Georgia goes Hollywood

COLUMBUS, Ga. – The film industry in Georgia is cruising along at warp speed and Columbus stands poised to take advantage of the industry’s phenomenal growth.

“Besides Los Angeles and New York it may surprise you to learn which state ranks third in the country for movie production..”

Georgia is on the mind of a lot of movie producers lately. The explosive growth in the film and TV production industry in the Peach State can be traced to tax incentives passed in 2008. Production companies that spend at least half a million dollars receive 20% tax credits and an extra 10% if they add Georgia’s logo to their movie credits.

“Since the incentive started in 2008, they have added 13 studios to the State of Georgia. So, those are not just sound stages. Those are actually studio facilities which would have multiple sound stages and more are coming.”

Craig Miller, a Columbus native, is a chair of an advisory commission that oversees the film industry. He says several films are currently shooting or scheduled to be shot in Georgia.

“Marvel Comics is shooting all of their productions for the next six years at Pinewood Studios that’s located in Fayetteville,Georgia.

“We have Passengers which is Jennifer Lawrence’s new movie…”

“We just wrapped on Julia Roberts and Jennifer Anniston shooting “A Mother’s Day.” It just wrapped at Eagle Rock Studios which is just north of Atlanta.”

“You’ve got all of Tyler Perry’s work.  He has his own studios, about to upgrade and move to Fort McPherson here in Atlanta”

With big names, comes the need for a big workforce, one that Georgia isn’t prepared for yet.

“Every day plane loads of below-the-line film workers are getting into Hartsfield airport, and they’re going to work on film sets all over the Atlanta area.”

Kris Bagwell heads up Eue/Screen Gems Studios just south of Downtown Atlanta which opened in 2010.

“The studios want to hire Georgians. It costs them more to fly people in from California and pay all of their living expenses than to hire local people.”

“Over our five years so far at Screen Gems we’ve probably averaged 70% of Georgians on these crews working here, so it is mostly Georgians. But we want to get to 100%.”

“If you look at “Walking Dead” which is now in season six, the “Walking Dead” has 97% local hire.”

“Walking Dead” is the exception, not the norm. More trained Georgians are needed.

“As the industry continues to grow, we need to provide more and more crew, whether that’s electricians, whether that’s carpenters, painters, whether that’s make-up artists,
whether that’s actors.”

The demand for more trained workers has led to the creation of the Georgia Film Academy.

“First and foremost is dedicated to training and providing that crew base, that work force base.”

This is where the Georgia movie spotlight shines on Columbus.

Jeff Stepakoff has asked Columbus State University to launch a film certification course in January. It was approved by the university curriculum committee. The 18-hour course for current students at CSU will teach them the basics of working on a movie or TV production set.

“We would anticipate right now the students in communication as well as our theater, technical theater folks taking this course as an add-on to their curriculum.”

Baxter says this certification course will eventually be open to the public through continuing education. Columbus has a task force focused on maximizing film opportunities in the Fountain City. It’s headed by Paul Pierce.

‘We’re hoping that the Governor and Jeff Stepakoff at the Georgia Film Academy will see Columbus as a great collection of assets to build the Georgia Film Academy

The CSU program still has to receive final approval from SACS, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Among those represented on the local task force besides CSU include: Chamber of Commerce Convention Visitors Bureau, The Springer Theater, and Columbus Tech.


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