Grow TV, film talent in Y’allywood

“Made in Georgia.”

It’s a proclamation hundreds of film and television productions can make, but none are more deserving of the label than SundanceTV’s “Rectify.” This award-winning series tells the story of a former death row inmate re-adjusting to life in a fictional Georgia town. Every bit of it is filmed in Griffin and creator Ray McKinnon was born, educated and trained as an actor here in Georgia. I’m proud to say several SCAD graduates have remained in state to play critical roles on the set, in fields ranging from cinematography to post-production to costume design.

“Rectify’s” recent renewal for a fourth season was yet another morsel of wonderful news in a blockbuster summer for our $6 billion film and television industry. While the business currently supports 24,000 full-time jobs and shows no signs of slowing, one only needs to look as far as North Carolina to remember that a boom is typically followed by a bust. To ensure the “Hollywood of the South” becomes a permanent film and television destination, all state actors must work collaboratively and follow a script consisting of three main acts. If we’re successful, we’ll see homegrown triumphs like “Rectify” become the norm for decades.

  • Act I: Government support for industry. Since the production tax credits were implemented in 2008, the number of film and television productions in Georgia has increased from fewer than 10 to nearly 250. Clearly, these tax incentives have had the desired effect in the short term, but for long-term success, consistency is crucial. Companies will not continue plans to build studios here if they think Georgia will follow the lead of North Carolina, Louisiana and Florida by scaling back incentives.
  • Act II: Training top talent. Beyond helping productions meet the increasing demand for crew members, universities should also play a key role in educating talent — the students who will go on to become the next great artists, actors and auteurs. As SCAD president, I have made it our mission to train these future stars. Today, we offer 40 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in film, TV and entertainment arts. And in response to growing student and industry needs, SCAD has extended courses to its Atlanta campus, resulting in an additional B.F.A. program this fall. That means students can now earn a B.F.A., M.A., or M.F.A. in film and television at our Savannah or Atlanta locations, plus enroll in related courses at SCAD Hong Kong and SCAD Lacoste. Armed with the knowledge they have gained in our classrooms and state-of-the-art facilities such as the newly-renovated SCAD Atlanta Digital Media Center, more than 1,600 SCAD alumni now work in Georgia’s entertainment industry. I’m confident that figure will rise as we continue to expand our professional programs and establish a larger film and TV footprint in SCAD and in our state.
  • Act III: Building permanent infrastructure. A stronger brick-and-mortar studio presence will differentiate Georgia from other Southern states. With new studio complexes, Georgia can lure more major companies like Marvel away from Los Angeles and attract new ones looking to build permanent fixtures within the state’s landscape.

At SCAD last year, we built out our own facility, Savannah Film Studios, where we host students and outside productions. Other studios are in development across the state, including Third Rail Studios and Moon River Studios. These complexes will join Georgia-based studios already in operation, including Pinewood Atlanta, EUE/Screen Gems, Eagle Rock Studios Atlanta and Tyler Perry Studios.

With continued government support, additional education and training and the construction of new infrastructure, the future of Georgia’s film and television will be not only secure, but thriving. Now, just where should we build our colossal Y’allywood sign?

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Paula Wallace is president of the Savannah College of Art and Design.