Hollywood South: How the film industry is impacting Georgia

MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – If you’ve been to the movies lately or turned the TV to your favorite TV show, chances are it was made here in Georgia.

The film industry is bringing billions of dollars to the peach state.

Lights, cameras, peaches?

“I think we’re going to have continued growth in the infrastructure,” Lee Thomas, the deputy film commissioner for the Georgia Film Commission says. “I mean we have a great tax incentive, we have diverse locations, I mean everything from the mountians to a metropolitan city and the coastline.

Georgia is rapidly becoming the “it” place to film for movies and television.

The superhero blockbuster, “Ant-Man”, was shot mostly at Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Fayette County and downtown Atlanta.

Thomas says the state is becoming a big draw for film crews in Hollywood.

“Now everything is digital, everything is much faster, incentives kind of narrow down the market,” Thomas says.

In the last eight years, the film and TV industry has grown on its impact on the state’s economy.

In 2007, Thomas says the film and TV industry has brought in about $244 million dollars for the state. Now, that number is at more than $6 billions — supporting more than $1.6 billion dollars in wages and creating more than 9200 jobs.

It’s trickling down to Middle Georgia.

“Macon really is a set. It’s a movie set. They would have to buld this in Hollywood because it doesn’t really exist anywhere,” Terrell Sandefur, with the Macon Film Festival, says.

In the last five years, Macon has been home to several blockbusters.

The Jackie Robinson biopic, “42”, used downtown Macon and Luther Williams field to look like a 1940’s version of Brooklyn, New York.

Need for Speed, the video game made action movie, burned rubber around Cotton Avenue.

“We had so much fun in Georgia. It was such a great place to film. they were so wonderful for opening up  a lot of streets for us to film in,” Scott Waugh, the movie’s director said in an interview with 41NBC in February 2014. “Macon, what a town that we laid a lot of  rubber down in.”

“Renting hotel rooms, going to dinner, hiring a caterer, paying for parking spaces and lots, renting buildings. There’s a lot money that they leave when they come quite a lot,” Sandefur says.

“It was cool man. It reminds me of Cleveland as far as that good old small town vibe. It was great. all the locals were great — a lot of action in a small town. We were ripping the city up,” Scott Mescudi said in an interview with 41NBC in February 2014.

A big boost for the local economies in the state. Take Senoia, what used to be a quiet, small town is now the home for the dead – “The Walking Dead.”

“They’ve gone from six storefronts to 47 storefronts since the Walking Dead has been there. the entire town is full,” Thomas says.

The city is now a tourist destination.

While Georgia is seeing success, Thomas says there are still challenges for her an her four person staff. Competition is fierce from other states including Louisiana and North Carolina.

“It used to be we had a a lot of time when we would drive around and scout all over the state. It’s not that way anymore. We’re very busy and we’re a small group,” Thomas says.

That’s where events like the Macon Film Festival helps give the state an added edge.

“We bring all of these film makers in from all over the world in hopes that they’ll see the city and see it as a set for one of their potential films,” Sandefur says.

With the demand for filming in the state at an all-time high, Thomas and Governor Nathan Deal worry there isn’t enough workforce to keep up, so they’re exploring options for creating film academies that will teach students the ins and outs of working on a film crew across the state.

“A partnership with the University System of Georgia and the technical college system. A lot the tuition will be waived for the highest demand jobs that are out there,” Thomas says.

“I do see it correcting itself. We have to if our people want to work in the industry. They’ve got to be qualified,” Sandefur says.

Qualified to state in the race for the number one spot to film.

“I’m hoping this Georgia Film Academy really churns out a great workforce and I think it’ll end up being a race with L.A. and New York,” Thomas says.

There are currently 42 films and TV shows in production across the state. Thomas says they’re looking for an executive director for the proposed film academy with hopes of starting the program by next spring. 


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