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There’s unmined gold in these hills

Johnson City Press • Jan 13, 2019 at 8:15 AM

Thirty years ago, Johnson City was abuzz about the pending arrival of action star Chuck Norris to film portions of his latest movie in the area.

Filming for “Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection” principally had taken place in the Philippines, but after a helicopter crash on the set killed four crew members and the pilot, the production company completed scenes here. Since the plot was set in South America, a casting call went out for Hispanic-looking extras, resulting in a crowd of would-be movie stars at what was then the Garden Plaza Hotel.

So why did Hollywood come calling on Northeast Tennessee in 1989? Our mountains.

As Press Staff Writer Jessica Fuller reported in Monday’s Mountain Mischief section, owners of a local production company think the scenic Tri-Cities area could be a “goldmine” of opportunity for filmmaking. Our mountains, lakes, streams and small towns are perfect backdrops.

Erik Kitchens launched “30 Daze Productions” about a year ago, and the company got to work on promotions for local businesses other smaller projects and has a documentary in the works. The crew also is working on a short film shot at local spots and featuring local actors.

“Our focus is on our area more than anything,” Kitchens told Fuller. “What we’re trying to do is say, ‘Look what we can do here in the Tri-Cities and our area and make it a magnet for the film industry.’”

Kitchens and his team are correct about the economic development potential of filmmaking here — as production units hire locals to fill staff and technical positions. They also stay in our hotels and dine in our restaurants.

Just as significant is the spotlight a film can shine on a town or an entire region, prompting tourism, relocation and more productions.

All of this should fit right into the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership’s plans to market the area as an outdoors and recreation mecca. Our mountains, lakes, streams and small towns are perfect backdrops for films, and highlighting that potential in marketing efforts is indeed a golden opportunity.

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