1 month ago

Roy Wood Jr. wants to help grow the television and film industry in Alabama

Comedian Roy Wood Jr. came home to Birmingham to produce a television show but ended up playing the part of Nick Fury in the Avengers movies … sort of.

“Organizing the infrastructure needed to make sure a television show could happen here in terms of finding all of the resources – you knew they were here but you had to find them,” Wood said. “It was like Samuel L. Jackson in the Avengers movies going around from hero to hero to form the Avengers. You had to go to Iron Man, ‘Hey, do you have a camera? Cool.’ You had to go to Captain America, ‘Hey, do you have a truck with stuff in it? Cool.’ Then you’ve got to go over to the Hulk, ‘Hey, Hulk, we’re trying to shoot a TV show. Do you have lights? Do you have a building where we can put the camera and the truck stuff? Cool.’ ‘Hey, Comedy Central, these guys have trucks, lights, cameras and it’s just as affordable as Atlanta. Can I do my show?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Thank you.’”

It took Wood 18 months to assemble the pieces needed to produce a television show pilot in Birmingham and show Comedy Central he could do it at a cost that compared to Atlanta.

“It was worth it because at the end of the day we were able to shoot the pilot for ‘Jefferson County: Probation’ here in the state,” Wood said.

Roy Wood Jr. talks filming Comedy Central pilot in Birmingham, growing film industry in Alabama from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

He did so with a 90-person crew, 60 of them Alabamians and many of them minorities.

“It was a very inclusive crew and staff and that’s something that I’m very, very proud of,” Wood said. “Because, ultimately, where film and television are concerned, if you’re trying to grow an industry, there has to be opportunities to work and so many people look past Alabama. To be from here and have an opportunity to shoot a project and to not fight first for Alabama to be a place, I would be remiss if I didn’t do that.”

The pilot for “Jefferson County: Probation” is still in development at Comedy Central.

“We’re looking at maybe reshooting a scene or two and maybe reworking some of the script,” Wood said. “I still maintain a great relationship with Comedy Central, lots of projects in the hopper. ‘JeffCo’ is just one of those that’s taking a little longer to get done.”

Wood hopes that the show gets picked up and he intends to shoot it and some of his other ideas for shows in Alabama.

Alabama has had some success getting movies to shoot here.

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

“Film productions have a huge economic impact when they come to a community,” Kathy Faulk of the Alabama Film Office said in a recent story. “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.”.

While such one-off projects are important, Wood said a television show can be even more significant.

“Film is very important to things working in a place, but I honestly believe that TV can help sustain a market,” he said. “You need a television show that shoots regularly, and not just reality shows. I know that there are reality shows that shoot in the state and they are viable and they are important, but if you have a scripted show, that is shooting 10 to 13 episodes on a regular revolving door.”

Wood joked that just like Chicago has a growing list of shows with “Chicago” in their names, he doesn’t see why the same couldn’t happen for Birmingham.

“’Chicago Med,’ ‘Chicago Fire,’ ‘Chicago Pizza,’ ‘Chicago Truck,’ ‘Chicago Hospital,’ ‘Chicago Police,’ like, that’s what I dream for, but in the short term, we just hope that the pilot comes together and that Comedy Central gives us the green light,” Wood said. “In the meantime, we continue to develop the show. And that’s not the only project. The more stuff that I write, the things that I create, I think there are ways to do things around here that are just as on point as anywhere else in the country.”

“Jefferson County: Probation” was inspired by Wood’s own brush with the law as a teenager when he was able to avoid jail and serve time on probation for attempting to use a stolen credit card to buy some blue jeans. The experience taught him how great of a role probation officers play in helping people go straight.

“What I discovered was how much of the system is based on just whether or not someone cares,” he said. “This is a television show about what would happen to recidivism if more people cared and also if the people on probation always did the right thing.”

It’s a different part of the criminal justice system than we’re used to seeing on television, Wood said.

“I think it’s a story about an honest piece of America that’s rarely discussed,” he said. “When you generally discuss law enforcement and entertainment, it’s either catch the crook, court with the crook or the crook in jail. There’s never a conversation about what it looks like to re-enter society as a different person or maybe you didn’t change. Either way it’s about the men and women that work day in, day out to interact with these people to help give them the opportunities to rebuild their lives after making bad mistakes.

“The job of probation (officer) is considered law enforcement, but I think it’s probably 70% social work,” he said.

Expanding an industry

Wood would like to see it easier for other movies and television shows to be produced in the state.

“There were so many problems that I had to solve first, before even making the proposal to Comedy Central,” he said. “When I talk about that, I’m talking about things like just making sure that there’s just the infrastructure of just having the proper grip trucks that you need – the things that you need just in terms of making sure that you have trained crew.”

He wants to be involved in finding the solution.

“I think doing what I can to build film and TV in Alabama is very important,” Wood said. “This isn’t something that’s exclusive to Birmingham. There are great vistas down in Mobile. Mobile has a very strong production crew. Huntsville is making noise. To me, this is about the state of Alabama and if I have an opportunity to bring my projects here that are ‘bona fide’ by the (West) Coast, then it helps to bonify the state. That’s not a bad thing and I think that’s a very fair contribution.”

Wood grew up in Birmingham and he said he learned to appreciate the city and the state after he left it. Wood said he soon learned that building up the image of Alabama was more important than trying to build up the image of Birmingham.

“I think that Alabama stands to gain as a group,” he said. “The reason why building Alabama is important is because when you leave your respective city in Alabama, nobody cares about your city, they just say, ‘You’re from Alabama’ and then they crack jokes or they make assumptions on you based on the state you’re from, not the city. So, whether you like it or not, when you leave Birmingham, when you leave Huntsville, when you leave Tuscaloosa, to the rest of the world, you’re just from Alabama. They ain’t got time to separate us because they think we’re all dumb. So, to me, it’s important to uplift the state and talk about the state as a whole because once those perceptions change, then I think that’s where you can have a lot more growth.”

Not that Wood is interested in taking on everyone who has something negative to say about the state.

“In the meantime, we can’t be worried about what the outside thinks about us, we have to rebuild and repair from within,” he said. “I think that Alabama’s a very resilient place. I think it’s a place that is very focused on growth. There are a lot of people in this state that I believe don’t do things that benefit this state. There are a lot of people in positions, in elected positions in this state that I truly don’t believe are for this state. But in spite of that, we’ve still got to work and pull your bootstraps up because if there’s one thing that’s clear, there’s nobody on the outside gonna help us.”

Wood’s father worked in radio and, after going to Florida for college, Wood would return to Birmingham where he got a job at 95.7 JAMZ in 2001. His comedy skits on the radio and his work on his stand-up comedy career earned him recognition at Comedy Central and a regular spot on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.”

These days, Wood very much wants to use his standing with the network to help make his home state better. He’s become an ambassador for Birmingham and Alabama to his friends in Hollywood and New York and when he brings them to town he takes them to places like Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-QNiki’s WestGreen AcresMilo’s and Yo’ Mama’s.

“When I’m home, I’m trying to get all of the stuff I can’t get when I’m somewhere else,” Wood said. “If I come home and my friend wants to go to Applebee’s, I’ll curse them out. No disrespect to Applebee’s, but I can get that other places. When I’m home, you can’t get Niki’s West in New York City.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

14 mins ago

State Sen. Chambliss: Ivey doing ‘a great job’ on coronavirus — ‘I applaud her for just hanging in there and making those tough decisions’

The coronavirus pandemic has prevented a set of unforeseen challenges that almost no government official in the upper echelons of an executive could have imagined. Included among those are challenges deciding the whats and when of closures, which could have profound economic impacts.

In Alabama, State Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), while acknowledging his reluctance to be critical, credited Gov. Kay Ivey for taking on those challenges stemming from the COVID-19 breakout.

Chambliss told Huntsville radio WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show” that he thought Ivey was acting in good faith, putting what was best for Alabama in front throughout her decisionmaking processes.

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“As a past chairman of a county commission, which is obviously small compared to this situation — you know, I was in situations where I had to make decisions about closures and that kind of stuff — and those were just for a day or two, nothing like she has done,” he said. “There is no way it is the time for us to look at that — should we do this, should we do that. I think she is doing a great job. She is doing what she thinks is best. Obviously, she has every bit of the information she can in making those decisions.”

“And you and I are a level or two removed from all that information in real-time,” Chambliss continued. “So, I applaud her for just hanging in there and making those tough decisions. After the fact, I’m sure she’ll say to herself, ‘I wish I had done this,’ or, ‘I wish I had done that.’ But now is not the time for me to do it, specifically. But there’ll be plenty of time to look at that kind of thing later, and learn from it — and do better next time.”

As to whether or not Alabamians were adhering to the guideline set by policymakers, the Autauga County Republican legislator said it took some time, but now most appear to be on board.

“I don’t think they were initially, especially some of the initial discussion was that it primarily affects older people,” Chambliss said. “We now know, at least in the United States, I think the numbers are around 40% or greater that are younger than 65. I think that gave them a false sense of invincibility, and that’s not going to be a problem for me. We see that it has been a problem for some. More importantly, they spread it around, and then it causes problems for their loved ones. I think that’s starting to sink in with people now — even the younger generation, kind of now are, ‘I need to be a little bit more careful than I was.’ I think it is starting to sink in now, although I don’t think it was initially.”

@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 Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.

Get back on the road to recovery — $350 billion is now available to small businesses

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44 mins ago

7 Things: Guidelines on reopening the economy could come soon, everyone wants the coronavirus stimulus check, Biden the Dem nominee and more …

7. Apparently, the coronavirus only strikes at night

  • Mobile has put out a city-wide curfew from 10:oo p.m. until 5: a.m. that prohibits anyone who isn’t going to their essential job from being out. Fairhope’s city council voted on whether to adopt this same curfew but voted it down. 
  • Council President Jack Burrell said he had “real concerns” about issuing a curfew, and the council saw that a curfew could cause raise the chances of law enforcement being exposed to the coronavirus if they have to pull over more people for violating a curfew. Councilman Robert Brown argued that he’s against “further restrictions on personal freedoms.”

6. Hyundai plant extends its shutdown

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  • Hyundai has decided to keep their Montgomery production plant closed until at least May 4 after being suspended on March 18. 
  • The Montgomery plant has about 3,000 employees. There will be new safety measures when work does resume, but for now, the shutdown “is in the best interest of protecting the health and well-being of team members and communities, and to align vehicle production with current consumer demand.”

5. It wasn’t China, it was Europe or something

  • The American media is selling a narrative Thursday morning that the coronavirus didn’t come from China, but it came from Europe. The hook is that the travel ban to China was worthless while the travel ban to Europe came far too late.
  • This ignores a few obvious things. The coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, the Chinese and the World Health Organization lied about the spread, and when the travel bans were implemented, these same outlets screeched like banshees about how wrong travels bans are.

4. Aderholt wants us to “Buy America”

  • In a letter sent to President Donald Trump, U.S. Representative Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) advocates for more “Buy America policies,” adding how this pandemic has shown how important is it for the United States to not rely so heavily on other countries. 
  • Aderholt wrote that “we must prevent foreign control over the supply and price of health-related commodities in the United States.” He also noted the push to have more American-made medical supplies is being brought up by former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. 

3. It’s Biden, it was Biden all along

  • U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has admitted that “Vice President Biden will be the nominee” after deciding to suspend his 2020 Democratic presidential Campaign. 
  • Even though his campaign is suspended, Sanders has said he will “stay on the ballot in all remaining states and continue to gather delegates.” He insisted that his “movement” isn’t over and is still about “justice.”

2. Everyone wants the checks to come quicker

  • The coronavirus stimulus package that would pay many Americans $1,200 has already been approved and signed, so now everyone is waiting for their money. U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) wants the checks sent out quickly. 
  • Jones and U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) are suggesting that the Treasury Department send out debit cards to people instead of paper checks since there were plans to likely not send checks until late April. Jones said, “A slight lag between Congressional action and the support arriving to workers is understandable, the Treasury Department must act expeditiously to get these funds to their intended recipients.”

1. CDC could start relaxing guidelines soon

  • The media and the elites got it very wrong and now Americans want a chance to get back to some form of normalcy. Now, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is considering relaxing restrictions. Trump wants to give leeway to the states with “red zones” and “green zones” within the country to show where the government believes it’s safe to reopen. 
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci has also said that if social distancing rules already in place successfully flattens the curve, then we need to “at least plan what a re-entry into normality would look like,” and we need to “be prepared to ease into that.”

1 hour ago

House Majority Ldr Ledbetter: ‘The people in our state are strong — They’re going to come back better than ever’

In recent days, some of the doom and gloom resulting from the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on Alabama has given way to optimism.

Among those with an optimistic disposition regarding the state’s handling of COVID-19 and the state’s economy is Alabama House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville).

During an interview with Huntsville radio’s WVNN on Wednesday, Ledbetter laid out why he sees the state turning a corner in its fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

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“I don’t think there’s any question about it,” Ledbetter said of a perceived change in trends for the better. “The models indicate that. When you put everything in that they ask for — once you do that, it shows up dropping in numbers. At one time, some of the models were showing us at 5,000 deaths. I think now it has decreased down into the hundreds, and maybe even lower than that. That’s certainly been important for the people in our state. The things we look for — you know the question today was what will see when we start going back to normal?”

“That was one of the things — fewer cases and deaths, and more tests we’ll get out, the better off we’ll be,” he continued. “The curve that everybody’s talked about — hospital capacity, we’re actually in pretty good shape right now, the state of Alabama. We’ve got about 50% of our beds available. Somewhere around 36% of our ICU beds are available. We’ve got about 800 ventilators, which has increased pretty significantly. When we started out, we had 1,333 ventilators in this state, and I think we’re up to some 1,800 ventilators.”

Ledbetter credited many institutions around Alabama for getting the ventilator count up, from nursing school to the veterinarian school at Auburn University, and pointed to an effort to refurbish some ventilators that were in disrepair.

He also credited State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.

“I’ve got to give credit to Dr. Harris,” he said. “I think he has done a tremendous job — him and Dr. [Don] Williamson, in my opinion very fortunate to have those two. Dr. Williamson over the hospital association, and of course, Dr. Scott Harris is over [the Alabama Department of Public Health]. Those two have worked in tandem, and I really truly believe they’re one of the main reasons we’re where we are at today and have been hit no harder than what we have been hit.”

The Dekalb County Republican lawmaker insisted the state would rally back to an even better position economically.

“If we can get this behind us, and get our economy growing — you know, our Alabama economy as growing better than it ever has in my lifetime,” he explained. “Unemployment was 2.7%. We had added some 24,000 jobs and $14 billion into the economy. You know, it almost hit a brick wall. We’ll see how it comes out, and listen — the people in our state are strong. They’re going to come back better than ever. I really believe that.”

@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 Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.

1 hour ago

Yellowhammer connects your business to Alabama consumers

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