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Off location: Would taxpayers in GA, Texas subsidize ABC’s ‘Nashville?’

By   /   April 30, 2014  /   No Comments

 

NASHVILLE: A scene from ABC's "Nashville."

NASHVILLE: A scene from ABC’s “Nashville.”

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE —  If you’re a taxpayer in Georgia or Texas, pay attention.

In a few months’ time it’s possible your money will subsidize a product designed to advertise and help Tennessee.

Are you OK with that?

According to the Tennessean, the producers of ABC’s “Nashville” aren’t happy state officials will likely offer them no more than $3 million in incentives in exchange for filming season three on location. That’s almost one-fourth the amount state officials awarded the show for season two for the same purpose. It’s slightly half what they got for season one.

The newspaper reported “Nashville” producers are considering relocating the show several hundred miles away — to Texas or perhaps Georgia, only one state away.

Like Tennessee, both states offer incentive packages.

Even if producers relocated, the fictional show itself would keep its Nashville setting, and regular viewers might not notice a difference.

Did you know, for instance, the “Nashville” crew mostly does not film at the city’s actual Bluebird Café, which is one of the show’s principle locations?

Instead, the crew films on a set designed to recreate that building.

The show’s crew could easily move that set to another state.

As previously reported, Tennessee officials justified their investment of taxpayer money in the show by saying it provides the state a unique branding opportunity, possibly to lure tourists.

The show’s crew, however, filmed the pilot at the actual location, and the same is true for a few of the show’s exterior scenes, said Bluebird Café General Manager Erika Wollam-Nichols.

“We’re 32 years old, and we had a great business before the TV show,” Wollam-Nichols said.

THE REAL THING: Nashville’s real Bluebird Café, where most of the filming on ABC’s “Nashville” does not take place.

“I’m disappointed to even have this conversation, but I’m not scared about what might happen to the Bluebird if the show moves. The footprint of the show in Nashville is very important. People love the relationship between the show and the city, so I think it would be a mistake to move.”

Regardless, visitors will still come to the real-life location, Wollam-Nichols said.

“It might not be the magnet that it is right now if the show moves, but I think they would want to see where the Bluebird came from,” she added.

Members of the Texas Film Commission did not return Tennessee Watchdog’s requests for comment Tuesday.

Tennessee Watchdog asked Georgia Department of Economic Development spokeswoman Stefanie Paupeck whether anyone at her agency has had discussions with the “Nashville” producers — or crewmembers.

“No, we have not had any discussions with the producers of this series,” Paupeck said.

Paupeck did not address our questions about Georgia taxpayers possibly having to subsidize a show designed to promote a city in another state.

Paupeck did, however, say several films and TV shows meant to depict other locations — including Tennessee, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City and Brazil — are filmed in Georgia.

Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development spokesman Clint Brewer had no comment on the matter and said his department could not confirm the show is interested in other states.

Nashville Metro Council member Robert Duvall couldn’t say Tuesday if the city, which gave the show $500,000 last year, will offer anything for the show’s third season.

“I hate to see them go, but if the only thing holding them here is us paying for their production costs, then I say let them go,” Duvall said.

“I’m sorry, that’s just the way I way I feel about it. I don’t know what the actual payback on that is. If they film the show somewhere else then it’s still set in Nashville. I don’t know how you can film it somewhere else.”

Robert Duvall

Robert Duvall

Duvall, who has spoken out against the incentives package, said he hasn’t seen the show.

“The only time the Metro Council talks about the benefits of the show is when producers come asking for money,” Duvall said. “They tried to make it sound better than it was and said it was putting us on the map and it would bring people to Nashville. I don’t know that that was correct.”

As previously reported, the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp., which gave the show $250,000 of city money, released a survey earlier this year showing the show attracts tourists and tax dollars to the city.

But the CVB, which has an interest in the matter, conducted the survey on its own, and survey participants were eligible for a gift.

CVB President Butch Spyridon told Tennessee Watchdog at the time, though, hotel occupancy tax collections in the city were up 23 percent, but he did not say if that was because of the show.

While hardly scientific, Tennessee Watchdog last summer did its own survey of tourists at Nashville’s famed Broadway Street, as well as Centennial Park. All but one of the tourists hadn’t seen the show, and the one person who did said it had no bearing on her decision to visit.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org. or follow him and submit story ideas on his official Facebook page.

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Chris Butler is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org based in Nashville. Contact him at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org and follow him on Facebook at "Chris-Butler-WriterJournalist" or on Twitter at cdbutler1204.

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