‘Birmingham is rich with talent, rich with location’: More movies filming in Magic City

The Birmingham Film Office, an initiative of Create Birmingham, is key to connecting movie productions with the Magic City. The office helps with road closures, scouting locations, and much more.

From Rickwood Field used in filming for “42” in 2012, and Mountain Brook’s Slim’s Pizzeria booked for filming “The Shift” more recently in 2023, Birmingham locations are being featured. Jessica Moody is the Director of Programs and Operations for Create Birmingham. She said there are a number of reasons behind the city’s popularity, starting with state incentives.

“Alabama has all these amazing incentives, they receive 25% back for everything they spend locally, and they receive 35% back for all their local Alabama state hires. It’s not just inexpensive to film a movie, here it’s also cost beneficial,” explained Moody.

The Birmingham Film Office will work hand-and-hand with film productions, helping them scout locations before they arrive.

“They will shoot us over a script, we will read the script, check out and see what kind of locations they are looking for. so we will highlight they need a hospital, they’re looking for road closures, they’re looking for a creepy cemetery and a handful of houses, and we will put together a location package and send that over to them,” said Moody. “At that point our goal is getting them here from LA, New York, wherever they are and truly show the benefits of filming in Birmingham.”

For crews, the biggest benefit is how quick you can get from location to location.

“I always explain to be people you can get everywhere in Birmingham in less than 30 minutes, which is huge for filming because you have to start paying your cast as soon as you pick them up from location.”

Birmingham sees about five feature films a year, along with smaller productions. Shooting could last anywhere from four to 12 weeks, including pre and post production. Up to 60% of a budget can be spent on location.

“So Slims is usually closed on Sundays and Mondays, so they actually filmed there on a day where they were closed, so the location owners gets a location fee and it doesn’t actually impact the business at all,” said Moody.

“I think that the excitement of having Hollywood come into Birmingham was super cool, it definitely had the neighborhood kinda buzzing with the excitement of having a film being made in our town,” said Slims owner John Rolen.

Rolen said the film crew came about a month before shooting, checked out the location, had dinner, and decided Slims was the vibe they were looking for. “The Shift” filmed for about a day and half at the restaurant.

“Full of actors, and full of the film crew up and down the street. They basically took over Slims, and redesigned it a little bit but they really wanted to keep the essence to the restaurant the way we had it.”

“A 10 million dollar film, you’re looking at $5-6 million is left on location. That’s where they are staying on hotels, who they’re hiring, all their crew, all their locations that they spend, the truck they rent, the cars that they rent, all the food that they eat. That’s not even spillover effect of where do they eat on the weekends, them just hanging out on a Saturday, what do all of those actors do. It has a huge economic impact and we help collect all that data and we report it back.”

Have a location you think should be filmed at? You can add it Create Birmingham’s location database here.

by Megan Scarano