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A life-long connection to Columbus leads to helping safely restart Georgia’s film industry

Updated: Jan 15, 2021

When Meredith Riley Stewart had the opportunity to produce the independent film “The Inheritance”, she was convinced that Columbus would make the perfect setting. As a Phenix City native, she knew the picturesque city on the banks of the Chattahoochee very well. But she didn’t know that the film industry was about to be forced into a holding pattern.

Even in the midst of a global pandemic, Meredith kept the production alive through constant conversations with her Georgia contacts. Those contacts eventually put her in touch with MercyMed, a local clinic that serves marginalized communities.

Together, they created a union-compliant system, now called PiperMed, that let them film “The Inheritance” with on-site COVID-19 testing and additional public health protocols that kept cast and crew feeling safe. Throughout the entire production, there were zero positive tests out of the more than 350 performed.

“We were able to do it in a way that got us all safely back to work and put paychecks in the hands of so many industry professionals who had been out of work since March,” says Meredith. “We realized the need for a system of COVID compliance solutions – medical professionals partnering with productions – as essential for the industry coming back to Georgia. We developed it into a model that we could share with other productions, and that’s where PiperMed came from.”

Headquartered in Columbus, PiperMed helps studios across Georgia with both film and TV productions, but they hold their first project in high regard.

“Almost all of the investors for ‘The Inheritance’ came from there, and they saw this film as an opportunity to put money right back into their community,” says Meredith.

She understands the importance of reinvestment through her own connection to the city. Throughout high school, she crossed the bridge from Phenix City to Columbus five days a week to dance in The Columbus Ballet. Those formative years led her to major in Dance, and interestingly, also earn a major in Biology.

“I was very much involved in the art scene there growing up. Columbus was like the big city to the suburbia of Phenix City,” says Meredith.

Even though she now lives in Los Angeles, her work as an actor, producer, and PiperMed founder keeps returning her to the art scene she grew up with. It’s only fitting that her dedication also has hundreds of others returning to work in a way that’s focused on their safety, so they can focus on their job.

“Having testing as the cornerstone of our protocol helps everyone’s mental health,” says Meredith.

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