1 year ago

Alabama film industry set for blockbuster year after record 2019

The Alabama Film Office reported the 20 approved film and TV productions that qualified for state incentives in 2019 spent nearly $72 million while in Alabama, up from $63.5 million during the previous year.

In addition, rebates approved to offset production costs totaled just under the ceiling of $20 million last year, eclipsing the previous record of $19 million set in 2018.

Kathy Faulk at the Alabama Film Office said 2020 is shaping up to be a blockbuster year as well.

Since Oct. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, more than a dozen entertainment productions have already qualified for tax rebates to film in Alabama, Faulk said.

She expects incentives to once again reach the $20 million cap, indicating a high level of expenditures in the state.

“With the increasing popularity of streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Studios, Disney+, HBO Max, CBS Access and Apple TV+, there is a growing demand for original filmed content,” Faulk said.

The Alabama Film Office projects that the escalating level of production spending in the state has created thousands of jobs over the past few years.

In 2012, for example, expenditures by qualified productions in Alabama totaled $33.5 million, less than half today’s level.

“Film productions have a huge economic impact when they come to a community. Many local behind-the-scenes crew such as carpenters, electricians, painters, technicians, make-up artists and extras are hired. Creating jobs is what this is all about,” Faulk said.

“A production will use local businesses such as catering services and equipment rentals. They also rent office space, homes, buildings, public and private property, etc. for locations. Cast and crew also fill up area hotels and neighborhood restaurants,” she added.

Two movies are now being filmed in Alabama, and another is on the way.

Lansky,” being shot in Mobile, stars Harvey Keitel as the notorious mobster Meyer Lansky and features Australian actor Sam Worthington, who appeared in “Avatar.” In Birmingham, director Dolph Lundgren, who also stars, is filming “Castle Falls.”

An Amazon Studios production, “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things,” begins shooting in late February in Fairhope and Mobile. Leading the cast are Kathryn Newton (“Big Little Lies”) and Kyle Allen (“American Horror Story.)”

ECONOMIC IMPACT

Brian Jones, also with the Alabama Film Office, said the state often sees lasting economic dividends from films beyond just the jobs they provide while shooting in Alabama.

“A major motion picture such as ‘Just Mercy’ will attract thousands of visitors to Montgomery’s civil rights sites, much like the music documentary ‘Muscle Shoals’ attracts visitors to the Shoals area,” Jones said.

“These movies will continue to impact the state’s tourism industry for years to come as new audiences watch them on video, streaming services and cable networks.”

Just Mercy,” starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx, was partially filmed in and around Montgomery beginning in August 2018. The Warner Bros. production recounts the true story of how attorney Bryan Stevenson (played by Jordan) cleared inmate Walter McMillian (Foxx), who was wrongly convicted of murder.

The film entered wide release at theaters in January and has earned critical praise.

ANTICIPATED RELEASES

Meanwhile, movies filmed in Alabama during 2019 will soon make their debuts.

One of them, “I Still Believe,” had a private screening earlier this month in Mobile, where it was shot. Distributor Lionsgate has set widespread release for March 13, and it will become the first faith-based movie to play in IMAX theaters, beginning March 11.

“I Still Believe” is the fifth film from Birmingham brothers Jon and Andy Erwin to feature Alabama. It depicts the true story of Christian music star Jeremy Camp and his journey of love and loss. Stars include Gary Sinise, Shania Twain, KJ Apa (“Riverdale”) and Melissa Roxburgh (“Manifest”).

The Erwins’ previous features include “October Baby”, “Coffee Shop“, “Mom’s Night Out”, and “Woodlawn.”

Another anticipated Alabama-filmed release is “The Devil All the Time,” a Netflix psychological thriller with an all-star cast that includes Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Bill Skarsgård, Sebastian Stan, Mia Wasikowska and Eliza Scanlon.

“The Devil All the Time” is described as a Midwestern Gothic tale that unfolds over two decades and features a cast of nefarious characters that includes a serial-killer couple, a faith-testing preacher and a corrupt sheriff.

Principal photography took place in locations in and around Birmingham, Anniston and Pell City between February and April 2019.

TELEVISION APPEAL

Faulk said Alabama is also becoming an increasingly popular location for television series productions.

These include “Love and Marriage: Huntsville” for Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network, “Sweet Home Sextuplets” for TLC (Guntersville) and “The Cowboy Way: Alabama” for INSP (Wiregrass area).

Alabama also boasts the long running syndicated series “Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford,” which films in Mobile and is entering its 22nd season.

The state is very popular with the high-profile HGTV channel, which films a large number of episodic shows here. HGTV also filmed a full season series, “Beach Flip,” in Gulf Shores that aired in 2016.

ATTRACTIVE LOCATIONS

Faulk said Alabama offers a wide variety of locations for film production crews, with a completely different look from one end of the state to the other, ranging from beaches to mountains and just about everything in between.

“Birmingham and Mobile continue to be our largest draw for film due to their size, diversity of locations and availability of crew. Huntsville also draws a great amount of interest, especially at the Space and Rocket Center,” she said. “Because we have so many beautiful and diverse state parks, they continue to be extremely popular for filming.

“But activity is taking place in many other cities across the state. Last year, we had filming in a wider range of locations, including Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, Dothan, Fairhope, Anniston, Jacksonville, Montevallo, Bessemer, McCalla and York,” she added.

The Alabama Film Office is part of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

10 hours ago

Jim Zeigler considering ‘exploratory’ effort for Alabama governor in 2022

After much speculation, Gov. Kay Ivey announced her intentions to seek another term as governor in 2022 earlier this month.

Despite what were perceived to be controversial positions on pushing the Rebuild Alabama Act that raised the gasoline tax, her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in determining what could remain open and closed and a failed Mobile Bay/I-10 toll bridge proposal, Ivey is still riding high in polling with strong approve-disapprove numbers.

However, State Auditor Jim Zeigler, whose term as auditor will be over after 2022 and is ineligible to run again because of term limits, told Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show” on Friday that he was considering a run for governor in 2022.

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“I believe it’s very important for Alabama taxpayers, for the state government, for our future to have a viable opponent who has been raising issues and trying to hold the Ivey administration accountable,” he said. “And that is why I am considering myself setting up an exploratory campaign to test the waters for a gubernatorial run. Who else is there — who else took the lead in blocking the toll bridge over Mobile Bay? Who else took the lead in blocking Amendment One that would have taken away your right to vote for school board members and have them all appointed by the Governor? Who else took the lead in blocking this prison rental plan that would have had us paying over $3 billion over 30 years and then owning zero equity in the prisons, a terrible business plan?”

“I don’t know,” Zeigler continued. “If not me, then who?”

If Zeigler runs against Ivey in 2022, it would not be the first time the two of their names appeared on a ballot in a race against one another. In Alabama’s 2020 Republican primary, Zeigler took on Ivey in a race for state delegate for the 2020 Republican National Convention.

Ivey prevailed with 7,182 votes to Zeigler’s 1,729 votes — a margin of 80.6% to 19.4%.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

13 hours ago

Alabama’s May unemployment rate drops to 3.4% — Post-pandemic rate at lows; Record high wages

Alabama’s post-COVID pandemic economic recovery seems to be humming along based on data released Friday by the Alabama Department of Labor.

According to a press release, Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington revealed Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted May unemployment rate is 3.4%, down from April’s rate of 3.6%.

The 3.4% rate tops the May 2020 number of 7.9%.

“May’s rate represents 75,458 unemployed persons, compared to 79,319 in April and 174,680 in May 2020,” the release said. “May’s unemployed count is the lowest in 2021.”

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(ADOL)

“Our record-breaking streak is continuing in May, and we hope that it continues throughout the rest of the year,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in the statement. “Yet again, we’ve dropped our unemployment rate and each month we are getting closer and closer to our pre-pandemic record low unemployment rate of 2.6%. Our economy is adding jobs, and earlier barriers to joining the workforce have been significantly reduced. In fact, there are more job postings than there are people counted as unemployed! Alabama is, once again, open for business.”

Data showed that wage and salary employment grew last month by 4,700.

“Monthly gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector (+5,000), the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+2,500), and the education and health services sector (+1,200), among others. Over the year, wage and salary employment increased 123,000, with gains in the leisure and hospitality sector (+37,100), the professional and business services sector (+23,000), and the manufacturing sector (+22,900), among others,” the release said.

Average weekly earnings for the private sector rose to a new record high of $974.12, up $66.91 over the year, according to the Department of Labor.

“As we continue to see improvement in nearly all sectors of the economy, we’re also seeing record high wages in Alabama,” Washington added. “Once again, our average weekly wages are at new record high, representing an almost $67 per week over-the-year increase. Both the leisure and hospitality and manufacturing sectors are showing record high wages as well, with significant yearly increases. The economy is responding as we expected to labor force fluctuations brought about by the pandemic.”

Broken down by county, Shelby County led the way with a rate of 1.8%, followed by Blount, Marshall, Franklin and DeKalb Counties.

Wilcox County topped the highest in the state with an unemployment rate of 8.8%.

When broken down by municipalities, Alabaster had the lowest rate at 1.7%. Selma had the state’s highest, coming in at 7.0%, followed by Prichard at 6.5% and Bessemer at 5.2%.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

14 hours ago

Shelby warns Biden on defense cuts — ‘Military investments in China and Russia … outpace U.S. investment’

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) fired his own warning shots over what he views as an inadequate defense budget proposal from President Joe Biden.

During a full Senate Committee on Appropriations review of Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 Department of Defense budget request, Shelby expressed his concern that the administration’s defense spending plan placed the nation at a disadvantage compared to its adversaries.

“The National Defense Strategy provides a road map for what the Department of Defense needs – at a minimum – to meet the challenges posed by a re-emergence of long-term strategic competition with China and Russia,” explained Shelby. “Anything less jeopardizes readiness, the recapitalization of capital assets, and necessary investments in new and emerging technologies.”

Shelby, who currently serves as vice chairman of the powerful Senate committee, believes that not meeting current national defense demands sends a dangerous message to the rest of the world.

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“This year, the budget proposal signals to the world that this administration is not committed to investing in readiness, training, state of the art equipment, and technological overmatch,” Shelby stated. “With military investments in China and Russia continuing to outpace U.S. investments, I find it hard to believe that the requirements outlined by General Dunford just four years ago are no longer instructive.”

This critical assessment from Alabama’s senior senator comes less than a month after the highest-ranking U.S. military officer described the nation’s relations with China and Russia as “fraying.”

In an address to graduates of the United States Air Force Academy, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said, “Right now we are in a great power competition with China and Russia. And we need to keep it at competition and avoid great power conflict.”

Milley and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

Shelby addressed both officials in his remarks, stating, “The world is a complex and dangerous place and I know that you both understand the magnitude of the challenges we face from our near peer adversaries who seek to undermine the United States’ position as a world leader and dominant military power. China and Russia are formidable adversaries and China, as you have acknowledged Secretary Austin, is proving to be a true pacing threat. China seeks hegemony – militarily, technologically, economically, and geopolitically – and is making unprecedented investments to see that to fruition.”

“Meanwhile, Russia is nearing the end of a massive military modernization program that saw its defense spending increase 30 percent in real dollars over the last 10 years,” he added.

Shelby concluded that he could not support an effective cut in defense spending in 2022.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

15 hours ago

U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl urges Biden to undergo tests for ‘mental impairment’

U.S. Representative Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) joined 13 of his congressional colleagues in urging President Joe Biden to undergo an examination to determine his mental fitness to serve.

The group cited a string of embarrassing verbal gaffes by the president as the basis for their request.

In a letter sent to Biden on Thursday, the Republican members of Congress explained, “We write to you today to express concern with your current cognitive state. We believe that, regardless of gender, age, or political party, all Presidents should follow the precedent set by former President Donald Trump to document and demonstrate sound mental abilities.”

They continued, “Unfortunately, your mental decline and forgetfulness have become more apparent over the past 18 months. In March, you forgot the name of the Pentagon, the Department of Defense, and the Defense Secretary, though you had said ‘Secretary Austin’ just a few minutes prior.”

In addition, the letter cites Biden’s telling of an Amtrak story with an inexplicable timeline, forgetting the first line of the Declaration of Independence and obvious disorientation during a visit to Texas as examples for why they believe Biden is in need of cognitive testing.

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The list of gaffes attributable to his mental acuity seems to be piling up for the 46th president.

During the G7 Summit in England recently, he asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to introduce the South African president.

RELATED: Biden lashes out at media member and Alabama native Kaitlan Collins over Putin — ‘You’re in the wrong business’

Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce has questioned whether Biden’s cognitive state is a national security liability.

Biden has received criticism in the early stages of his administration for calling on only a predetermined list of reporters during press conferences. The most recent instance of this occurred while Biden was in Geneva, Switzerland, for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Carl and the other letter signers pushed for transparency with any medical assessments being made, as well.

“We encourage you to follow the example set by President Trump by undergoing a cognitive test as soon as possible and immediately making the results available for the American people,” they concluded.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

16 hours ago

ALGOP chair John Wahl: AEA resurgence ‘a concern’; Reminds GOP candidates ‘not a good idea’ accept their campaign contributions

For the first time in nearly a decade, the Alabama Education Association (AEA) seemingly flexed its muscle at the end of the 2021 legislative session by successfully pushing through a two-year delay to the Literacy Act, which mandates children be able to read at a third grade level before proceeding to the fourth grade.

Gov. Kay Ivey vetoed the delay, but it left political watchers wondering if this was just the beginning of the AEA’s return to the forefront of Alabama politics.

During an appearance on FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show” on Thursday, Alabama Republican Party chairman John Wahl said it was indeed a concern for the party.

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“[I]t’s funny you bring that up because at one point in the past, there was actually a resolution passed by the state party, I believe, that was saying Republican candidates should not take money from the AEA because of their influence and the concern they would have over direct policy,” he stated. “So, of course, that’s a concern. That type of influence from anybody pushing to regulate themselves is never — you don’t want a group regulating themselves. That’s not good for policy.”

While there was a resolution in place that pertained to AEA campaign contributions to Republican candidates, Wahl said it was not an outright ban but a “strong recommendation” not to accept their money.

“I need to go back and look at the resolution in-depth,” Wahl said. “But I believe it was a resolution, so it’s not a direct ban. There’s no teeth to it. But it was a very strong recommendation to candidates — that it is not a good idea to take that money.”

“[T]here were jokes about how the AEA controlled the state and had a vast amount of control over policy and what would happen with the Governor’s office, the state legislature,” he explained. “So much of that has gotten better since Republicans have taken control. But you’re right — we’re seeing a resurgence, at least of their involvement. Hopefully not their influence.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.