Debra Johnston: How Georgia’s Entertainment Industry Influenced Real Estate And Her Own Home

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Often extoled as the new cultural capital of the American South, Atlanta has fast turned into an entertainment mecca – the epicenter of a booming industry that has taken over Georgia. Between July 2015 and June 2016, the state has served as the backdrop for over 200 movies and series. Georgia’s versatile scenery peeks from recent blockbusters such as Captain America: Civil War and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 as well as hit shows in the ranks of The Walking Dead and Stranger Things. In a little over a decade, Georgia’s entertainment industry has climbed to the third largest in the country, raking in the remarkable $7 billion a year, Adweek reported.

The influx of hundreds of production crews has exerted quite a demand on Georgia’s – and in particularly Atlanta’s – real estate market; and the change barely even starts with scouting for film locations. From A-listers to directors, they all search for properties to call home while shooting. Haute Residence Atlanta partner, Debra Johnston has helped many find their temporary adobes in the city’s luxury housing scene.

“They are working most of the time so they like to find homes that are private, calming, gated and secure,” Johnston said. “They are design sensitive and appreciate good design, green space, a pool and/or a tennis court and of course the creature comforts of a well- designed home.”


Fortunately for actors and film professionals, whose families often trek along and seek privacy, Atlanta, a city sprawling over 134 square miles, offers the perfect blend of seclusion and amenities, said Johnston.

She, herself, epitomizes the hospitality and discretion Atlantans pride themselves on. Johnston often rents out her mid-century modern residence, The Ridgewood House to actors, making sure her home becomes theirs. Whenever she expects a high-profile guest, she replaces her belongings with a selection of luxurious items – fresh flowers, special soaps and deluxe pool towels.


“Working with the film industry has become a part of my business that I really enjoy,” she said.

It all started at the dawn of the century, when she revamped her house, which architect Jerry Cooper designed in 1959. The renovation allowed for a contemporary way of life but still reflected a historical sensitivity. Eager to showcase “incredible mid-century modern architecture for today’s lifestyle,” Johnston entered her upgraded home in the Metropolitan Home of the Year contest – and won. The press flocked in and Johnston’s home found a spot on the Georgia film registry as a location for print, video and film.

Some may recognize Johnston’s property as the home of Gabrielle Union in BET’s hit series Being Mary Jane or as the setting for the music video for Usher and Rick Ross’s LemmeSee single. From a three-season role in the USA Network’s Satisfaction to a spot in a slew of projects with Sony, Knoll, Rolls Royce and Samsung, Johnston’s Ridgewood masterpiece became a high-end rental when The Hunger Games came to the area. Since then, it has hosted Liam Hemsworth and Ryan Gosling, among others, whose privacy Johnston guards.

“The guests that I have hosted so far have been great,” said Johnston. “Like with any business, word of mouth is the best, I have been lucky that way.”

Debra A. Johnston is the exclusive agent representing the Atlanta, Georgia real estate market as a member of the Haute Residence Real Estate Network. View her profile or contact her here.

Images and video courtesy of Debra A. Johnston

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