What are the economic advantages of having an nationally syndicated TV show filmed in your city? Between the direct impact of more than $20,000 a day spent on production and the indirect affect of hiring hundreds of local vendors, contractors and crew to provide services to the set, it’s not too shabby.
But what about a show starring your city as the main character? Well, that’s even better. Since kicking off production this summer, ABC’s new Wednesday night drama, Nashville, has brought revenue, publicity and a Hollywood spotlight to Music City.
Starring Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) and Hayden Panettiere (Heroes) as dueling country stars, the show, which offers a soapy behind-the-scenes look at Nashville’s music industry, has already drawn enough viewers since its October premiere to be picked up for a full season of 22 episodes. By the time the rest of the season is shot, it’s expected to have a $44 million direct impact.
The biggest impact of the show, though, just might be the boost it is expected to bring to the city’s already popular brand as well as the potential it holds for local artists and Tennessee’s burgeoning film industry, according to panelists discussing the state’s film and music industries at the Tennessee ECD Governor’s Conference.
“Country music is an untapped market,” said Loucas George, producer of the Nashville series. “It has a big following — and it’s a real character in this show.”
As the capital of country music, Nashville is the backdrop for the show — literally. Though the studio built a soundstage for filming, most of the scenes are shot around town, showing local staples like The Loveless Cafe, the 5 Spot, the Capitol Grille and other hot spots. “Sometimes we’ll find a location we like, like we have in some East Nashville neighborhoods, and build an interior to go with it,” George said.
It also doesn’t hurt that the show’s creator, Oscar-winning screenwriter Callie Khouri, once lived in Nashville and has an intimate knowledge of the city. “She knows Nashville and writes to it,” George said.
All of this adds an authenticity that’s guaranteed to not only connect with viewers and get them to tune in each week, but also intrigue them enough to want to visit the city and sample its tourists attractions. George recalled the reaction when the show’s actors and actresses visited the famed Bluebird Cafe for the first time.
“They were surprised that it was in a strip mall, but they also noticed how quiet it gets inside,” he said. “The reverence that was there made them realize what the Bluebird really was … that’s something we could only get from shooting in Nashville: the energy you get from the people who live here.”
Taking a cue from its Music City location, the show’s music is all original, written by local artists and performed by the cast members themselves. Producers sift through hundreds of songs submitted locally and remix and record them in studios around town.
“Music is integral to the show,”George said. “All of the songs performed and played have something to do with the story. We get the script and pair it with the music.”
More than 800,000 digital singles of the show’s songs have already been purchased by fans through iTunes. This is beneficial not only for local songwriters, but also for the city’s entertainment and tourism sectors, and “it presents a unique opportunity for Nashville to build its film infrastructure,” George said.