing ideas, customs, religions and cuisine. I've been to the coast of Spain, Gibraltar, several Greek islands and now, Malta. Though these places have their individual cultures, it's incredible to see their unifying characteristics. 

Here, family trumps all else. Family is your life and all networks in communities are based on families. The cuisine is similar throughout the Mediterranean. From Greece to Morocco, people use the same ingredients, olive oil, wine, bread, fresh vegetables. The Mediterranean diet is known throughout the world as healthy and clean. Also, there is a high importance placed on social constructs and gender roles. Men & Women have different roles in the community and the home. Those norms are expected to be followed to avoid conflict. 

On our third day in Malta, Prapti & I took the double-decker bus tour around the island. It was a great way to see everything and we spent time outside of the touristy area of St. Julian's. We got off the bus the first time at a fish market, typical to other coastal markets I've seen along the Mediterranean waters. The vendors were selling fish and everything else: candy, toys, vegetables, souvenirs, electric appliances and clothes. The fish, however, looked amazing. Nothing better than buying your fish four feet away from the ocean it came from!

Yummy Treats
Our next stop was the Blue Grotto, a famous cliff site on the Western coast of Malta. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. 

 The next day, we took the ferry to Gozo, a small island north of Malta. We traveled around on the Gozo Sightseeing Double Decker bus. Our first stop was the Citadel, a lookout point where we could see almost all of the island. 

We hopped back on the bus and headed towards the Azure Window. I hadn't heard much about this site, and thought it would be similar to the Blue Grotto the day before, but this took my breath away. 

Geologists think the bridge between the the rocks will crumble in the next 50 years. WA WA WAHHH.

Prapti and I walked on top of the peninsula and could have stayed for hours, but the bus was coming to take us back to the main town. We got back on the ferry & had a delicious dinner that night. Sushi for the first time in seven weeks and it was delicious. 

Our flight was early the next morning and we spent that day in Rome, packing for Prague.Can't wait to tell you alllllll about that place. You should really czech it out for yourself. I gotta go. 

Laugh, Go Ahead


Lions, Tigers and Clare. Bam. 

Thanks Prapti!!! 

24 March 2012

Malta- Part 1

I will miss Malta every day for the rest of my life. There's no place like it in the world. Prapti & I wanted to go somewhere for the first half of Spring Break that was WARM, so we looked on a map and went as far south as possible. Malta is about as far from Sicily as it is from Tunisia. We never got in the water, but I definitely got a tan / burned a little. Like most small islands, Malta has seen its fair share of foreign empires take control of the island, but the people maintain a very strong culture.

Maltese is a mixture of Italian, Turkish, Arabic and English. Quite a combination. I couldn't even begin to understand it, but because the country gained independence from Britain about 50 years ago, everyone learns English in school. Still, the British come to Malta by the thousands .The cultural influence is everywhere, in the shopping (Marks & Spencer!!) and restaurants.

Did I mention we were there for St. Patrick's Day? This Irish girl was very excited to celebrate with some distant family from the British Isles. People packed out the pubs starting at about one, and didn't leave until late after dark.

Flags outside Saddle's Pub
Happy Irish Girl. Thanks for the hat, Guinness!

In Malta, almost every older building had galleries, like an indoor balcony, that were usually painted amazing colors that matched the door or other accents on the exterior of the house. Such a beautiful architectural feature!

We stayed at the Westin Dragonara Resort. Those guys sure do know how to pull off an amazing hotel. It was the nicest place I've ever stayed without my parents and I kept wondering when they were going to show up, because there's no way I should have been there without them. The views were amazing, the workout facilities were the best (and only) gym I've seen in Europe thus far. The front desk was so helpful with restaurants, tour information and my flight logistics. (still flying standby, possibly even MORE stressful abroad... But worth the cost). I just wish we had been there when it was a little warmer and the pool would have been open, because it looked spectacular. We tried not to eat there TOO often, because of the price and we didn't want to miss Maltese food. But we had lunch the first day, and an incredible breakfast while we were packing to head back to Rome. Prapti couldn't have been happier to have Eggs Benedict!

Malta-- Part 2 coming tomorrow. Get ready for some beautiful pictures of the Mediterranean!!

12 March 2012

come si dice midterms, en italiano?

I don't know how to say midterms in Italian, but they still exist. I have a Mediterranean World presentation tomorrow, Film & Italian midterms on Wednesday and a Mediterranean World in-class essay midterm Thursday. Luckily, I have my mom and a peaceful hotel room to make studying a bit easier. And in the back of my mind, I remember I'll be in Malta on Friday.

11 March 2012


Last night was incredible. Started off with dinner at Tony's, a great restaurant in Trastevere that we college students frequent all too often.
Mommy & Friends at Dinner in Trastevere!!
Then, we sent Mom home and the big kids went out for Benny Benassi. He's an electronic artist from Italy, internationally famous and big in the night-club scene and at music festivals like Ultra. I'll get there one day.

The venue was called Atlantico and it was about 20 minutes outside of Rome, which made it very inconvenient to find a cab home at the end of the night...
Benny Benassi and the artists who opened for him were so much fun to watch and listen to.  We (our group of 10) bought VIP tickets, luckily, so we were able to sit down for a while and leave our jackets in a safe place. I ended up needed to sit for a while because I fell and bruised my spine on a set of marble stairs on Wednesday night. So graceful.

The show started around midnight and we didn't leave until almost four. We finally caught a packed night bus to the Colosseum by about 5 AM and stumbled upon this scene...

... as the birds began to welcome in the day. Finally, we got a cab and I arrived back at the hotel to a very delierious Mommy. We went to the large street market today along viale de Trastevere and had a wonderful time looking at jewelery, antiques and avoiding the used clothing booths..

Midterms this week! How has this semester gone by so fast?! One thing is for sure: I won't running back to Atlanta when May rolls around, I love Rome.

09 March 2012

confidence is killer

Here's the thing, I wasn't incredibly honest about Brussels. Yes, it was a great trip. Yes, I loved the city. However, the ending of the trip was anything but great.

I took my first airplane flight when I was six weeks old. With parents who work for Delta, I find myself on planes a lot. I know how the whole traveling thing works, which was one of the reason why I felt confident enough to live in a foreign country for four months.

Regardless of my experience in the past, there have been plenty of mistakes in Europe, most of which have monetary consequences. I'll start with Brussels, and I'll probably end with Brussels because my ego can only handle so much self-criticism.

I booked the wrong ticket home. Military time, ever heard of it? Yeah, I have too. I've used it a lot. Which is why I'm still confused about why I booked a 6:00 flight home from Brussels, when my roommates booked an 18:00 flight.  After a great weekend, I show up to the RyanAir desk (not the best company, their employees will even tell you.. More on that later.) and the lady tells me I've missed my flight, it left this morning. Panic sets in. I go to the ticket counter and this fabulous lady who reminded me of Rihanna told me I would need to pay 241 euros to get on this flight with my friends. Not gonna happen. Option B: Go to a hotel, buy a cheaper ticket for the next morning and wait it out. I chose Option B. Anyone ever been stranded in a foreign country, alone? It's a little disheartening. I watched my friends walk through security as I walked to the information desk and reserved a cheap hotel for the night. 45 minutes later, the taxi comes to the airport and takes me to the hotel, and charges me 8 Euro. Brilliant.

This hotel was BIZARRE. PROS: Free wi-fi, a computer to use, a nice desk man. CONS: Vending machines with hot meals, a pizza vending machine, spilling my tea, no shampoo & conditioner in the rooms, cold.

I tried for about two hours to book the ticket for the 6 AM flight Monday, and the RyanAir website would NOT process any of my cards. That's when I Skyped my family, who were lounging in a hotel in Hilton Head. The tears flowed, then stopped. I ended up going back to the airport to book my ticket, paid more than I would online, which was when the Rihanna doppelganger and another employee eloquently repeated, "Fuckin' RyanAir", after they found it was a computer problem, not my card. I laughed for the first time in a few hours. It's fascinating to watch employees casually bash their company.

Got in a cab back to the hotel, another 8 Euros. I was in bed by 10, but there was a really interesting documentary on BBC about the marriage and dating practices among Hasidic Jews in London. I woke up every hour until 4:30, when I got up to get ready for the flight, virtually wearing the same clothes as the day before. The Brussels airport was nice, I enjoyed one last waffle and slept the entire two hour flight. When I got to Rome, I took a bus to Termini, another bus to Largo Argentina, then a tram, then the 75 bus straight to school. Class started  two hours ago, oh am I late? Luckily, we were watching Moulin Rouge in Film Genres and because I've seen it about two dozen times, I could still participate in discussions.

My advice: double check, triple check. Don't use previous traveling experience as an excuse for not being prepared and organized. You'll regret it when finding yourself alone in Belgium, deciding between paella and lasagna from a vending machine. I chose neither.

Did I mention how much I love Rome? It felt so good to be back. 

07 March 2012

ray of light

As I was leaving the Campo di Fiori market with fresh produce and spices, I stumbled upon this street corner on my way back to the tram. It took my breath away, especially with the way the sun was shining in the alleyway. Who says graffiti can't be beautiful?

05 March 2012


This weekend we went to Brussels, and instead of giving you the play by play of our adventure, here's a list of ten of my favorite things about the city, in no particular order. 

1. It's the 'Capital of Europe'. Money is printed there. EU officials hold meeting there, so from the start, it has a very diverse atmosphere. I couldn't figure out what a "Belgian" looked like, with people of all colors and creeds walking in the streets.

2. The Beer. Beer was served like wine in Italy. I loved it! My favorite was this drink called Kriek, made from fermented cherries.

3. Delirium is this pub complex with a beer menu about two inches thick. There's about eight small bars and a main alleyway connecting them. Like Belgium, there were people there from all over the world, all walks of life.
 I also found these two beauties on the wall behind the bar...

4. Waffles! Shocking, more food. BUT LOOK AT THESE WAFFLES! 

5. Architecture: It was a perfect mixture between French and Dutch. I felt like I was in Paris for a block then stumbled into Amsterdam.

6. The Hilton City Center. My roommate, Sam, got us a sweet deal at an awesome Hilton. The beds, the sauna, the luxury! Ah it was so nice!!!

7. The Grand Place is the main square in Brussels, lined with churches and surrounded by restaurants.

8. Fries or frites. They're just. so. good. I even tried them with mayo, not so bad...

9. The Royal Arts Museum was home to a painting of the happiest baby Jesus I've ever seen!

10. My roommates who went to Brussels, Nancy, Sam & Katie! We had so much fun!