North Gwinnett graduates to film movie in Suwanee

SUWANEE - Driving through Suwanee, a newcomer might think the historic district and the thriving Town Center look like a postcard or a well-designed movie set. Three young men - North Gwinnett High School graduates, in fact - couldn't agree more.

The next notch on the progressive city's belt of accomplishments will be a movie set. Filming of "Exit 111," an independent film, will begin in April 2009.

"It's a story we know, about people we know, in a town we know," said Joel Hoffman, director, executive producer and one of the writers of the script.

Picture a hybrid flick with the feel of TV's popular "Friends," humor like "American Pie," with the sharp, quick pace of Aaron Sorkin's old "West Wing" dialogue. That's what the guys behind this film intend to create in "Exit 111."

"It's about three guys who grew up together here in Suwanee. It's their last weekend together before one of them leaves for law school, and they are going to try to do as much as they can in that weekend," said Hoffman. What happens during that weekend, the twists and characters' personal struggles that result, are the backbone of the plot.

Adam Zappia, the film's producer and another 1999 NGHS graduate, is excited about making Suwanee the setting for the film.

"As a kid, I used to hunt and fish right here where we're sitting," said Zappia of Suwanee's Town Center. "There's definitely a small-town feel here. A different director couldn't capture that."

Hoffman has lived in Los Angeles for about 3 years, and Zappia is moving to the West Coast at the end of September. It's been a dream of both to work together on a film, and the ability to bring in their hometown is just an added bonus.

"We think this film will be something people in Suwanee will be proud of," Hoffman said.

While the lead roles will be cast in Los Angeles, pivotal character roles and all the extras will be selected from local talent. Both Hoffman and Zappia feel strongly that there is untapped talent to be found locally, and they are eager to give locals a chance they might never otherwise get.

The team's production company, Quarter Water Entertainment, is laying the groundwork for the film and building local support. Hoffman and Zappia are scouting locations and talking with Suwanee business owners and city leaders.

"We want people to know we're not just a couple of kids running around town with a DV camera," said Zappia.

"Our goal is to take the film to Sundance (Film Festival) in 2010," Hoffman said.