Editor’s note: In this new occasional Limleighter feature, Klamath Film members share their perspective on the film and entertainment industry as well as local filmmaking.
The year was 2008. The town of Senoia, Georgia, population 4,000, had withered to almost a ghost town. There were only a handful of businesses left on Main Street. Desperate to create a new identity for the town, local industry and economic development leaders began aggressively marketing the town to film and television productions. Less than three years later, a fledgling show decided to shoot its 6-episode first season in Senoia. It was a little story called “The Walking Dead.”
Senioa is now the site of several long term locations for TWD. The floodgates have opened for multiple additional film and TV productions shooting in town. This boom recently had Senoia named “Richest Town in Georgia, population 1,000-25,000” by USA Today. The handful of Main Street businesses has expanded to over 50, with every storefront filled, and an ever-expanding wait list of new businesses wanting to get in.
Klamath and Senoia
The relevance to Klamath Falls and the surrounding area becomes clear. We are a town seeking a new identity, just as Senoia was 10 years ago. Like Senoia, we are struggling to fill empty storefronts on Main Street with vibrant businesses. Also like Senoia, we are blessed with beautiful, diverse landscapes, friendly locals, and a welcoming business community. Behind the scenes, film and television producers like myself, Jesse Widener, Paul Harris, and David Kirk West, in concert with Klamath Film, the local nonprofit that hosts the Klamath Independent Film Festival, have been working to put in place many of the same attractors that spurred the rebirth of Senoia.
Historically, with the coming of the railroad in 1909, Klamath Falls boomed through access and easy transport of logging products. The town expanded from a few hundred to many thousands. Before I-5 relocated the main traffic away from town, Klamath Falls also became known as a hotbed for the arts. Movie houses and stage theaters could be found dotting the landscapes of Main Street and beyond. However, with the creation of the I-5 corridor and the subsiding of the lumber boom, traffic, jobs, and theaters disappeared. Tourism has partially filled the void, but a powerful, new economic identity is still needed to revitalize the area. That’s where film and TV come in.
Filming in Klamath
Just in the last two years, multiple smaller productions have shot here. Available for viewing online is the documentary “Ragland,” by Paul Harris and Jesse Widener, a fascinating recounting of the history of theater in Klamath Falls over the years. Following that was the shooting of “Phoenix, Oregon,” a six-figure production from Gary and Anne Lundgren, that housed cast and crew in town, and employed many locals, including extras, for a few months in early 2018.
Shortly thereafter, a few episodes for a Discovery Channel show were shot locally, as was my own production of the short film “Stitched to Perfection.” “Stitched,” from an original story written by a Ponderosa Middle School student, Jillian Flogerzi, starred an all-local cast of young actors, and premiered at this year’s Klamath Independent Film Festival.
I, and co-producer Judith Sobresky, as Fifth Coast Films, are working to bring our next production, a multi-million dollar first season TV show, “Elementals,” to shoot in Klamath Falls and the surrounding mountains. Our hope is to not only bring additional productions, and the economic benefits that follow, but also to give our community a new and exciting identity — one that gives locals a reason to feel proud, while filling downtown storefronts and breathing new life into our town.
We are doing this by following the gracious model of Senoia, a pathway that led it from a dusty afterthought to the “richest town in the state.”
About the author: Klamath Film member Brian Keith Ellis is a writer and producer with Happy Catastrophe Productions, Best Friends Films and Fifth Coast Films.