Nearly every week, press and internet media sites feature stories about film projects in or coming to Georgia. While the glamor of Hollywood in the state is interesting, a bigger story is the long-term potential for the film industry to remain a major aspect of the state’s culture and economy.
Consider the foundation behind the growth and future of film in Georgia:
1) Georgia has one of the best film incentive programs in the country by several measures. The program features a 20% tax rebate for productions shot in the state with an additional 10% available for projects that include the Georgia “Peach State” logo in its credits. The film business site Film Production Capital rates Georgia one of only two five star states (Louisiana is the other) among almost 40 states with film incentives. While California and New York will always be number one and two in the country, “the real battle is for number three” according to Brian Livesey, CEO of Atlanta Metro Studios which is currently building a sound stage complex in Union City.
2) Not only does Georgia have a strong incentive program, but it is well known in the film industry as being stable. Like all other business, it seeks stability with regard to economic development climate, government regulation, related infrastructure, private sector support and other similar factors. While a few other states (California, New York, New Mexico, Nevada) have recently expanded film incentives, many other states have reduced, are considering reducing (Florida and Louisiana right now) or even virtually eliminated incentives (North Carolina). At the same time, there has been serious discussion and even legislative consideration of expanding incentives in Georgia.
3) Studios and related businesses are being constructed, moving from other states or expanding. In a Feb. 10 press release, Fonu2, a production and social commerce company that recently purchased a studio complex in Savannah, noted:
“Georgia is number one in growth for the movie industry, with a major shortage of available sound stages due to the massive demand in the state.”
In an April 30 panel discussion sponsored by RealShare Atlanta at the Georgia Aquarium, First Industrial Realty Trust Regional Director Cory Richardson said his firm is in negotiations with a movie production company:
“That industry is here to stay because Atlanta is making a big commitment.”
Presently there are two major studio spaces under construction and as many as many as three are in development. This growth means that more productions can be shot in the state at the same time, and for longer. Those productions will also make use of location sites, expanding the economic impact to many areas.
At Clayton State, for example, “Vampire Diaries” and “Michelle Darnell” have shot over the past five months and we have been scouted for two other projects. In addition, we have opened a 10,000 square foot sound stage in Jonesboro in which will be used for teaching, as well as being available for rent as a shooting space for smaller productions.
4) Georgia is one of only two states (New Mexico is the other) that have developed a statewide centralized a crew training program in its higher education system. Support for the Georgia Film Academy started with Gov. Nathen Deal and is being facilitated through the four-year universities and technical colleges in the state. While other states may have more financially lucrative incentives, if a production has to import labor, much of the impact of the incentives is negated.
Having sufficient trained workers is a very important aspect of shooting a film, as productions are very labor intensive. That fact was not lost of one of the strongest proponents of the Louisiana film incentive, State Senator J.P. Morrell:
“We have not created a comprehensive educational structure to train up new talent. When you talk to people [in the industry] … it’s frustrating to them at times that they have to train up these raw artists… On the education bit, we’ve failed.”
Clayton State currently offers the only non-credit comprehensive film crew training program in the country. Because it is non-credit, the six-month program does not require a high school diploma or GED for admission, and is therefore well-suited for young people who are not necessarily college-bound as well as for adults who are changing careers.
5) Georgia has a number of indigenous features that make it attractive for film production. First is Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, with several non-stop flights to Los Angeles every day. This level of service and flexibility is a very big deal for producers and other Hollywood-based professionals. And Georgia has abundant shooting locations from urban, big modern city to older Americana architecture and small town features, forests, lakes, rivers, beaches, rural areas, industrial and manufacturing sites, major league sports and motor sports facilities, etc. Even a major freeway that can be closed for filming (“Fast and Furious 7”)– which would be very difficult and expensive on Los Angles.
For all these reasons, the prognosis for the continued presence and strong growth of the film industry is excellent. Georgia residents who can get trained to work in film can look forward to a strong potential for long-term industry employment. And businesses which can grow and adapt to serve the needs of the industry will likely have a lucrative client base for many years.
Barton Bond is the Director of the Film and Digital Media Center at Clayton State University in Morrow, Georgia. He has over 45 years of experience in electronic media and has been teaching film crew training for the past 10 years in New Mexico and Georgia. Information about the program can be found at www.clayton.edu/film-digital-media