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Film tax breaks could lead to big movie/TV breaks
Tax incentives give rise to academy to train crew for states growing film industry

Even as states like North Carolina and Louisiana cut tax incentives for film and television production companies, Georgia continues to offer the most generous incentives in the country. That generosity has made Georgia third in the country in productions.

“We’ve seen a lot of people move in from other markets, when their incentives were cut,” said Lea Thomas, Deputy Commissioner of the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office.

Locally, the successful “Sleepy Hollow” series on Fox moved productions from North Carolina to nearby Rockdale County. In August, film crews could be found in Covington shooting the TV series, “The Vampire Diaries,” and the movies “Miracles from Heaven” and “Coat of Many Colors.”

In all, there were 42 films or series shot in Georgia over the summer. The influx of short-termed productions has brought in pre- and post-production and some major movie studio facilities. The UK-based Pinewood Studios set up shop in Fayetteville, EUE/Screen Gems in Atlanta, and The Tyler Perry Studios at Fort McPherson is expected to create more than 8,000 jobs.

“It’s been great, not only because the films, [but because] as a result of having all this business, we’ve been able to attract companies and sound stages,” she said. More than 120 new companies related to film production and 13 new sound stages have located in Atlanta since 2010.

“Incentives,” she said, “attract business.”

The call for experienced or trained film crews and support staff has put many talented locals to work, but the sheer numbers of people needed on a film set has also required producers to bring in crews from California to work on projects.

“Georgia has a very robust film community,” Thomas said. “We outgrew the crew we do have. We’re a victim of our own success.”

Last year, she said, members of the commission meant with people from Marvel Comics, Turner Broadcasting, Warner Brothers and other production companies, asking them what they looked for in crews. The answer led to the creation of the Georgia Film Academy. A partnership between the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia, the goal of the academy is to provide producers with a larger local talent pool of production staff.

The academy, Thomas said, “is meant to fast track people into the industry. These certificates will be applicable if [someone] wants to pursue a four year degree. There will be a lot of classes on campuses around the state.”

In early September, Georgia Piedmont Technical College in Covington rolled out the first of three programs designed to meet the growing need for film crews.

A continuing education course, which started mid-September, is a two month instructor led onsite training program for production assistants.

“Production Assistants are the entry level position,” said Eric Morton, the course instructor. “This is the path most people take trying to enter the business. The course will give a basic understanding of the business of the film and movie industry.”

The 64 hour program teaches participants the terminology and lingo of film making, set etiquette, stages of production and jobs that are associated with the industry in development, preproduction, production and post-production, he said.

Morton, who has over 20 years’ experience working on major movie productions and independent film productions, has served as a producer, director and assistant director. His experience includes script analysis, production management, scheduling, and marketing and distribution.

“There’s a whole lot of work that goes into development and preproduction before you get to the shoot,” he said. It requires casting directors, location scouts and managers, and others who make sure everything is in order before shooting begins.

“You really do a whole lot of planning to be successful,” Morton said. “Planning, planning and more planning is a key factor in how your production goes. [It’s] important to have skilled people do the work.”

After a film wraps, the post-production work begins, which includes editing the film, adding music, creating special effects.

While the college expects many of the participants will be recent high school graduates with an interest in or course work in digital media, Gwen Syphoe, Business and Industry Specialist at the college, it can also help people with experience in management make the transition to the film industry.

“Basically it’s geared to people who are seriously interested in work in the industry,” Morton said. “It’s definitely for adults. Someone who has management experience may want to get in production management. It’s a diversified industry – someone who’s running a catering business could take this class to get some basic understanding of the film industry before they enter into the business.”

Syphoe said the investment in the course is $649, with 48 hours spent in course work and 16 hours of onsite production work.

“We’ll have two production days scheduled to give everyone in class have a chance at production,” Morton said, adding that industry professionals would be on hand to help with the course.

“It will be the best hands on experience they can get,” he said. “You can stay in classroom all day, but when you see it out, you really learn and see how the lingo and what you learn in class is the best experience.”

The course, he said, will give participants an edge in getting jobs over people who have no training at all.

Morton is proud of the Georgia film and production community. “I’ve been in the business since 1988. There was a huge push [here] back in the 1980s and 1990s—we were making major movies like “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “Glory,” and “My Cousin Vinny.

“Our industry has been strong and viable,” he said. “The tax incentives are the financial incentive that’s the key behind all of this. I hope the governor will strengthen his policy by making sure [film companies] would hire local Georgia talent.”

“The fact is that Georgia is the top in the nation,” he said. “California is considering changing its tax incentives to compete with us.”

More than 30 feature films were made in Georgia last year, he said, which more than the number was made in California. And California did, in fact, beef up its tax incentives, drawing some production back to Hollywood. However, Georgia’s incentives are

Morton said there are plans to offer a scheduling and budgeting continuing education class next spring.

The certification course is one-third of the college’s determination to meet the rising need for skilled film crafts people.

A second tract will begin in spring and leads to an associate degree in film and television production. The second tract will start in the spring and leads to an associate degree in film and television production. The third, to begin next year, is a high school initiative, which allows high school students to get college credits for courses taken.

The production assistant course is offered on Monday and Wednesday evenings at the Covington campus, and Tuesday and Thursday at the DeKalb campus. To learn more about the program, call 404-297-9522, ext. 1121, or email