Georgia’s role as a movie mecca attracts students to film programs

Georgia has become a magnet for the movie industry in recent years. Films made in Georgia resulted in an economic impact of $3.1 billion in fiscal year 2012, up 29 percent from fiscal year 2011, according to the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office, a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Georgia is also one of the top five production destinations in the country, with 333 feature films made here in 2012, film officials said.

Celebrity sightings are commonplace now that major films such as “The Blind Side” and “Flight” were filmed in Georgia, not to mention “Identity Thief,” “Trouble with the Curve,” “Parental Guidance” and a host of others. The second installment of “Hunger Games” and “Anchorman 2”  are being produced here.

The movie industry created more than 25,000 movie production jobs in Georgia in 2012, not to mention employment  for hair and makeup stylists, caterers, electricians, painters, construction workers, truck drivers and others in support services.

So you want to work in the movies? One option   is to  pursue a digital filmmaking and video production degree at the Art Institute of Atlanta.

Joshua Gary, 23, who recently graduated from the Art Institute of Atlanta, made valuable job connections while he worked on his bachelor’s degree.

“After high school, I took a couple of years trying to break into film on my own,” Gary said. “I produced shorts for local film festivals to get noticed. It really wasn’t working too well for me, so I ended up enrolling here.”

Things turned around quickly for Gary at the school . A hallmark of the training program is solid, hands-on experience with cameras, lighting and editing equipment. Students learn about directing, producing, screenwriting, sound and project management.

Many Art Institute of Atlanta faculty members have  careers in the film industry.

“Once they got to know me, professors actually helped me get jobs, and I competed in Campus Moviefest, which comes to campus every year,” Gary said. “We placed second in the nation last year.”

Gary also competed and won the opportunity to work with director of photography David Cone on four short films to launch a new Adobe software product.

Gary’s networking tips include attending film festivals, joining professional groups, participating in informal group discussions with visiting pros at festivals  and passing out business cards so potential employers can get access to your website, portfolio and contact information.

Experienced instructors

Bryan Krass joined the faculty as an adjunct professor at the Art Institute of Atlanta in  2011. His titles and roles on production sets have included electric, best boy, gaffer, grip, dolly grip, best boy grip and key grip — essentially all the heavy lifting jobs that actually make a movie, reality show or documentary happen.

“Film crews are populated by people who don’t want to punch a clock,” Krass said. “Once you have been in film for 10 years, you are ruined for anything else. You can make a good living but you have to put in the hours, and it’s not glamorous work.”

Krass has no doubt that metro Atlanta’s film industry is here to stay.

“People I went to school with have moved here,” Krass said. “One of the key things producers look for is availability of a good crew. It’s expensive to bring in a crew, so hiring local talent is sustainable.”

Fran Burst-Terranella is an Emmy-winning, independent  filmmaker who teaches directing, fiction and nonfiction scriptwriting, producing and portfolio classes at the Art Institute of Atlanta.

“Most of our students are creative and focused on storytelling,” she said. “But you have to have technical skills as well, to make it in the field today, and my job is to give them experience.”

Burst-Terranella, who is now completing her first feature film, “The 12 Lives of Sissy Carlyle,” said filmmaking is a people-based business.

“It’s simple. If you trust people, you hire them. Our students have so many different skill areas, and they are so technologically savvy that they can fit themselves in to a lot of different areas as they build their careers.”