Leila Case: HGTV wraps ‘Americus the Beautiful’ pilot film
Published 12:51 pm Saturday, September 2, 2017
“It’s a wrap,” announces the producer satisfied after a day’s filming. The camera man, the cast, crew and “extras,” weary from hours on the set, finally go home.
There were many of us from the community that were “extras” in “Dancing with the White Dog,” the Hallmark made-for-television movie based on the novel by Georgia author Terry Kay starring Jessica Tandy and her husband Hume Cronin, now deceased, that was filmed here the summer of 1993.
We got a taste of the hard work that goes into making a movie one blistering hot June day as “take after take” of one scene was shot on the set at Rehoboth Baptist Church. As dawn moved to mid-day and then to dusk we were all tired, hungry, sweaty and ready to get out of costume and go home to cool off. We were thrilled when the producer was happy and called it a wrap for the day.
Making the television movie here caused quite a stir. At the time, I was lifestyles editor at the Americus-Times Recorder and wrote often about the making of a movie. After all, Hollywood doesn’t come to town every day. I filled pages with photos and features written from many angles. I even interviewed White Dog, a large, white, furry and quite handsome canine, whose story was central to the movie. He was in the Los Angeles dog pound when the movie folks noticed his regal qualities and sharp mind. He immediately became a star. During our interview in his air-conditioned trailer, his trainers translated his responses and afterward he posed for a photograph, standing with one front paw propped on the fence railing at Buchanan Farms.
After two months, the movie was a “wrap” and Hollywood left town. Everyone patiently waited for its release on the first Sunday night in December. What fun to see it unfold on the television screen although it was a tiny bit disconcerting to see myself appear in the brief scene that took all day to film.
Since then, Hollywood hasn’t been back to town until a film crew with EQTV, a company contracted by HGTV, arrived in mid-July to shoot a pilot film of the step-by-step restoration of the circa 1850s house at 402 W. Church St. for a program dubbed “Americus the Beautiful” to be shown later this year. If the show receives good ratings, the network’s executives plan to restore other historic structures here.
It took team work and cooperation from everyone to meet the tight, seven-week deadline. They did it. Watching the restoration as it moved along has been a point of interest for many reasons. It may be due to its rise from ashes to celebrity status. The house was already on the market when an attic fire broke out, causing smoke and water damage that made it uninhabitable and difficult to sell. So, it stayed vacant for 18 months until HGTV came along and noticed its charm and potential.
EQTV’s Brenton Metzler of Los Angeles, the show’s co-producer, wrapped up last Saturday morning. That afternoon he flew back home to the west coast and he is already on another job for HGTV in Hawaii. Brenton was always gracious when I stopped by to get an update, greeting me with a smile and cheerful hello; I really had to discipline myself to limit my visits because I didn’t want to wear out my welcome and get banned from the property.
Brenton told me I could get a “sneak peek” at the finished work before they locked the door to head out of town. You know I went. As I walked from room to room, I was amazed at the transformation that took the house from a sow’s ear to a silk purse. The redesign in the living room and kitchen is awesome and much more updated. That, with the addition of 21st century amenities and tasteful furniture and appointments throughout, is eye-pleasing.
I’m sure the “grand ‘old gal” will get over the top ratings following her “big reveal” on HGTV. She was already a star but even more so now. On the last day of shooting, a few people from the community, Genie and Rick Powell; Justin and Rachel Arnold and daughters, Sloan and Charlotte; Charlene Pennymon, her daughter and son-in-law, Clarissa and Jason Cadogan; Trina Shattles; Melanie Weaver and Faith Hochman tool a sneak peek and were duly impressed.
That just puts the icing on HGTV’s “Americus the Beautiful.”
Leila Sisson Case lives in Americus.