Georgia is transforming into the new Hollywood of the South

Georgia is transforming into the new Hollywood of the South

Bright lights and movie star sightings are becoming more of the norm for the state of Georgia in recent years. Why you ask? This is mostly due to film and television Producers’ heightened interest in using the Peach State for their filming locations. Such exposure is a home run for all parties.

The spike in interest in Georgia of film and television producers was initiated when the state began offering lucrative tax incentives. In 1973, then-Governor Jimmy Carter started the Georgia Film Commission.  In 2008, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed into law the 2008 Entertainment Industry Investment Act (HB 1100), new legislation designed to encourage entertainment industry productions in Georgia. Some of the incentives offered in this act include: 20% base transferable tax credit, 10% Georgia Entertainment Promotion (GEP) uplift earned by including an embedded Georgia logo on approved projects and a link to xploreGeorgia.org/Film on the promotional website, qualify with a minimum $500,000 spend, no limits or caps on Georgia spend, no sunset clause, qualification for both resident and non-resident workers’ payrolls and FICA, SUI, FUI, and qualification for Georgia produced original music scoring, just to name a few.

This incentive is available for qualifying projects, including feature films, television series, commercials, music videos, animation and game development. These tax incentives for television and movies helped make the state a top contender among Hollywood producers.

Some may or may not know that several major films and TV shows were made right here in Georgia. In fact, Atlanta, as well as various small cities, are now being consistently sought after for filming locations.  Productions such as The Hunger Games, The Walking Dead and Divergent has helped boost Georgia’s film industry. Dwayne Johnson’s “Rampage”, Steven Spielberg’s film ‘Ready Player One’, Netflix’s original drama thriller Stranger Things, and the worldwide successful phenomenon “Black Panther” movie are all Georgia-filmed productions that dominated the box office and recorded million-dollar earnings.  

Georgia has been often listed as the No. 3 overall production center for film and TV in the U.S. behind California and New York. Due to the upsurge of total film and television revenue, Georgia-filmed productions generated an economic impact of $9.5 billion during fiscal year 2017. Deputy Commissioner of the Georgia Film, Music Digital Entertainment Office, Lee Thomas, states, “Georgia’s growth in the film industry — from $67.7 million in direct spending in FY 2007 to $2.7 billion in FY 2017 — is unprecedented, not only in production spend, but also in the amount of investment that has been made in infrastructure.”

“Georgia is the new leader in TV and film production on the East Coast,” said EUE/Screen Gems Studios Executive Vice President Kris Bagwell. The growth in film and television productions in Georgia has caused new sound stages to pop up everywhere.  Currently, there are approximately 45 sound stages offering more than 2 million square feet of space. The state’s major sound stage complexes include Pinewood Atlanta Studios, EUE/Screen Gems Studios, Atlanta Metro Studios, Blackhall Studios, and of course, the well-known Tyler Perry Studios. These, and other, studios have united to develop the Georgia Studio Alliance. This group is an educational advocacy group for studio/production businesses in GA’s film and television industry. Other complexes now being proposed to join the ranks are: Three Ring Studios, CineDome Studios, and Cinema South Studios.    

The vision is becoming quite clear that Georgia is becoming “The New Hollywood of the South”. The surge in television and film revenue for Georgia is very beneficial to the state thanks to the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act, the Georgia Studio Alliance, and the support of Governor Sonny Perdue. Thomas of the Film Commission believes that this explosion of Georgia’s film and television industry is because of the whole package offered. She shared “Sure, we have a competitive incentive, “but it’s also the ease of access with Hartsfield-Jackson, the variety of looks from cities to the coastline to the mountains — we can accommodate a lot of scripts — all the crew and infrastructure. We can house these big shows. And people enjoy being here. It’s a good quality of life.” A win-win for everyone!

Additionally, the Georgia Minority Business Awards (GMBA) celebrated their 1st annual Awards Breakfast for the Movie & Film and Developers Industry at Pinewood Studios (Studio Cafe) in Fayetteville, Georgia that honored minority businesses and entrepreneurs from around Georgia that are making an impact within their perspective communities. The keynote speaker for the breakfast was Tirrell D. Whittley, the visionary and executive leader of LIQUID SOUL. Other special invited guests and dignitaries that were in attendance included: Steve Mensch, President and General Manager of Operations at Tyler Perry Studios, Scott Votaw, Director of Georgia Film Academy, LaRonda Sutton, City of Stonecrest Film & Entertainment, Mayor Edward J. Johnson, Jr., City of Fayetteville, Tamara W. Patridge, Clayton County Economic Development & Film, and Lisa Smith, Region Manager for Georgia Power’s Metro South.

 The 2019 Awards breakfast for the Movie & Film and Developers Industry will be in March of next year. Photos are highlights from the 2018 Awards breakfast.

(This story by Lynn Isaac appears in the latest edition of the Atlanta Business Journal magazine.)

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