Augusta commissioners, filmmakers discuss future of old jail

Monday, November 11, 2019
News 12 at 6 o'clock

Augusta Commissioners, filmmakers, and Film Augusta sat down to discuss the future of the old jail on Walton Way. (Source: WRDW/WAGT)

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- Augusta commissioners toured the latest movie set at the old jail Monday afternoon. Afterwards, they sat down with filmmakers and representatives from Film Augusta for a round-table discussion about the future of the building.

It was part of Film Augusta's plea for the city not to tear down the building.

The jail on Walton Way has been vacant for six years, but starting in January this year, it was approved to be used as a movie set.

Since then, four movies and a music video have been filmed at the old jail. The Convention and Visitor's Bureau says the movies have brought in more than $1.1 million in local spending. That doesn't even include the amount paid to use the location.

Warren Ostergard is a producer on the untitled baseball film currently filming at the old jail. He's been in Augusta for six weeks. He says the town was the perfect backdrop for his movie.

"We inject the economy in a short amount of time. Everybody's hit: small businesses, residents that are looking for opportunity. We're incentivized to hire locally. So, there's a big economic impact when a movie comes to town, and this is a big asset for Augusta," he said.

Ostergard thinks the Walton Way jail is one of the best jail sets in the entire country due to the fact that it can be customized to the filmmaker's specifications. Plus, it has three courtrooms and offices that can double as a hospital wing or police station.

But, commissioners already promised the Department of Juvenile Justice they would build a juvenile facility at the old jail. Plus, $1.5 million in SPLOST funds were approved for the demolition of the building.

Some commissioners, like William Fennoy of District 1, say they aren't willing to go back on their promise.

"I wouldn't say it's a done deal, but unless we can come up with something that's a win-win for the jail and a win-win for the DJJ, it's probably going to be torn down," he said.

Ostergard asked Fennoy, if the jail has potential to be a gold mine for the city, why not just find a new place to put the juvenile center?

Fennoy says he isn't against the film industry in Augusta, and he ultimately hopes to find a solution that will make both parties happy.

Terrence Williams is an operations manager for film crew company Key Grip. He proposed combining the two options. He says using troubled youth on movie sets teaches them discipline.

"You're able to accomplish things. You're able to build something. You're able to accomplish things that no one else can do because everybody on set has their own jobs," said Williams.

Film Augusta requests that Augusta commission wait until the feature film El Dorado  (speculated to be a code name for the sequel to Suicide Squad), releases in theaters in the summer of 2021 before they demolish the old jail. They think once other major filmmakers see the location of the movie, they'll want to bring their productions here, too.

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