Atlanta named top place to work for moviemakers by industry mag

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Moviemaker magazine has named Atlanta the best place to work and live for people in the film and TV business among all major cities, beating New York and Los Angeles.

This is up from sixth a year ago. Atlanta was also deemed better than cities such as Austin, TX (No. 3) and Albuquerque, N.M. (No. 5).

Atlanta is still third in terms of total production among U.S. cities behind New York and L.A. But the story cited the metro area's significantly lower cost of living in terms of housing and the thriving restaurant scene. The author noted local indie film festivals and a city job training program to bolster the local crew talent pool. State higher education officials in December also unveiled

"To me, it says that this is a great market for value," said Ric Reitz, an Atlanta actor who helped develop the tax credit program in 2008 that drew film production companies to the state. "Part of the goals we laid out early on was to increase the local infrastructure and get people with suitable experience to come here. Many have made this their home or at least another home."

He said Moviemaker magazine is read internationally so this is great news. "We have to step out of adolescent phase of development," he said. "There are still some perceptions that we don't have deep roots. But it takes time. We are well aware of it. We're small and nimble which is good."

The films and TV shows that have shot here or are shooting here include "The Walking Dead," "Ant Man," the latest sequels to "Guardians in the Galaxy," "Divergent" and "Captain America" and a current romantic sci-fi thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Platt called "Passengers."

The Moviemaker story notes:

You might not ever have—or want—to leave. With so many actors, writers, directors and producers in the city, you can schedule your next big meeting at one of Atlanta's 132 Waffle House locations instead of flying to some vaulted office thousands of miles away. Waffles, grits and a greenlight? Win-win-win.

The tax credits passed in 2008, which provides up to 30 percent of production costs back to film companies, may be money straight out of the tax rolls. But in return, more than $6 billion in annual new business has been generated in the state. And so far, both Governor Nathan Deal and the state assembly appear supportive.

My colleague Greg Bluestein wrote last month: "There has been no visible, coordinated effort to target that tax break."

Deal said this last month:

"So let me state here and now that I am committed to protecting the film tax credits that make this type of blockbuster economic impact possible.  Why would anyone want to make changes to our current system which would only infringe on an industry that employs thousands of Georgians, brings new business to our state regularly and generates billions of dollars in our statewide economy?  We have found an incentives structure that works. I see no need to alter or fix something that is not broken."

But production companies are loyal only to the almighty dollar. If there is even an inkling the incentives are being scaled back in any way, the likes of Sony and Viacom will start hunting for more amenable climes.

"Nothing is guaranteed for life but this is a good scenario," Reitz said. "We're really pleased."

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