Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fayetteville man expands business geared at selling greenery for local film productions


By Danny Harrison

Pinewood Atlanta Studios spokespeople have been saying for months that the television and film industry will transform and revitalize the South Atlanta area, and already that’s coming true, largely because of the steps already made in that direction by Pinewood investors and by the owners of Raleigh Studios Atlanta in Senoia.
Hoping to earn these studios’ business, the owners of Cinema Greens, which provides real and manufactured plants and landscaping for the film and television industry, is now in the process of purchasing 14 acres surrounding and including the beautifully restored 1889 Aukerman House located on Lovejoy Road in the City of Lovejoy near the Talmadge Road intersection. According to Cinema Greens CEO and one-year Fayetteville resident Jeff Brown, the plan is to construct nursery buildings on a portion of the property while enhancing the land immediately around the house, which will be offered to the film industry as a film set.
Brown and Cinema Greens President Bryan McBrien said the home will eventually also be opened to the public for use as a wedding venue and special events center.
Brown and McBrien have a third business partner, Chief Operating Officer S. Ford Jones. All three men are scheduled to make an official presentation to city council members at Lovejoy City Hall on Monday, Feb. 17. That meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and is open to the public.
The State of Georgia reportedly tracked $4.1 Billion in 2013 revenue linked to the state’s growing film industry, and last week the City of Lovejoy announced local developments that will put the city on the movie scene as well.
Fayette County, and the City of Fayetteville in particular, have been getting extra attention in the last year for being chosen as the site for London, England-based Pinewood Studios’ expansion into the United States. That facility, located close to Piedmont Fayette Hospital on the western border of Fayetteville, has been financed by the Cathy Family of Chick-fil-A fame. Under the River’s Rock, LLC banner, the Cathy Family have partnered with Pinewood to bring to the area what is being touted as the most advanced movie studio in the United States if not the whole world.
Cinema Greens is the first “Hollywood” company to base itself in Lovejoy.
According to Brown, his company was initially going to be based in Riverdale, because he found a good deal on a large-enough piece of land to suit his business. However, his wife Natali Pope, who has an antiques stall at Fayette Antique Mall on Hwy. 54 East in Fayetteville, learned through the mall manager about the Aukerman property, and one visit to the old farm site changed the deal.
“I was in Louisiana filming ‘Planet of the Apes’”, Brown remembers. “My wife, who is a set decorator for the film and television industry, opened a stall at the antiques mall and met Carla [Harrison].”
At that time, about a year ago, Harrison was not yet the mall manager, but she was the person hired by Frances Aukerman to conduct an estate sale at her Lovejoy home. When Harrison learned through Pope that her husband was looking for a large tract of land to build greenhouses and prop shops, she mentioned that the Aukerman property was for sale.
“She said, ‘You’ve got to see this before you close the deal in Riverdale,’” Brown said. He said when he returned from Louisiana and saw the property, he fell in love with the estate and could see additional opportunities involving the house itself.
“My eyes really opened,” Brown said.
Not surprisingly, Lovejoy Mayor Bobby Cartwright has reportedly played a big role in attracting Cinema Greens.
“After our meeting with Mayor Cartwright on Feb. 5, we knew that we had found a true partner in the town of Lovejoy,” said McBrien.
Brown says cooperation like they’re finding in Lovejoy will help bring more of the film-making industry to Atlanta’s south side, which he says is actually better positioned in many ways to serve “Hollywood” than is the north side of Atlanta.
“We’ve already shown pictures of the property to location scouts and received a great deal of positive feedback about the look and feel of the farm,” said Brown. “We hope to see a handful of location rentals in our first year.”
Jones said Cinema Greens will positively impact the Lovejoy economy as well as the wider area.
“Film crews need massive amounts of goods and services,” Jones said. “They will be looking to local vendors to provide things like food, overnight accommodations, hardware supplies, and even locals to act as film extras.”
McBrien said Cinema Greens plans to open officially in April, and they plan to have the farmhouse ready for rental by the end of the year.


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