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New Medient architect familiar with area, studios
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Bill Foley - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

Medient Studios is bringing aboard a firm that knows something about designing massive production complexes.

Jake Shapiro, the new Medient chief executive officer, announced Thursday the studio has hired Atlanta-based Foley Design Associates to design the studioplex to be built on 1,550 acres off Interstate 16 and Old River Road.

“One of the most important parts is the design process,” Shapiro said. “Our team and our board wanted to find the best architectural firm and design firm we could find.”

Bill Foley’s firm has been involved in several projects in the Coastal Empire, including the Hampton Island development in eastern Liberty County, Sapelo Bluff in McIntosh County and Savannah Quarters in Pooler.

“We have been working down here for years in the area,” Foley said.

Pinewood Studios, the legendary London, England-based movie maker, established a facility in Fayette County, just south of Atlanta, last year. They have six soundstages on 288 acres for movie, television, music and video game production. The soundstages range in size from 15,000 to 30,000 square feet. There also are workshops, offices and meeting rooms as part of Pinewood Studios, and also extensive backlots for outdoor shooting.

Pinewood and River’s Rock LLC, an independently-managed trust for the Cathy family, announced the Fayette studio plans in April 2013. Pinewood has a 40 percent share in the enterprise.

“Pinewood Studios formed a partnership with a family in Atlanta, and we put in place one of the largest studios in Fayette County,” Foley said. “We have been working on that plan. Post-production is in place. We have gained expertise from the Pinewood group that is working all over the world. We have been able to bring down a wealth of knowledge.”

Foley’s company also has worked with CNN and TBS, and Foley also noted how late Atlanta Braves announcer Skip Caray and World Championship Wrestling, from its old Smyrna studios, were surrounded by the firm’s work.

“We’ve got a good background we’re never allowed to talk about,” he said.

Shapiro said the new management team at Medient conducted a search of domestic and international firms to take over the studioplex’s design. Megan Murphy was tasked with finding the candidates, and Shapiro conducted interviews with potential designers on the East and West coasts.

“We made a clear decision that everything we do has to represent the excellence we believe in,” he said. “I was beyond lucky that the person we chose was based out of Atlanta.”

Many parts of the original Medient Studios plan are being scrapped, including the suspension bridge to get into the property and the Leaf amphitheater.

“There will be no longest suspension bridges in America made out of glass,” Shapiro said. “There will be no circular stages that look like they came out of an old episode of ‘The Jetsons.’ There will be aesthetic, efficiently-built office buildings that will hold production, post production, art department, VFX, a lot of jobs we need to put people in and put them in buildings designed for those uses.”

The sooner soundstages and production facilities are up and running, Shapiro noted, the sooner Medient can start making a return on its investment.

“To people in the entertainment world, a big white box is very aesthetic, sexy thing to us, because it means we are making money,” he said. “The more adornment you have on the building, that’s the opposite of cash flow. And the opposite of cash flow is the opposite of job creation.”

Foley estimated a movie production’s economic impact on a community is six times its cost. In addition to the soundstages and offices, there will be workshops to create the sets and warehouses to store them.

“Once you get this first phase under way, you’re going to have all this other business coming in,” he said. “They are going to be the owner sand the employers. They are going to be generating the jobs and the permanent positions.”