Georgia Film Industry sparked by 1972 film ‘Deliverance’

Gov. Jimmy Carter created the Georgia Film Commission in 1973 to build on economic success of the river riding thriller
Georgia Film Industry sparked by 1972 film “Deliverance”
Published: Oct. 18, 2023 at 10:21 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 18, 2023 at 10:57 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - The Georgia Film Industry has grown into a robust and competitive economic engine for the Peach State over the past 50 years since its inception. While an array of films was shot dating back as early as the 1940′s, experts agree that the film that truly put Georgia on the map as a nationally recognized filming destination was Warner Bros. 1972 smash hit “Deliverance”.

“What it really did is it said to Los Angeles, to the filmmakers is that we want you here, number one,” said Norm Bielowicz, the second man to head the Georgia Film Commission from 1981-1989. “Number two it said we can make this work for you.”

The movie stars Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight, along with others, and details the trip of four Atlanta businessmen traveling to the North Georgia wilderness to canoe down a racing river, running into some not-so-friendly locals along the way. The movie itself was filmed on the Chattooga River in Rabun County and even cast many of the locals living in the area.

“If I lived in Rabun County at the time, I might have had some raised eyebrows about suggesting filming here,” said Bielowicz. “But the community said ‘No, let’s give it a shot.’ That was important. The idea that they said, ‘We’re willing to work with you.’ Big Deal.”

The movie enjoyed instant success and became a cultural landmark, becoming one of the most popular movies released that year. In 1973, a year after Deliverance’s release, then Governor Jimmy Carter created the Georgia Film Commission to build on the success of Deliverance and continue to lay the groundwork for movie crews to choose Georgia over already booming movie industries located in New York and Los Angeles.

“It was all about economic development. It was about jobs, pure and simple,” said Bielowicz. “It was pretty small. It was an infant but everybody was very eager, very willing to work together and to work hard, and look where we are now.”

50 years later the Hollywood of the South continues to attract blockbuster films of all kinds and generates billions of dollars in revenue, as Deliverance celebrates its 51st Anniversary.