Georgia Beats Tennessee in ‘Footloose’ Competition (by $1.6M)

Georgia defeated Tennessee 20-12 in college football last weekend, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says Georgia is beating Tennessee more thoroughly in recruiting movie makers. “Georgia’s juggernaut film production industry” was about $1.6 million ahead of Tennessee in giving away tax incentives for the newly-released movie “Footloose,” a remake of an older film that is set in Tennessee.
Tennessee desperately wanted the $25 million budget, foot-tapping, potential box office phenom to be filmed on its own turf. And it thought it had an ace in the hole: Craig Brewer, the writer and director of the remake, lives in Memphis and wanted to make the movie there, just like all his previous films. His original version of the script even set the action in a fictional small town in Tennessee.
But when the cameras finally started rolling, everything — that fictional small town, all the very real filming sites — was located in Georgia.
“What’s that old saying about ‘death by a thousand cuts?'” sighed Jan Austin, executive director of the Association for the Future of Film and Television in Tennessee. “To lose ‘Footloose’ to Georgia was a disaster.”
…And the scales keep tilting increasingly in Georgia’s favor. Besides “Footloose,” an update of the 1984 Kevin Bacon-starring hit that’s been re-set in the iPod era South, two other recent movies that by rights should have been made in Tennessee ended up here instead.
Granted, “Get Low,” about a Tennessee hermit (Oscar winner Robert Duvall) who stages his own outrageous funeral while still alive, didn’t generate that much heat when it was released last October.
But the same can’t be said of “The Blind Side.” The story of a real — ahem — Memphis family was shot here in 2009, and went on to earn $256 million at the box office and snag a Best Actress Oscar for star Sandra Bullock.
“It’s like being asked ‘What’s worse, losing an arm or a leg?'” Linn Sittler, longtime head of the Memphis & Shelby County Film Commission, said about the current situation. Still, as bad as it was to lose “The Blind Side” — which, to add insult to injury, got much of its financing from FedEx founder (and Tennessean) Fred Smith — Sittler said the two hurts don’t compare.
“It’s much worse that we lost ‘Footloose’ because here was a talent that we had nurtured for years,” Sittler said of Brewer, who’d shot his three previous movies in Tennessee, including the Oscar-winning “Hustle & Flow.” “In all my years of recruiting movies [to film in and around Memphis], this one was a gimme.”
….Since 2008, Georgia has offered a tax incentive for production companies that spend at least $500,000 in the state: Up to 30 percent of the production’s budget in tax credits as long as the finished film displays a special Georgia tourism logo prominently in the credits.
,,, Yet lacking a similarly generous tax break, Tennessee couldn’t close the gap. Brewer didn’t hide his frustration when the efforts of him and others fell short of the $1.6 million needed to make up the difference.
“I think this is an unfortunate loss for Tennessee,” Brewer told the Commercial Appeal at the time. “I really wrote ‘Footloose’ and designed ‘Footloose’ to be a big commercial not only for the music of Tennessee but the spirit of Tennessee. Tennessee comes off looking really good in ‘Footloose.'”

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