Augusta film industry growing with ‘Hollywood Dirt’

Augusta’s film industry continues to expand with the ongoing production of Hollywood Dirt.

Based on the Allesandra Torre romance thriller, the film stars Johann Urb as “Cole Masten,” a brokenhearted Hollywood husband who finds love while making a movie in the fictional town of Quincy, Ga.

A production team led by Tosca Musk, Jina Panebianco and Joany Kane supported by about 26 Augusta-area crew members shot scenes Monday at Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center, on Eighth Street and at the Augusta Common. It was the positive experience of making last year’s The Reason that led filmmakers to again call on Augusta as an affordable, easy location, said Mark Crump, a former WJBF photojournalist now an independent filmmaker and leader of the Augusta Film Office.

Crump helped assemble local support for the film, which includes several scenes shot at AFO’s sound stage inside a former Krispy Kreme on Gordon Highway.

The cast includes a local star, a Hephzibah-area rooster named “Cocky” for his recurring role in the film as a gift from Cole Masten’s Georgia love interest. The two-month-old Cocky was taking well to his first day on the set, said handler and poultry farmer Sara Niebling, whose farm has hosted other film productions.

“He’s doing great so far,” Niebling said.

Former military intelligence analyst Irvin Deroche was enjoying his work as a film transportation captain, a critical role given the film’s multiple luxury automobiles.

“The days have been very long, but it’s also been very exciting to see how a movie is made,” said Deroche, a Long Beach, Calif., native now living in Augusta.

The film’s transportation coordinator, Brian Marshall, said it was great to be a part of the production.

“We’re former military, with organizational and leadership skills, plus I love cars, so it was a natural fit,” Marshall said.

The crew was responsible for getting three Porsche 911s, a Ford Mustang Shelby GT350, a Tesla, a Mercedes, a Lexus and a 1947 Ford DeLuxe to set locations, he said.

Crump said several area auto dealers as well as city recreation and Daniel Field officials and Richmond County law enforcement have been great to work with.

“It makes it easy to shoot in Augusta when dealerships and people are willing to help out and work with these lower-budget films,” he said.

Musk, the sister of Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, said Augusta was proving a good location choice. “The reception by the AFO has been extremely welcoming and I’m thrilled by the amount of local support that ultimately adds incredible production value,” she said in a statement.

The team is filming in Augusta for eight days then will relocate to Madison, Ga., and Los Angeles for the remainder of the shoot.

The film, which also stars Emma Rigby of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Marco Dapper of Young and the Restless and Mindy Cohn of Facts of Life, will be the first to run on the producer-director-writer team’s new digital platform, Passionflix.

The platform, at Passionflix.com, will fill the need felt by “millions of women across the world (ourselves included) to see their favorite romance novels turned into movies and series,” Panebianco said.

The production boosts the city’s film-making presence in Georgia, which ranks third behind California and New York due to tax incentives available for films made in the state. A company that spends $500,000 can receive 20 percent in tax credits and other benefits.

For more information about getting involved in Augusta’s film industry, visit www.augustafilmoffice.com or go to the Southeastern Filmmakers page on Facebook.

Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215 or susan.mccord@augustachronicle.com.

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