Sunday, December 12, 2010

Much ado about nothing on Mitchell Street

Posted By on Sun, Dec 12, 2010 at 8:45 PM

Alls Quiet on Mitchell Street
  • Gabriel Wardell
  • All's Quiet on Mitchell Street

Inspired by the Fresh Loaf posting promising Free ish on Mitchell Street, a block-party of sorts, to protest of the Universal Pictures feature Change-Up currently shooting across the street, I gathered some friends and took a trip downtown on Sunday to check-out the scene.

With the promise on Facebook, of "free food all day from 2 pm to 9 pm," as well as "free hair product demos," "free cake tastes," "free doggie grooming," and "hot soup, pasta, french fries," we were expecting a crowd.

Leading the protest on Twitter:

Cake Hag, whose Twitter page made the case "movie production= big business. MitchellSt merchants = small business.. Big business shuts small business down on a holidays sunday".

Lunacy Market generated some heat on their Twitter stream—sparking a multitude of RT's with this post: "The rumors are true! @LunacyBlackMkt is serving up free fare tomorrow, noon to 9 pm. Pass it on! *ha* #Atlanta"

What we found when we got there in person didn't amount to a whimper.

Like most areas downtown on a Sunday, the street felt like a ghost town.

This was not because of the film crew, but despite it. (Were it not for the film crew and the police cars on-site, there would have been nothing to see at all.)

Far from shutting the street down, the production was the only sign of activity on the street, conducting business while drawing little attention to itself.

Cars could pass.

There was ample parking available.

I witnessed nothing disruptive or worthy of reporting.

Meanwhile, the businesses on the opposite side—more than half of them dark for the day—were quietly hoping for the best.

Their protest turned out to be all bark, no bite.

We couldn't help but notice the relative lack of enthusiasm anywhere on the block.

Perhaps it was the dusting of snow, but this felt like business-as-usual on a Sunday.

The merchants were all crying foul at the prospect of losing business because of the production feels like a bogus non-story.

Unfortunately, because of the it caught the attention of 11 Alive—and this publication—.

But framed with a sensational Hollywood hook, and positioned as a carpetbagger David vs. hometown Goliath story, 11 Alive and this pubication took the bait, and ran with it:

"Mitchell St. merchants are fighting mad about the movie-makers"

The problem with this story, is that the motivation behind the protest itself is wrong-headed.

That "Walking Dead" compensated area businesses for disrupting sales during what was an elaborate, and extensive shoot, is understandable. For them to expect a cash buy-out from every single film that shoots in the area is unrealistic.

Walking Dead shut down Downtown for days
  • Scott Barfield
  • Walking Dead shut down Downtown for days

From the looks of it, the Change-Up production was not impacting these businesses adversely. They were not disrupting traffic, and they were not interfering in any way with the flow of business.

During our foray down the block, we peeked into a few businesses...the lack of activity felt awkward.

At Cake Hag, alongside two other patrons, we enjoyed a delicious slice of pineapple-infused carrot cake and an awesome cup of hot cocoa. As well as some great cordial conversation with one of the self-ordained "hags."

This whole hullabaloo feels more like a missed opportunity than anything. Why not draw attention to your businesses promising an up-close and personal look at the set? Why not extend an olive branch to the production and invite the crew and cast over for delicious cake, hot soup, or pet-grooming? Why not find a better way to bring attention to yourself than taking the provincial stance of "protesting" the production.

It should be hoped that this trend doesn't continue. Stories like this perpetuate the notion that film productions are a disruptive pain-in-the-ass.

My experiences have always proved contrary to this.

As I write this, a film production is shooting less than 200 yards from my house. (A sign of the health of the production community in Georgia!) There are crew vehicles and production trucks parked up and down my street.

Has it inconvenienced me in any significant way? Not at all.

It would be a shame if stories like the Mitchell Street "Protest" create future difficulties for productions in Georgia.

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