In Decatur, you never know when you'll bump into a celebrity filming their next big hit.
For years, Decatur has proven to be a hub for production crews. From the beginning of 2011 through 2015, the city issued 146 filming permits for a variety of movies and television shows. Just this year alone, 18 permits have been issued.
Newer movies include “Lila & Eve” with Jennifer Lopez, “Barbershop: The Next Cut” starring Ice Cube and Nicki Minaj, and “The Boss” with Melissa McCarthy.
“A lot of times they like the small town vibe and the historic parts,” said Shirley Baylis, the city’s special events and community outreach coordinator.
Baylis believes that, in addition to Decatur’s charm, it’s the attitude of the city and the residents that ultimately attract these production crews.
“I think the fact that we offer a smooth process is a huge thing to them,” she said. “We’re very welcoming as a community to the industry.”
This isn't new for Decatur, accustomed to being on the big screen. “Driving Miss Daisy” was released in 1989 and filmed in Atlanta — and, yes, Decatur.
According to Baylis, some of the most popular filming locations in Decatur are the Old Dekalb County Courthouse and the Decatur Cemetery, which have been the setting for films like Jack Black’s “Goosebumps” released in 2015.
City officials do respect citizens’ privacy when filming crews come to town, and the production teams are asked to inform residents when they plan to use certain roads or public spaces, like parks. The open communication avoids tension, and Baylis says most citizens seem to enjoy the film crews.
“They enjoy finding actors as they’re walking,” she said, adding that many times the actors use local gyms in the mornings and eat at local restaurants.
The film companies will also compensate local schools or churches to use their parking lots on occasion.
“Overall it’s been a positive thing for our businesses,” Baylis said.
With new programs being implemented this year to speed up the process, Baylis thinks the city will be approving even more permits in the coming years.
Agnes Scott College, an all-women’s liberal arts university, is another popular filming location in Decatur.
“This is an exciting time for the state of Georgia with all the film shoots coming to the area,” said Demetrice Williams, the school's senior director of special events and community relations.
She says that the number of television shows and movies that film at Agnes Scott varies annually.
“We have had as many as five to six productions in one year,” she said. “And sometimes we’ve had none.”
One of the more popular spots on campus for film crews, Williams says, is Buttrick Hall.
“It’s one of the oldest buildings on the campus,” she said, “and it has that character that most of the period pieces are looking for.”
Compensation from the film crews goes to general operations for the college, she says. The positive impact of these film crews span beyond the monetary compensation, however.
“We ask each film production for some involvement for our students,” Williams said. “It’s an opportunity for those who have an interest in that industry.”
Agnes Scott offers a minor in film and media studies, so there are students enrolled who have an interest in the subject. Involvement in these productions can range from being an extra in the movie to taking a field trip to watch the crew at work.
Check out the map below to see popular filming locations in Decatur and some of the more recent movies and shows that were produced there: