- Laura Berrios
Georgia’s burgeoning entertainment industry didn’t get this way overnight, or by making a few Hollywood types happy.
It has taken years to assemble an impressive infrastructure of studios and related businesses, train enough crew workers, and get civic leaders to roll out the red carpet for producers seeking a Georgia backdrop.
State leaders say the increase in TV/film production can be attributed to: tax incentives for producers; an international airport for easy travel to and from California; and a deep, experienced crew base.
Companies that spend at least half a million on production or post-production receive a 20 percent tax credit, and an additional 10 percent is given to those who put a big peach promotional logo on their finished product.
“Hands down it’s the best [entertainment tax incentive] in the nation,” said Craig Miller, co-president of the Georgia Production Partnership. The coalition worked for the 2008 passage of the Entertainment Investment Act, and still watches over it like a protective parent.
The amount spent on television and film production in Georgia has exploded since the tax incentive was passed.
Fiscal year 2013 saw record investment by 142 feature films and television projects, with about $940 million in direct spending, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
By comparison, in fiscal year 2007 the value of production budgets, including nine feature films, was $132.5 million.
The film and television industry is responsible for almost 23,000 direct high-paying jobs in Georgia and $1.3 billion in wages, according to the Motion Picture Association. These are high-quality jobs with an average salary of $84,000.
Additionally, there are more than 30,000 skilled production professionals and more than 1,000 production suppliers and support vendors whose services are listed with the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office.
Information about companies filming in Georgia and employment opportunities is also published in the Georgia Film & Television Sourcebook.
Job seekers can also check with casting offices and talent agencies in metro Atlanta.
In the past three years, 11 film and television studios have announced plans to locate or expand in Georgia. This includes UK-based Pinewood, a full-service film and entertainment complex in Fayetteville.
“These type of brick-and-mortar investments help secure the future of Georgia’s entertainment industry,” said Miller.
With these facilities, future productions are likely to be larger in size and scope, said Lee Thomas, director of the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office.
Also, more than 80 industry-related companies have relocated or expanded in Georgia in the past six years. These include casting companies as well as businesses that supply equipment, lighting, catering, transportation, and more.
Thomas anticipates a new growth market in indie film production.
“We have had so many projects that crews have been able to train on and now they’re going out and doing their own productions,” she said.
Independent film-makers have opportunities to show their work at film festivals held around the metro area, as well as other cities in the state. The entertainment industry has spawned an increase in film festivals, with some 20 held in Georgia each year.
There’s been an increase in film-induced tourism in Georgia, according to the state film industry. To attract even more visitors, a new website was launched, www.ComeTourGeorgia.com, which gives updated information about productions, locations and film and music festivals.
In the small town of Covington – which trademarked itself “Hollywood of the South” – production of the popular television series The Vampire Diaries receives a global cult following.
“People have come from all over the world,” said Hunter Hall, president of the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce. “We had four ladies from Ireland here this morning.”
People from 44 states and 37 different countries have signed the guest book at the Covington-Newton County Visitor’s Center, Hall said.
In Newton, economic benefits trickle down to hotels and restaurants, caterers, real estate agents, and even off-duty police officers who earn extra money directing traffic during shoots.
A local exterminating service is under contract to spray before all outdoor scenes for The Vampire Diaries. Another Newton County business won the contract to provide all tents, tables and other supplies for every production shoot of the TV show.
The entertainment industry is experiencing growing pains. With 32 shows now in production it has been difficult getting enough people to fill jobs, Thomas said.
There’s a statewide emphasis on increasing training and education to encourage those who want to enter the industry. Thomas said her office is helping identify high demand jobs in the industry and then working with local universities to fill those needs.
In Newton County, for example, high school students can choose a career path in film and video production so upon graduation they can immediately enter the job market.
“TV/film industry is here to stay,” says Hall, flatly. “The labor pool and the union pool are at such a scale in Georgia that we see the industry staying.”
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