Alan Rawlins has 42 years of experience in the film industry, mostly in Georgia with a brief detour to California. His best job so far? Providing opportunity to his hometown of Macon.
“I’ve kept a lot of local people busy during lean times. When my business is flourishing, I’m able to hand off business to others,” says Rawlins, who has worked on more than 100 productions. “Lord knows how much lumber, metal and tools I’ve purchased. I keep as much business local as possible.”
Rawlins started as a driver on the set of “Future World” in 1975. He packed up his home and brought his wife and children to California for two years.
It didn’t work out.
Not for lack of work in California, but because he and his family missed Georgia. Back in Macon, Rawlins worked as a driver and eventually as a grip on commercials, music videos and movies of the week.
“The movies of the week were our bread and butter, but those dried up around 1996,” says Rawlins. “Work could be scarce in those days, it was a struggle.”
Rawlins spent most of the next 10 years as a key grip in California living as a nomad. He kept his home in Macon but drove his motor home back and forth to California or wherever the work took him across the United States.
In 1988, Rawlins started his own company, Gentlemen Grips, that supplies trucks and grip equipment to a select group of key grips. He started with one five-ton truck. In 2000, work started to pick up and Alan built his first 40-foot trailer. Then in 2008, the Georgia legislature passed lucrative film tax incentives, and Alan’s business really took off. Now he has six 40-foot trucks and five truckloads of grip equipment, support and rigging.
“I was forced to grow my company to keep up with demand and keep my team of grips supplied with equipment,” says Rawlins. “I was one of the holdouts who wouldn’t move to Los Angeles. I stuck it out in Georgia and, lo and behold, the movie business came to us. It’s paid off.”
Rawlins acknowledges that the film industry has been a blessing and the business has been good to him. But he’s not the kind of person to keep good fortune for himself. He’s committed to spreading it to his neighbors and local businesses.
A neighbor who is a welder and fabricator builds carts for Rawlins. Another local tradesman maintains his trailers, ensuring the brakes, airlines, wheel hubs, interiors and shelving are in good shape. One Macon fabricator was in danger of losing his home, and Rawlins gave him an advance to do work on trailers. The man was able to save his home from foreclosure.
Rawlins’ father-in-law, J.L Parker, took a job driving a motor home for an up and coming young actor (Burt Reynolds — who happened to be a friend) on the movie “Gator” filmed in Savannah, GA. He met and impressed the right people and helped Alan get his start in the film industry. Now Rawlins’ son and nephews are getting their start. Three generations are working in the film industry.
“I had a bunch of young’uns come through the ranks in my shop. They’re thrilled with this opportunity,” says Rawlins. “Stepping into the film industry has been a blessing.
The business has been good to me, my family and my entire community.”