Georgia Film Academy set to open in January

Higher education officials unveiled a program Monday aimed at preparing more Georgians for a career in the state’s multibillion dollar entertainment industry.

The Georgia Film Academy’s pilot certification program will start January 11. State leaders see the film academy as a one-stop site for education, training and job placement. Students will get classroom instruction and hands-on experience with industry-standard equipment. They also will train on set with professional production crews. Those who complete the two-course program earn four credits and a production certificate aimed at fast-tracking their entry into film and television work.

Classes initially will be offered through Clayton State University, Columbus State University and Gwinnett Technical College and later expanded to other schools in Georgia.

The academy has been a priority of Gov. Nathan Deal, who has repeatedly touted the industry’s $6 billion impact on the state’s economy.

“Film in Georgia is exploding right now,” said Jeff Stepakoff, a 28-year film industry veteran who was tapped in August to lead the academy.

Georgia is third behind Hollywood and New York and fifth worldwide in the number of productions. Some 248 film and television shows were produced in Georgia last year. About 100,000 people currently work in film in Georgia.

Industry growth is expected to generate 3,000 to 5,000 new jobs in Georgia over the next five years. Entertainment industry workers earn an average of $84,000 a year in jobs ranging from set dressers to construction crew workers.

Stepakoff, whose work includes “The Winder Years,” and “Dawson’s Creek”, likened the academy to a teaching hospital. He said the two-course program will be a “broad soups-to-nuts overview for all the crafts needed to work in the industry.”

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