Nowadays you can hear those words echoing throughout the mountains of Rabun County in Northeast Georgia. Last year parts of The Wettest County and most of The Goats (starring Val Kilmer) were filmed in Rabun County and, while the filming for the comedy Wanderlust was in neighboring Habersham County, the star, Jennifer Anniston, and several other cast members stayed on our own Lake Rabun. Now we have Travolta and De Niro. That’s excitement!
Of course, Rabun County has a rich tradition of movie-making going back to Walt Disney and The Great Locomotive Chase starring Fess Parker in 1956. But what gave Rabun County its real movie name was the 1972 movie Deliverance. Considered by many to be the greatest outdoor action movie ever, Deliverance kicked the movie industry in Georgia into action. In just Rabun County there were eight movies shot during the ten years after Deliverance. But, over time, the movie industry went elsewhere.
Now, thanks to the State’s tax incentives for in-state production expenses and the hard work of Pam Thompson, Rabun County’s Film Liaison, the movies are back in beautiful Rabun County. In addition to the movies mentioned above, the action-adventure movie Killing Season was here in February filming with stars Robert De Niro and John Travolta. This movie will be the first time these two stars appear on the screen together. According to Variety, De Niro will play an American military veteran who has retreated to a remote cabin in the Appalachian Mountains, where he strikes up an unlikely friendship with a European tourist (Travolta) who’s actually a former Serbian soldier bent on revenge. “I’ve loved this project from the moment I read Evan Daugherty’s remarkable script,” said Corsan CEO Paul Breuls. “It’s thrilling, imaginative, unexpected and dominated by two extraordinary characters (De Niro and Travolta) on a collision course.”
Killing Season gave me some exciting days. First, back in December, I was asked to escort the scouting team around the county. What a great way to spend a day! I met them at Tallulah Gorge along with Park Superintendent Danny Tatum and Georgia Senior Location Specialist, Craig Dominey. Later, I was joined by Jim Reaves from Rabun County and we met three movie professionals: the Producer, Ed Cathell III (Drive, Conviction); the Director, Mark Steven Johnson (Ghost Rider, When in Rome.) and the Artistic Designer, Kirk Petruccelli (The Patriot, The Incredible Hulk). What struck me about this group was how focused they were. There was little “small talk,” they were all business. They were friendly and interested in our county, but only as it involved their work. They became very animated whenever they saw a location they liked and they were quick to tell us when we showed them a location that did not fit their vision.
From L-R Ed Cathell III, Producer; Mark Steven Johnson, Director and Kirk Petruccelli, Artistic Designer at the bottom of Tallulah Gorge.
What a great day. How often do you get to go all the way into Tallulah Gorge, around to Bull Sluice on the Chattooga River, have lunch at Zeppelin’s, drive through the beautiful Persimmon community, over Patterson Gap to Betty’s Creek? And it is work!
Shortly after they left, we heard they had decided to shoot most of the action scenes up here. While they were here scouting, I asked them, “Why Rabun County?” Ed Cathell said, “Georgia for the tax incentives” and Mark Johnson said, “Here because I want to see where Deliverance was filmed!” He went on to say he was looking for the same intensity of action and natural rugged beauty. We have plenty of natural beauty. You have to supply the intensity!
When the showed up with over 90 crew members plus John Travolta, Robert De Niro and their personal staffs they made an impact! Especially when they took over 500 room-nights at a very slow time of year. From the moment they arrived, the excitement was wonderful. The stars arrived on Sunday and by Sunday night we had a picture of John Travolta posted to our Facebook page (facebook.com/explorerabun). He had shown up at one of our gyms to workout. Later we had pictures of him eating and socializing at La Cabana, Mama G’s, Rumor Hazit, Zeppelins, and the Beechwood Inn. He even had his picture taken at Duvall Ford (rumor is he bought a Mustang for a member of his staff). On Wednesday night the Beechwood Inn, where Mr. Travolta and his staff stayed, hosted a private dinner for Mr Travolta, Mr De Niro and the Director, Mark Johnson.
They filmed the first two days at Tallulah Gorge State Park. Some of the filming was deep in the gorge and I felt sorry for the grips and the cameramen who had to lug the heavy cameras and equipment back up all those stairs. On the third day, they moved to Black Rock Mountain State Park (the highest state park in Georgia) where they found a pioneer cabin to use as one of their key locations. They filmed there for three days. They also had a “splinter team” filming some action shots with the stunt doubles down in the gorge on Friday … helicopters were involved and so was their swiftwater action team!
On the fourth day of shooting, Pam Thompson and I were invited to the set up on Black Rock Mountain to watch some filming. We arrived around 11 a.m. and I really got a laugh out of the site I saw at the top of Black Rock. The crew members had their cameras and phones out snapping pictures of the incredible view from the mountain. Here we were excited about having the stars and movie crew in our midst and they were excited about the natural beauty they found in our midst!
From the base camp where their caterer and offices were set up, we were shuttled down to the set. On the set were about four tents, two big suv’s and around thirty people. One of the tents was referred to as “the money tent.” In it sat the producer, director, artistic designer and John Travolta. They were huddled around their small screens watching and framing the shots. Meanwhile Robert De Niro was in his suv. The director’s voice could be heard over their communication system, having things moved, getting tree limbs that were in the way of their shot removed and moving the actor’s stand-ins around.