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Exotic reptile collection breeds film industry success

Updated: Jan 15, 2021

Jeff Nix arrived on location two hours before the cast and the rest of the crew scheduled for the evening’s filming of MTV’s “Scream.” Looking around, he knew his expertise would be needed here at the auto parts center that would serve as the backdrop for the evening’s filming.

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Jeff’s assignment? Clear the area of snakes.

“I’ll be the first one in and the last one out,” says Jeff, who describes this type of assignment as snake abatement “My job is to look for the existence of snakes. Where do little ground animals go for food and drink? If there aren’t any, there are likely no snakes. But if there are? I’ll find the snakes.”

Jeff, a resident of the Ellenwood community in southwest Atlanta, is one of a handful of Georgians who has built a business off removing — or supplying — critters to the film industry.

His safety reviews encompass the primary set area, including craft services, base camp and cast and crew parking areas. The emphasis is, of course, where the people, equipment and film action is concentrated.

“I wear a bright green fluorescent hat so I’m very visible,” Jeff says. “The cast and crew associate that visibility with snake safety.”

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Jeff’s service to the film industry is a natural extension of his love of snakes, a love he has passed on to his daughter, Abigail, 15. She got her first snake at age eight, introduced to the care of reptiles as a volunteer at Panola Mountain State Park in Stockbridge. Jeffand Abigail still volunteer there today, as well as manage an extensive private collection of exotic snakes and reptiles.

Jeff has worked on more than 20 productions during his five-year career in Georgia’s film industry. While snake abatement makes up a good portion of his work, much of his work centers of supplying and “wrangling” exotic snakes, reptiles and insects on television and movie sets.

Think Madagascar giant hissing cockroach on the set for the Netflix series “Ozark,” filmed around Lake Lanier.  (A “nice big visual creepy thing,” Jeff says.)Or six colonies of roaches for the set of one of Netflix’s most popular series, “Stranger Things.”  And then there’s the seven-foot-long Australian carpet python, the Asian black forest scorpion, live rats, and the moray eels.

“The animals I deal with are those you wouldn’t be able to find at a pet store,” Jeff says. “They’re not form around here.”

What’s the strangest thing he’s ever worked with on a film set?

“That would have to be the Vietnamese centipede,” he says. “Six inches long, about as big around as your thumb — definitely the creepiest thing I’ve ever worked with.”



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