It’s a surreal scene for sure.
Standing inside the Marbury Center in downtown Augusta at 1:30 in the morning, it seems an inappropriate hour for a Father/Daughter dance to be taking place.
But last Wednesday night, that is exactly what was happening. A crowd formed a tight semi-circle around a father as he knelt beside his daughter’s wheelchair and slowly lifted her out, carefully positioning her feet on his. He began swaying back and forth, slow dancing with his beaming little girl.
The looks on the faces on the twenty or so friends and family gathered around the two let you know this is a very special moment.
But hell, I knew that.
It’s like some schmaltzy low budget film come to life right before your eyes.
Which is exactly what it is.
Tonight the Marbury Center is the set for the latest movie filmed in Augusta, Tulsa.
455 productions were shot in Georgia in fiscal year 2018, with an estimated economic impact of $9.5 billion, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
“That was pretty interesting to say the least,” Roux’s Catering owner Robert Williams said later that morning.
Williams is the latest Augustan to feel the love of the film industry in Augusta. Contacted earlier this year by a scout for the project, he was enlisted to provide catering and also a set for a few nights.
“I gave them what they were asking for, but I didn’t really think anything was going to come from it,” Williams said.
But as the months clicked by, contracts were signed, menus ordered, and the job began taking shape.
“This movie wound up being over 20% of my normal July,” Williams said as he stood in his kitchen. “July is a historically slow month for us, and this thing has been a Godsend. I’ve fed the entire cast and crew I think eight times now, and they’ve been here filming the past two nights.”
Roux Catering fed the crew on location twice, once at a south Augusta trailer park and once on location in downtown Augusta, and now they are at his place filming.
Wanting a better vantage point to observe what was actually going on on the courtyard, we climbed upstairs to a storage area overlooking the set.
The musty windows were eye level with an enormous diffused light ball. “I thought they were using that in the movie, like as the moon or something. Hell, I don’t know. I’m a cook,” Williams admitted.
There were perhaps fifteen crew members shooting the scene, over and over. In between takes, the local extras stood silently and watched the crew set up the next shot. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the experience. When Williams was spotted in the window by members of the film crew, he was greeted like an old friend.
The whole production industry is a creative, inclusive community.
“It was fascinating for me to see all the guts of how it is done,” Williams said.
“It reminds me of catering a big corporate or social event. We’re trying to coordinate music and entertainment and decorations, floral and lighting-a lot of those things are the same elements,” Williams related.
“What was interesting to me is on one side of the set everybody knew what was going on on the other side. If there were any issues, everybody would just snap into action. Everybody knew what was going on in the next scene, in the next motion. Whatever light was needed, whatever camera they needed. It was so orchestrated.”
As Williams sees it, the production was like a well run kitchen.
“It just seemed like a flowing river it was just that seamless. It was crazy how they would say quiet on the set how it was just silent-deafening silence.”
“When they were filming here at the Marbury Center, they had every bit as many as 60 or 70 people. And all those people that were involved, to have been that quiet during the filming, to me was just a challenge within itself.”
The film crew was well taken care of, with a table of food for the crew, a separate table of food for the actors, and a separate table of food for the extras.
Williams watched intently as scenes were shot over and over. Each time they would make a slight change, a little bit off the lighting, a different camera angle, or a different lens.
The longtime caterer said he was impressed by the execution more than anything else. If this is low-budget, Williams wondered what on earth a big budget film would look like.
The crew was there filming the night before as well, and when Williams arrived at work Wednesday morning, they were just wrapping up.
He didn’t expect it to be any different this night. “Not for me, though. We’re about to serve them forty hot meals and I’m taking my happy butt home.”