By Matt Aiken
It wasn’t difficult for Jacobo Rispa to find Dahlonega.
The freelance producer had already heard of the town’s growing Holiday Hollywood reputation before he started scouting for a filming location.
“It is a very charming town,” he said. “It has all this flavor.”
That flavor should be evident in the upcoming Lifetime movie Christmas Romance Al Dente, a culture-clash romantic comedy which is scheduled to air next year.
While much of the film is being shot in Helen, on Monday the production crew arrived downtown and immediately wedged themselves in between the aisles of Dahlonega General Store.
A bustling mix of cast, crew and actual customers filled the store as camera tracks and lighting equipment shared space with the store’s collection of semiprecious stones and hand carved walking sticks.
In between takes the film’s stars visited the mechanized Fortune Teller while loudly singing Lady Gaga. Some crew members took advantage of downtime to do some shopping while one worker enthusiastically haggled for a better price on a crystal geode.
All the while director Damian Romay watched the scene from a nearby chair next to the wall of vintage signs. Instead of yelling "quiet on the set,” he seemed to welcome the lively scene.
“We’ll be filming in town for the next two days,’ he said with a grin.
This isn’t the first brush with cable movie fame for Dahlonega General Store owner Jay Stone. His business was heavily featured in The Hallmark Channel’s Christmas in Homestead which aired in 2016.
“I love it that they’re shooting movies in town,” he said. “And I love that I can provide a spot for them.”
Tourism Director Sam McDuffie seems to love it too.
As the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber & Visitors Bureau's Georgia Camera Ready liaison he’s the contact for film companies searching for a charming small-town backdrop.
“[Rispa] and the director and one of the actresses came out in November and we took them to some sights,” he said. “We spent basically a whole afternoon going to locations.”
McDuffie said Dahlonega’s merry movie-making vibe was most likely given a boost by the Hallmark film as well as a widely-read Southern Living article.
“We’re definitely becoming a film destination now,” he said. “They’ve been filming in Forsyth County for so long now and I think they’re starting to look for new locales.”
When in comes to those locales, there should be plenty Dahlonega scenes in Christmas Romance Al Dente as shooting will take place on the square, in Hancock Park and in the Dahlonega Square Hotel.
And several familiar faces will share the screen after numerous locals responded to McDuffie’s far-reaching Facebook request for extras.
Though, if you missed the casting call, don’t worry. More local-based productions are most likely on the way.
“It’s something that is starting to occur all the time now,” said McDuffie.
And if Rispa’s reaction is representative, Dahlonega won’t be too hard of a holiday sell for future location scouts.
“We just came up here and we fell in love with the town,” he said.