Over the years Oakland Cemetery has been many things to many people, and sometimes those people even turn Oakland into another place entirely! Film, television, and video production at the Cemetery has proved to be a great benefit for Historic Oakland Foundation, as it shares Oakland’s beautiful grounds with people across the world and draws visitors to see where these famous scenes really took place. Filming at Oakland presents unique challenges for production crews, however. Each production must be approved by Sexton Sam Reed. Crews follow strict guidelines and oversight to maintain the integrity and beauty of our historic, hallowed grounds.
Over the past 50 years, Atlanta has been the home of two filmmaking booms. The first occurred in the 1970s with action/thrillers championed by Smokey and the Bandit star Burt Reynolds. Filming in our state really took off in 2005 when the Georgia film tax credit was enacted by the state legislature. The second boom began around that time with the prolific work of Atlanta’s own Tyler Perry.
Memorialized in film, television, and video many times, Oakland Cemetery has been a part of Georgia’s media history. Next time you check out the following, keep your eyes peeled for scenes featuring Oakland.
Note: Some of the film and tv series listed contain material that may not be suitable for all ages.
Scalpel (1977), directed by John Grissmer
When an unhinged surgeon happens across a young woman with her face beaten beyond recognition, he sees an opportunity to put his trusty scalpel to use by hatching a plan to “reconstruct” her face in the image of his missing daughter.
Scene at Oakland: The main characters attend a lively funeral in “New Orleans,” but a keen-eyed observer recognized Oakland Cemetery as the real setting.
Theatrical Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Aot6VIT4wM
Levi’s 501 Commercial ft. Kevin Kuharic (1990) Director: Spike Lee
Synopsis: In 1990 Levi Strauss & Co. launched a national advertising campaign to promote their 501 button-fly jeans. The promotion began with a national hotline where customers with “strange, unusual or amazing jobs” called to submit their answers to the question, “What are you doing in our jeans?” Once the finalists were chosen, Lee traveled the country filming select Levi’s fans. “Why did you call?” he’d ask them. Each commercial ended with a final question from Spike: “Do you button your fly?”
Scene at Oakland: Among thousands of applicants, HOF’s very own Restoration Specialist, Kevin Kuharic, was selected to showcase his unique historic preservation work at Oakland Cemetery.
Daddy’s Little Girls (2007) Director: Tyler Perry
Synopsis: A mechanic falls in love with his attorney.
Scene at Oakland: Monty (played by Idris Elba) gathers with family to mourn the loss of a loved one. The Blu Ray version includes a special documentary featurette about the history of Oakland Cemetery narrated by Sexton Sam Reed.
Theatrical Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baZo44opr1Y
Furious 7 (2015) Director: James Wan
Synopsis: Deckard Shaw seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto and his family for his comatose brother.
Scene at Oakland: Toretto and the rest of the Furious “family” gather together to bury their fallen comrade, Han. Dom notices a sinister-looking car with blacked-out windows watching from afar. Dom then engages the mysterious vehicle in a high-speed chase in the cemetery, passing through the historic African American Burial Grounds, East Hill, Jewish Flats, and Old Hunter Street and exiting to the streets of “downtown L.A” through the iconic gate.
Theatrical Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yISKeT6sDOg
MacGyver (2018), Season 2 Episode 14, “Mardis Gras Beads + Chair” Director: Michael Martinez
Synopsis: The team heads to New Orleans to track down a con artist posing as the wife of one of Jack’s old CIA aliases; enemies of his alias resurface looking for revenge.
Scene at Oakland: The bad guys are using a cemetery crematorium to dispose of their enemies. In order to save his partner from being incinerated, MacGyver crashes his car in the “crematorium” (Bell Tower).
See part 2 of this post (and more pics of Oakland in film)!