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Barnesville, a small, typically American town with a population of 6,000, is about to hit the headlines. In the summer of 2017, a major TV production crew rolled into town with Hollywood stars and the promise of an economic boom that is hard to imagine. Here’s more on how HBO’s Sharp Objects is about to put a tiny part of Georgia on the map.
Sharp Objects is an adaptation of the debut novel by Gillian Flynn, an author best known for Gone Girl, which was adapted for the silver screen and released to great critical and commercial acclaim in 2014. The 2006 bestseller is a dark tale about an intrepid yet troubled reporter who goes back to her small Missouri hometown—the fictional Wind Gap—which is being stalked by a serial killer. Following the success of Gone Girl, producers were clearly keen on more of the same, and HBO was the first to pick up on Flynn’s debut project and turn it into a big-budget, eight-part series. Amy Adams takes the lead as Camille Preaker, with director Jean-Marc Vallée having scored a big hit with HBO’s 2017 adaptation of Big Little Lies.
The obvious question is: why was Sharp Objects shot in Barnesville, Georgia when the book was set in the fictional town of Wind Gap, in the very real state of Missouri?
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Barnesville is roughly 500 miles from Missouri. The romantic answer as to why this Georgia town was used in the production of Sharp Objects is that it fits the descriptions of Wind Gap in the book: a small, oppressive place where the curtains twitch and the mentality is a detached from the big city.
Niki Sappington, community development director of the Lamar County Council, explains how the 23-day shoot took over the town, but occurred quite by accident. The story goes that Barnesville didn’t even make the top three choices for producers when location-scouting for Sharp Objects. On a trip to preferred pick Jackson, director Vallée stopped over in Lamar County and fell in love with Barnesville. The rest, as they say, is history.
Romanticism aside, the real reason that the show was scouting in the Peach State in the first place was because of the massive tax credit incentives offered up by Georgia. Blockbusters such as Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther have been filmed here, and the move from LA to the South has been so great that the state of Georgia is now the biggest producer of films and TV shows in America.
Kathy Oxford, executive director of Barnesville-Lamar County Industrial Development Authority, tells Culture Trip that money will pour directly into local pockets, so the decision to say “yes” to HBO was an easy one. Businesses were more than happy to invite in the cast and crew, making the necessary changes to fit the project. Local artist Andrew Patrick Kelly designed the murals seen in the show that remain in place almost a year after production ended. The tourism boom has been anticipated for a while, and it’s likely that the town will now be best known for the TV series rather than being the buggy capital of the world. For the record, “buggy” in this context means horse-drawn carriages, which were built here until the motor car rolled into town.
Then there’s Barnesville’s local media outlet. The Herald-Gazette feels typical of a smalltown newspaper. That’s not to talk down this 150-year-old institution—in fact, quite the opposite. The family-run paper maintains the truest values of journalism, reporting on the issues that matter to the people that read it. Editor Walter Geiger has written about killer storms and anthrax attacks, although the latter turned out to be a case of baking powder in the post. Highlighting the mentality of the people of Barnesville, the women in the newspaper office refused to take the showers set up by authorities in the immediate aftermath of the white powder’s discovery, saying they would rather take their chances with whatever it was on their desks than strip off in public.
When a subsequent envelope full of a white substance was anonymously posted to Geiger, he decided simply not to report it and carried on with his daily business.
The dark events of the first episode will highlight just how the small streets and imposing alleyways that are dotted around Barnesville fit the story perfectly.
Sharp Objects is available via Digital Download now