This past weekend, I discovered another one of my favorite movies so far this summer ... The Spectacular Now, filmed in the charming locations of Athens, Georgia.
Fans of John Hughes will find the movie endearing. For me, The Spectacular Now finds its way into my heart the way The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Say Anything did. From the writers of (500) Days of Summer, The Spectacular Now stands apart from today’s typical teen movies of vampires and glossy characters. The movie has so much heart and the two young actors are so real. I feel their joy and heartaches because I’ve been there. We’ve all been there in one way or another.
The film was shot entirely in Athens, Georgia, where Ponsoldt grew up. On the first day of the shoot, the director realized why the convenience store where they were filming the movie seemed so familiar. “I know Athens pretty well but it wasn’t until we were about to shoot our first shot that it dawned on me that we were across the street from the hospital where I was born,” he said. (The convenience store was chosen by a location scout who didn’t know about its personal significance to Ponsoldt.)
Even though the setting of the movie is in Oklahoma, filming The Spectacular Now in Athens didn’t affect the story. Ponsoldt took care to choose locations in the suburbs and subdivisions of Athens and not at any well-known Athens landmarks.
“And while The Spectacular Now was filmed 100 percent in Athens, and I think it feels very authentic to the experience of being a teenager growing up there,” said the director, “I believe the film transcends regionalism.”
The Spectacular Now was made in 25 days in Athens with a budget of approximately $2 million and a lot of support from local communities. “We used REM’s production office,” he said. “A local art theater let us do casting there. I can’t say enough about how much this was a locally supported, locally produced film.”
Ponsoldt’s family still lives in Athens and the director comes home often to visit them. He also would like to have more projects made in Athens in the near future. “Hopefully in the next year,” he said. “I’m not sure what the next one will be. I’m working on a handful of things right now. Nowhere has the same feel as Athens to me. There’s a kindness, a graciousness of living. But I don’t want to make a movie just for the sake of making a movie.”
Filming in Athens, Georgia
When asked why he decided to film The Spectacular Now in Athens, the director answered:
“Athens was such an obvious candidate as a setting to shoot the film in - and it was really the only place I wanted to make the film. Filming in Athens was incredibly meaningful to me. We shot in the streets and houses of my childhood! I was fortunate that the producers were so supportive.”
As to whether Georgia’s film tax incentives had anything to do with the decision, Ponsoldt said: “The tax incentive was huge for us - we couldn’t have afforded to shoot in Georgia if there wasn’t an incentive.”
Ponsoldt also shared that Athens and its residents were welcoming and supportive. The production crew included a few people from Los Angeles, but the majority were from Atlanta, including an amazing group of P.A.‘s and interns from the University of Georgia.
“I love Athens. I love Georgia,” said Ponsoldt. “Any chance to shoot a movie here I would, but not if it would undermine the story.”
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, here's the trailer to entice you: