By Amy Wenk

amywenk@reporternewspapers.net

It was difficult to traverse Club Drive in Historic Brookhaven, which connects Peachtree Road to Peachtree-Dunwoody Road. Lines of cars and equipment trucks lined the residential street while a cop directed traffic along the confined roadway.

The commotion came from crews who took over the 4100 block of Club Drive last month for the filming of “Life As We Know It.” The romantic comedy from Warner Brothers stars Katherine Heigl of the television drama “Grey’s Anatomy” and Josh Duhamel of the blockbuster movie “Transformers.” Scheduled for release Dec. 22, the movie follows two single adults who become caregivers of a girl when her parents — their mutual best friends — die in a car accident.

The movie, which is directed by Greg Berlanti, began filming in Atlanta this September at a bakery in the Virginia-Highlands.

The production then moved to the stately family home on Club Drive, which will serve as the exterior of the house owned by the young couple, said Frank Clementi, president of the Historic Brookhaven Neighborhood Association. The organization worked closely with site managers to coordinate the scene.

Around Labor Day, Club Drive was closed completely to stage a block party scene with a barbecue and live band.

“Extras, many of whom live in the neighborhood, wandered up and down the street having fun at the celebration and getting the close look at the films stars,” said Clementi, who got a tour of the set Oct. 19 with his two children.

“Life As We Know It” is expected to film in Atlanta into November. The interior of the home will be shot in Norcross said Clementi.

Georgia is becoming entertainment hotspot

“Life As We Know It” is the first production Clementi has seen in the Historic Brookhaven neighborhood in the 10 years he has lived there.

He said the movie’s location scouts were familiar with Druid Hills, where “Driving Ms. Daisy” was filmed, but not Brookhaven.

“After they discovered this area, they just really loved it,” Clementi said. The site selection manager “told me to expect Hollywood to keep coming” and that “Brookhaven is a hidden gem for onsite film productions.”

The entertainment industry finds Georgia quite promising.

In May 2008, Gov. Sonny Perdue signed legislation that boosted the state tax credit for production companies. Now film, television, music videos and similar projects that spend at least $500,000 in Georgia can qualify for tax credits up to 30 percent.

The result is more entertainment companies are coming to the South.

“It looks like the level of activity is going to be up significantly this year over 2008,” said Oscar Turner, former chief operating officer for Atlanta-based Terry Perry Studios. In July, he began his own feature film and television company, Gallery Road Productions LLC. “I certainly think that Georgia can have a prominent position in production outside of Los Angles and New York … maybe a top five location.”

He said several factors make Georgia a desirable location.

“When you are looking for a location for a film, there are a couple of things that make Georgia attractive,” said Turner, who began his career as vice president of motion picture planning with Paramount Pictures. “One is the relatively temperate climate … The second thing that I love about shooting here is the versatile topography. You have got mountains, city, and ocean.”

He added it is helpful that Georgia already has production infrastructure already in place, including the bustling Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

“You’ve got crews,” Turner said. “You have got people who are familiar with the production process, and you’ve got studio space.”

Those positives are encouraging more and larger-budget productions to the state. Turner said he has talked to several independent producers who are looking at Georgia as a possible home.

Considering the average feature film has a budget of $41.7 million, the entertainment industry has quite an impact on that state.

“By its very nature, it impacts almost all walks of business life from the airport to the hotels to the restaurants to retail chains to beauty shops and the life,” Turner. “It has a fairly comprehensive affect on a state’s or a city’s economy.”

In 2008, there were 637 productions shot in Georgia, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development (www.georgia.org). The economic impact of these projects was approximately $524 million.

A prominent production industry also could impact tourism in Georgia, Turner said.

“The business that we are in is a worldwide business,” he said. “And because people are so excited about entertainment, to become one of the premiere locations for entertainment production really does attract the interest of people worldwide.”