Five years ago, the Cherokee Film Summit was established to cultivate a film ecosystem that supports big dreams and bold actions by bringing business owners, film professionals and creatives together for “reel community connection.” Since then, the annual event has launched careers and inspired gearshifts and has exponentially grown our local film industry – and our economy – in ways we never imagined.
When it comes to quantifying the positive impact of the film industry, we often think about how much money Marvel spent while in Canton or how many off-duty deputies Netflix employed during the “Ozark” four-season run. Though important, these measurables are not the only ones to consider. Many Cherokee-based film professionals and businesses reaped the benefits, as well.
Take Richard Ruiz, for example. In 2018, Ruiz established Ol’ Time Barber Shop in Towne Lake. His business expanded when he and his team were hired as on-set barbers. “We learned to take care of the client’s needs by making our business mobile and keeping projects confidential,” said Ruiz, who also plans to list his shop as a potential film location. “It has that old iconic barbershop look.”
Delivering iconic looks is what Holly Springs natives Jeff and Angela Chattin specialize in. Previously auto collectors with an occasional film gig, the couple shifted into high gear after supplying vehicles for Disney’s “Jungle Cruise,” leading to the incorporation of JC Picture Cars LLC in 2019. “It’s incredible that we are involved with some of the most recognizable names in film through our antique cars,” Jeff said. “Who would ever have imagined this?” In December 2022, more than 80 of their 120 vehicles were in film productions across the United States, including the hit “Yellowstone” prequel, “1923,” starring Harrison Ford.
Indiana Jones may have asked“ Why’d it have to be snakes?” But, for Kim Mross, snakes are a welcome sight. Mross, who resides in eastern Cherokee, gained notoriety for her expertise in removing undesired snakes from neighbors’ yards. This ultimately shifted into snake wrangling – a production role where she combs outdoor sets, such as “The Walking Dead,” to gently relocate snakes prior to filming. “It’s just the craziest thing ever,” Mross said. “Who’d have ever thought you could make a living like this?”
For some, the path into the industry has been more intentional. Screenwriter Cheryl McKay Price dreamed of being in the biz since she was a little girl. Upon relocating from Los Angeles to Woodstock eight years ago, the acclaimed screenwriter immersed herself in our community, instructed at the Cherokee Film Summit, and wrote award-winning screenplays – all the while, dreaming of one day filming one of her projects locally. Last year, that dream came true when she launched Stone Impact Media to produce faith-based and family content, filming her six-episode series “These Stones” almost exclusively in Cherokee County – providing exponential economic impact via production expenditures and by employing local crew. (Read more on Pages 16-17). “I was able to film here because of the gorgeous locations, tremendous production value and incredible resources throughout our community,” McKay Price said. “This is what Cherokee By Choice means to me.”
Whether you are seeking a career in the film industry or own a business that has the potential to support film production, the 2023 Cherokee Film Summit is the place for reimagining the possibilities. Opportunity awaits.