By Amy Wenk
If you drove along Roswell Road in Buckhead in mid-September, you might have wondered why several large trucks crowded the entrance to the Roxy Theatre.
The vehicles were there to support the filming of a television pilot above Clive Christian in the space formerly occupied by Trone.
Called “Drop Dead Diva,” the one-hour TV series is the creation of Emmy-nominated executive producer Josh Berman, who has written for and produced such shows as “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “Bones.”
“It’s a legal dramedy,” said Berman, 37. “A beautiful, vapid wanna-be model dies, and her soul comes back to life in the body of an overweight but brilliant attorney.”
Broadway actress Brooke Elliot stars as Jane, the lawyer who becomes the host for the soul of Deb, the self-absorbed model who looks to redeem herself in the afterlife. Comic Margaret Cho has signed on to play Jane’s assistant, and Jackson Hurst has the role of Grayson Kent, ex-boyfriend of Deb and lawyer at Jane’s firm.
“There’s nothing like it on TV,” Berman said. “We deal with issues of brains vs. beauty, what it’s like to have your whole world change simply because you are now in a different, less attractive body. There’s comedy but also real drama. I hope to deconstruct the beauty myth in an entertaining way.”
Berman said he decided to film in Buckhead after the success of his last project, “Vanished,” which also was produced in the area.
“I love Atlanta,” he said. “People in Atlanta were extremely friendly and welcoming.”
Berman said all scenes were shot on location, without sound stages. In addition to filming near the Roxy, the crew traveled to Inman Park and Oakland Cemetery.
“Drop Dead Diva” will air on Lifetime Television. Sony Pictures Television and Storyline Entertainment are producing the show. Filming was completed Sept. 24, and editing will last about a month, Berman said. Lifetime has not announced when the series will air.
The Entertainment Industry Investment Act, which Gov. Sonny Perdue signed in May, could bring more productions like “Drop Dead Diva” to Georgia to film. The legislation offers a 20 percent flat tax credit for productions that spend a minimum of $500,000 in the state. An additional 10 percent tax credit is available if the producers include an animated Georgia promotional logo within the finished product.
“We know that our excellent talent base and outstanding locations make Georgia a very desirable place to film,” Perdue said in a news release. “This legislation puts in place the economic cornerstone that will encourage producers to convert that desire into action.”
The incentives apply not only to films, TV series, commercials and music videos, but also to animation, interactive entertainment and video game production. The economic impact of all of those segments in the state was $413 million for 2007.
Since the inception of the Georgia Film Commission in 1973, more than 575 major motion pictures, independent films, television series and pilots, and TV movies have been filmed on location in the state. As a result, more than $5 billion has been generated for the state’s economy.