A few mondays ago, I came home from work, unlocked my front door, and found about fifteen strangers standing in my house. Where once there had been a wall separating my living room from my kitchen, there were now fragments of sheetrock hanging from exposed two-by-fours. Through the studs I could see my wife in the kitchen, grinning. I call it the “kitchen,” but it really wasn’t a kitchen anymore. Everything was gone—the stove, the refrigerator with its incessant humming, the drawers that always fell off their runners, the black-tiled countertop with the disgusting grout where crumbs collected. All gone. Even the floor—an off-white ceramic tile that the dogs loved to scuff up—was stripped to the wood. Honestly, given the galactic hatred I held for my kitchen, I found all this nothingness to be a vast improvement.
My reaction, as ridiculous as it must have appeared, was captured by the cameramen positioned in the dining room. It turns out we had been chosen to appear in a program on the A&E network called Fix This Kitchen. The nominator (in this case, my wife) conspires with the producers to surprise the recipient (me) with a new kitchen in five days. When I’d left for work that morning, the crew had been down the block, waiting. As soon as I disappeared around the corner, they rolled up and the work began. By the time I walked in that night, the demolition was almost complete. In the next hundred hours, they would transform my kitchen from garish to gorgeous.
I tell this story not only because I still can’t believe this happened to me, but also to illustrate how even the most modest (and hurried) production can have a domino effect on the local economy. The production crew hired local contractors—Oakhurst Partners, who turned out to be neighbors of ours. They in turn subcontracted out to electricians and plumbers and painters. The new kitchen came from the local Ikea. Craft service was set up in the basement, and every day lunch and dinner came from a different restaurant. The crew stayed at a Doubletree, and each night they discovered some of the best restaurants and bars in the city. A&E even put my family up at a Holiday Inn for the week, since the renovation went round the clock. On Friday, after the finished product was revealed, the crew held a big party at Cakes & Ale in Decatur. That weekend they dropped off their rental cars and flew home.
Keep in mind this was just one thirty-minute episode of one TV show. Consider a whole series, like The Walking Dead or The Vampire Diaries. Consider a feature film, whether it’s Tyler Perry’s latest project or a remake of Footloose. When I was driving home the other day, I passed my old apartment and saw that Billy Bob Thornton had rented out the house next door to film some scenes from Jayne Mansfield’s Car. The financial impact of TV and film here has been nothing short of miraculous for the Georgia economy, where unemployment has topped a staggering 10 percent.
Not surprisingly, one of the features in this issue I found most interesting was the chart on page 82 that takes one movie—the Farrelly brothers’ The Three Stooges—and picks apart just how the production’s budget rippled out across the city, whether it was to caterers or animal trainers. The benefits are tangible. I’m lucky enough to be reminded of those benefits every time I open my front door.