Five jobs the Atlanta TV and film industry is desperate to fill

The Swan House in Atlanta was featured prominently in The Hunger Games series, starring Donald Sutherland and Jennifer Lawrence.
The Swan House in Atlanta was featured prominently in The Hunger Games series, starring Donald Sutherland and Jennifer Lawrence.

This article is presented to you in partnership with Savannah College of Art and Design.  Visit their website for information on their programs and course offerings.

You don’t have to be a celebrity to make money in the entertainment industry. If you live in metro Atlanta, your next part could be behind the scenes.

Figures from the Motion Picture Association of America show that nearly 23,500 people are directly employed by the motion picture and television industry in Georgia.

Collectively, the industry generated $5.1 billion for the Georgia economy in fiscal year 2014. There are 158 productions shooting in the Peach State, including box office successes such as "The Hunger Games" franchise and TV ratings juggernaut, "The Walking Dead."

The demand for talent in Georgia is so great, many behind-the-scenes jobs go unfilled, causing producers to send for help in California, industry insiders have said.

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“There’s so much production here,” said Suzanne Geiger, unit production manager for the FOX television show, ‘Red Band Society.’” “And this is a town with a certain number of good crews, and there are way more shows here than that, so the talent pool gets spread very thin, and the skill level hasn’t caught up yet.”

“Red Band Society” is filmed at EUE/Screen Gems Studios Atlanta.

Executive producers want local workers partly because it can reduce the bottom line. And they want to shoot in Atlanta because the state has made it attractive to do so.

Tax incentives approved by the state in 2008 can climb as high as 30 percent, depending on the production budget.

Here are five jobs the Atlanta TV and film industry is desperate to fill – and how much you could make doing them.

1. Line Producers/Associate Producers

Bob Judson, a professor of television production at Savannah College of Art and Design, says producers are in demand.

Executive producers (often known as show runners) generally come from California and are responsible for any production’s fiduciary needs, meaning they find the funding. Line and associate producers are charged with making sure the production stays on budget.

Judson says line producers can earn as much as $600 to $800 per day, depending on the budget and the length of the production. Associate producers can earn as much as $50 to $600 per day, depending on other factors, including membership in the producer’s guild.

2.  Electricians

Chris Bagwell, executive producer at EUE/Screen Gems Studio Atlanta, says the entertainment industry in Atlanta is facing a shortage of electricians. In the business, the head electrician is known as a “gaffer.”

While Bagwell and Mike Akins, business agent for IATSE Local 479, point out that rates are always budget-driven, electricians can make from $15 to $35 per hour for their expertise.

SCAD Special Feature | Georgia's film and TV industry

3.  Directors of Photography

Many producers import photography directors from outside Atlanta, but local DPs are sought for a critical reason: They know local gaffers and grips, and can put together a crew.

Since fewer projects are shot with traditional film stock these days, the skill set for a DP has evolved through the years. A thorough knowledge of lenses and lighting is still paramount, Judson notes. DPs will earn up to $650 per day, with some receiving as much as $1,500 per day.

4. Carpenters/Construction Personnel

Much like electricians, carpenters and construction workers face different challenges in working in the entertainment industry than in non-entertainment projects.

“We’ve had to bring in a fair amount of construction people – painters and carpenters – from out of town,” Geiger said. “It’s a different skill set and a different set of expectations from regular carpentry. Sets aren’t built like homes – walls come out and go back in. They’re put together differently.”

Akins says carpenters and construction personnel can make somewhere between $15 and $35 per hour, depending on the production budget and their position.

5. Digital Imaging Technicians

Nearly every film, TV and commercial production in town uses a digital imaging technician (or DIT), says Judson, also owner and operator of Image Digital Media. The DIT’s responsibility is to manage all the digital data being produced from a multitude of cameras.

“It’s a heavy responsibility,” he says. “With volatile media, once you believe you have that stuff laid off, those cards or hard drives get formatted and go back into the camera. So once that’s done, that data is gone forever.”

“Data wranglers,” as Judson refers to them, can make up to $700 per day, depending on their skills and the workflow.

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