- - Sunday, May 1, 2016

AUGUSTA, GA. | Louis Gossett Jr. is concerned about the level of violence in films and TV and the effect it can have on children. The 79-year-old Oscar-winning actor recently completed work portraying a blind pastor in “The Reason,” a faith-based film shot on location in Augusta.

“It’s our responsibility to do this,” Mr. Gossett says of making more positive, faith-based films, others of which on his resume include “The Grace Card,” “The Lamp” and “Left Behind: World at War.”

The veteran actor, who received the Academy Award for best supporting actor in 1983 for “An Officer and a Gentleman,” is energetic about movies from the standpoint of the medium’s social impact.

“We’ve done the other ones — you know the shootings, the killings, war and the like,” Mr. Gossett explained while sitting outside of a hotel in downtown Augusta. “Kids are very affected by it. They’re affected by these kinds of movies.”

Mr. Gossett’s passion extends beyond film. While conversing with The Washington Times, he wore a T-shirt promoting his organization Eracism, a nonprofit that seeks to reduce racial tension and build respect among various cultural groups. Eracism provides curricula to schools and educates adults as well.



Given Mr. Gossett’s goal to build bridges and play the role of peacemaker off stage, it’s easy to see why he’s attracted to such positive roles on screen.

Based on the novel by William Sirls, “The Reason” tells the story of several ordinary people facing various challenges in a small southeast Michigan town. When a mysterious man with divine powers shows up, miracles are set in motion and remind characters of important Judeo-Christian lessons, including the notion that God is with them even during their deepest struggles.

“It’s a very important story,” Mr. Gossett said. “We can’t rest on the fact that God loves you. That’s just a fact.

“There are certain things we have to do in our personal lives and on a daily basis to prepare for that message. It’s our responsibility,” he said. “We’ve got to get rid of anger, prejudices, resentments — whether they’re justified or not. That’s the ultimate forgiveness. So this film is about the ultimate forgiveness.”

“The Reason” also stars Beverly Todd (“The Bucket List”) Tatyana Ali (“Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”), Kelly Carlson (“Nip/Tuck”), Alan Powell (“The Song”), Burgess Jenkins (“Nashville,” “The Young and The Restless”), Sara Antonio (“House of Cards”) and Jessejames Locorriere (“Ant-Man”).

Mr. Sirls wrote the screenplay with Aviv Rubenstien and Richard Clark Jr. The film was produced by Richard Clark Jr., Paige Collins, Alan Powell, Derrick J. Simcox and Jennifer Willingham, and directed by Randall Stevens. Mr. Sirls served as executive producer alongside his brother, Ken Sirls.

A release date has not yet been set.

Hollywood sets sights on Augusta

When filming for “The Reason” ended in Augusta recently, it marked the first time a full-length feature film had been produced in the historic town known more for The Masters than filmmaking.

However, that could be changing soon. Brad Owens, president of the nonprofit Augusta Regional Film Office, says that TV and film producers are continuing to express more interest in the city, where there are no permitting expenses and a variety of locations have replicated locales ranging from Southeast Asia war zones to quaint Parisian streets.

“We have gone so far so fast that it’s actually a bit overwhelming,” Mr. Owens told The Times. “I can’t believe the interest. There are other production companies that want to come and want to do a location scout, and we don’t charge for that.”

Mr. Owens said his city has had generous benefactors, thus negating the need to charge filmmakers location fees.

“We’re fully funded for the next two years based off of donations,” he said. “We haven’t asked for any tax money, and we don’t want any.”

Mr. Owens explained that Georgia’s generous tax credit, created about 10 years ago, has attracted TV and film producers mostly to Atlanta and Savannah. Production companies can qualify for a 30 percent tax credit if their expenses amount to at least $500,000 in direct spending.

“Three years ago, they made that transferrable, which means you can broker them, you can transfer them to other movies, or you can sell them if you like,” Mr. Owens says.

Georgia is now the third-most popular state for film and TV production, behind New York and California. In 2005 there were about 1,800 to 2,000 full-time jobs in the film industry in Georgia and about 7,000 part-time jobs. Among the entertainments shooting there is the highly popular zombie drama series “The Walking Dead.”

“After the tax incentives were put into place, it started to grow,” Mr. Owens reports. “As of last year the Georgia Film Office estimates that there are about 26,000 full-time jobs and 77,000 part-time jobs.”

Mr. Owens would like to see a production studio built soon in the Garden City to accommodate more films like “The Reason.” He says an 800,000-square-foot mall in the city that’s been closed for 14 years would make for an ideal location.

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