‘Stranger Things’ Officially Establishes Atlanta As ‘Hollywood East’
How the city channels 1980s suburban America so effectively.
For Americans who grew up in the 80s, Netflix’s hit summer series “Stranger Things” brought back vivid memories of Dungeons & Dragons, middle school bullies and telephones the size of walkie-talkies. The supernatural thriller was “E.T.” meets “Stand By Me”?—?probing childhood fears in an environment navigable exclusively by a child’s favorite means of transportation: the bicycle. Its ability to capture the feel of 1980s suburban America was unrivaled.
The show is set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, but it was filmed in central Georgia. Wait, what? We know that sounds strange, but the show’s producers needed somewhere other than Indiana to film. The Hoosier State doesn’t exactly make life easy for film crews who are working on tight budgets and deadlines.
“Stranger Things” producers also needed a location that could speak to the universality of the small American town. Jackson, Georgia presented just that opportunity. It sounds random, but listen: The show’s production designer, Chris Trujillo, told the architecture and film site Interiors that he picked Jackson (pop. 5,035) because “there are all of these incredible neighborhoods, that, with very little modification, perfectly paint the picture of split-level ranch-style suburbia, born in the 60s, that came to define the look of 70s and 80s American life.”
In other words, it’s quintessential 80s Americana.
The success of “Stranger Things” has thrown a spotlight on the Atlanta area as the new hub for TV and movie makers to film. The city once known as the “Big Peach” or “Hotlanta” (because it’s, well, really fucking hot there) is now being called “Hollywood East” because it’s become the third-most-popular shooting location for Hollywood crews, after Los Angeles and the United Kingdom. Hollywood dropped about $7 billion in Georgia last year, so it’s likely that the industry’s fondness for the state is reciprocal.
Here’s why filmmakers love Georgia so much. First off, it has four distinct seasons. With a city skyline, mountains, quarries and lush forests, the state can therefore be transformed into virtually any landscape you can think of. In AMC’s zombie series “The Walking Dead,” it’s a post-apocalyptic wilderness, full of farmland and woods, small-town main streets and desolate warehouses. For FX’s new comedy “Atlanta,” it’s the green, low-income sprawl that’s familiar to African Americans across the country, but rarely seen on television outside of “C.O.P.S.”
On the practical side, Atlanta boasts the world’s busiest airport, with 26 flights a day to Los Angeles, where most of the movie industry lives and works. Atlanta is also home to a vast media empire created by Ted Turner, who founded CNN in the early 1980s, which means the city has no shortage of experienced production crews. The state of Georgia sweetens the deal for filmmakers by offering 20% tax breaks, which go up to 30% if producers put Georgia’s state logo in the credits.
Last but not least, Atlanta is significantly cheaper to live, work and operate in than Los Angeles, New York or London. Your average one-bedroom apartment in Atlanta runs about $1,000 a month.
Now that you know all that, wouldn’t you agree there are far stranger things than location scouts choosing the Big Peach to film in?
We thought so.