The city of Augusta is on its way to the big screen.
A film based on bestselling author Alyson Noel’s novel Saving Zoe began filming last week, utilizing locations all around the area. The currently untitled movie will feature sisters Laura Marano (Austin & Ally) and Vanessa Marano (Switched at Birth). When given the chance to shoot in Augusta, Jude S. Walko jumped at the opportunity.
“I shot a film here in 2015 called SiREN,” the Los Angeles-based producer said Wednesday. “I had a really great experience here. The community in Augusta is really great and I feel like it’s a nice little niche place to work outside of the big craziness that is in Atlanta.”
For Walko and others at the helm of the film’s production, Augusta provided the perfect setting for what they describe as a “high school drama.”
“It’s what we call a ‘nondescript hometown’, which could be anywhere in America,” he said. “It’s very good for a film, because you want people at home to watch it and say ‘oh, that could be my school or that could be my hometown.’ You have a mixture of historical and newly renovated stuff, new buildings. It has a great small-town feel. But it doesn’t feel too tiny, it’s right in the middle, which is perfect for a lot of films.”
Wednesday’s shoot took place at Bar on Broad, the outside of which had donned a coat of black plastic in the early hours of the morning. A crew that included Augusta professionals had turned the interior into a bustling nightclub for one of the film’s pivotal scenes. Extras, also cast from Augusta’s talent pool, were being shuttled to the set on golf cars all afternoon.
“I can’t thank the people of Augusta enough,” director Jeffrey Hunt said. “The people here have been overwhelmingly supportive of us. It’s made my life as a director much easier. We don’t have the money to pay the amount of extras that we would want, but [there are] so many volunteers, so many people wanting to help make the film good. It’s been really inspiring.”
The producers plan to bring the film to the festival circuit after completion, but they have not yet secured a distribution deal. The crew has little doubt that the project will be picked up.
“Both Vanessa and Laura have a huge following, they’re successful actresses and our other supporting cast are all well known,” Hunt said. “I think its content is very relevant to the youth today so I think there’s a very good chance this could be bought and have a very wide distribution.”
No matter how wide the film’s distribution is, Walko believes it will have a positive effect on the area’s film industry.
“It’s a beautiful place to shoot and I hope more films come here,” he said. “I’m living proof that people come back and I’m definitely going to spread the word.”