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BLP Studio pitching a ‘multi-agency police substation’ on proposed film lot in Whitehaven

With a film production set to begin this month, BLP Film Studio requested a permanent law enforcement presence be considered at the site of its planned 100-acre South Memphis film lot during an update to Memphis City Council Parks and Tourism Committee members on Tuesday, March 5.

“Specifically, the request we are asking is for a multi-agency police substation to be located on the property,” said BLP founder and CEO Jason Farmer. 

While Memphis’ centralized location on the map is a plus for out-of-town filmmakers, the high crime rate of the studio’s surrounding community could potentially hinder future productions – and frighten off potential investors.

“We get a phone call probably once a week about the crime. There are concerns about crime in the city, specifically the location of the film studio,” said Farmer.

Others have expressed concern. Founded in 2012, the studio is currently working with state officials and politicians to clear remaining regulatory hurdles and secure government funding.

“We’re continuing to navigate through the state system. We’ve asked for some funding from the state as an aspect of tourism. We’ll be appearing before the Black Caucus tomorrow. We’re expecting a meeting with Governor Lee in the next couple of weeks.”

Located on Elvis Presley Blvd., the property abuts a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Whitehaven. The land was purchased from the Memphis Shelby County Schools system in 2022.

BLP Studio’s proposal would place a substation in the studio’s commons area. The forward-facing section along Elvis Presley Blvd. would also contain BLP support services, retail and recreational spaces, along with a minor medical clinic.

Preliminary discussions on the topic have been held with several city officials, including City of Memphis Mayor Paul Young, interim MPD Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis and City of Memphis COO Antonio Adams. A discussion is in the works with Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner too. Other civic leaders are also in the loop. Ultimately, the decision lies with Young, who would make the request to the council.

Council members, however, seem receptive. If a new substation was approved, it would take several years before it would be open. Beginning with an outfitting request from the MPD, a design contract is submitted. If the money is allocated the next budget season, construction can begin. 

“Construction is anywhere from 18-24 months. If you add it all together, maybe 40-something odd months to really build a precinct,” said Adams.

One member pointed out a quick fix solution could already be in place. When the nearby retailer built its anchor store in the community, a space was built on the property to house a police precinct. It has never been used. 

“That particular Wal-Mart was built as a model, because Wal-Mart wanted to put Wal-Marts into the city. Wal-Marts were usually on the outskirts. They were going to put precincts for police free of charge…” said Edmund Ford Sr.

Farmer was receptive to the idea.

A joint effort with his son, Jason Jr., BLP Film Studio ambitions include establishing Memphis as a premier Tier 2 film production city. Other Tier 2 cities include New Orleans and Shreveport. Tier 1 cities include notable film production towns like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Atlanta.

It also hopes to carve out a hunk of the Black Indigenous People of Color and Women (BIPOCW) consumer section. Added up, the collection of minority interests equal upwards of $15 billion in market opportunity.

“It positions Memphis. We can capture a significant portion of that market. We’re estimating that we can capture a $3 to $5 billion portion of that market, with Memphis being the largest majority-Black city metropolitan area in the country,” said Farmer.

Shooting for the urban thriller Break the Cycle begins in March. Several neighborhoods in South Memphis are slated for location shots. It will star Oscar winner Cuba Gooding, Jr., Vivica A. Fox, Vernon Davis and Memphian Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. It is the first screenplay by former Memphis Grizzlies and University of Tennessee basketball player Jarnell Stokes.

The need for a new precinct prefaced a subsequent Budget & Audit Committee meeting. While seeking a rundown on the administration’s CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) prioritization process, one member pointed to the dismal state of several South Memphis precincts.

“I’ve been out to the Mt. Moriah precinct. It’s rough. I know they’re working on it right now. I’ve also been out to Hickory Hill. I’ve also been out to Appling Farms. So I know what nicer, better places look like,” said Jerri Green. “If our number one priority – as you mayor, my mayor keeps saying – is crime, crime, crime, it’s confusing to some people, why we’d be able to finish some things in parks and not have our priorities focused on police stations and fire stations.”

Mayor Young will propose his first budget in April.

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