VALDOSTA — South Georgia may be feeling the heat, but the Workhorse Cinema Production Company is bringing something a little cooler to the region — holiday spirit.
For the past three weeks, production has moved to Tifton for the filming of ‘The Holiday Dating Guide’, a film which Fitzgerald actor and producer Alexander Kane describes as the ‘Hitch’ meets ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 days” of Christmas films, in all the spirit of “Christmas in July”.
“There’s nothing like sweating to death in 100 degree heat under 13 layers of clothing trying to pretend it’s 8 degrees outside and snowing. We have a lot of fun with the cast when we’re all in shorts and that they wear scarves and jackets… that’s the only time an actor wants to be behind the camera rather than in front,” he said.
Based in Fitzgerald, Workhorse was established in 2020 with the goal of boosting small town South Georgia economies through film production. In the company’s first year, the team managed to produce projects worth $8 million 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 to bring the same gain to cities such as Tifton and Valdosta.
“I grew up here, I live here, this is my home. When I go elsewhere, I take South Georgia with me. It’s in my heart, it made me, it’s an undeniable part of me and I always tell everyone what’s great about our part of the country. The people and resources here are second to none,” he said.
“I moved (to Valdosta) from Fitzgerald to move all of our films to Valdosta and the surrounding South Georgia area. So many movies will be coming here starting this fall. Both (Valdosta and Tifton) have mayors, councils, committees, etc. amazing…the general direction of Tifton, Valdosta and Quitman are great examples for other small towns in South Georgia to learn from. They seize new opportunities and do their research before boarding so they have a plan in place to support the industry and ensure it benefits their citizens as well as the new business.
Since WCPC’s inception in 2020, other film institutions such as PhilanthroFilms Summer Film Camp and the South Georgia Studio and Film Academy have also considered South Georgia a coveted location for the entertainment industry, spending two summers filming shorts at Quitman.
The latest project from the film camp is the short film “The Buick Special,” which is scheduled to premiere August 30 at the Brooks County High School Performing Arts Center.
Described by PhilanthroFilms co-founder Honnie Korngold as a redemptive tale of cross-generational friendship sparked by a shared admiration for a retro car, Korngold said the camp’s goal was to provide opportunities for the industry cinematic to South Georgia residents who might not have had it otherwise. They achieved this goal when Isaiah Gentry, a high school student from Lowndes High School, attending the camp, was selected to be a trainee assistant director for “The Holiday Dating Guide”.
“How cool is it that he was at our film camp a few weeks ago, learned the skills to navigate a set confidently and is now working as a production intern on a feature film? This is exactly what we envision for these young people from 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’s been interested in filmmaking for as long as he can remember, doing photography on his phone, making cinematic videos, researching different quality cameras and buying them. He is also on the audiovisual program at Lowndes High, where he heard about the opportunity to work at PhilanthroFilms’ summer camp.
“Immediately, I wanted so badly to be part of it and I applied. My experience there was amazing, all the mentors are from the area and it’s so fun to work with them. I made a lot of new friends and learned a lot of new things (about) how my knowledge could be applied to a legit film set,” he said.
He didn’t think the opportunity to work for a major studio production would come so soon.
“So my discovery on the set of Tifton actually came from Honnie; she came to see all of us students one day at camp and told us about an internship opportunity on a legit film set not too far away. I was so excited to get into the movie world, so I lost my contact details,” he said.
“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 in use and learning all about it firsthand. subject, but also to meet all these professionals and hear about their experiences.
The WCPC crew will continue to shoot in Tifton for the next two weeks and expect the film to hit the big screen in winter 2023.