We’ve Fallen Behind
And who is now ahead of us? Georgia — and they’re just getting stronger.
Just one year after Film L.A. proclaimed Louisiana the feature film production leader in the U.S. (looking at films released in 2013) we fell to No. 7 for 2014.
Georgia is No. 5.
That’s the fear — that thanks to the tax credit changes, more and more of our film business will head east. In 2013, Louisiana played host to 18 feature films. That fell to only five in 2014. Georgia, meanwhile, remained steady at nine and 10 respectively.
So let’s look at our peach loving neighbors to the east. First, they have a strong incentive program. While Louisiana was the first state to offer film and TV tax incentives in 2002, by 2009 44 states had followed our lead and Georgia’s remains one of the most generous, with 20 percent offered on projects that spend over $500,000 and an additional 10 percent if the finished project if the Georgia logo is embedded in the credits.
Plus, their credits are not capped.
According to the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office, the industry generated more than $5.1 billion in economic impact during the 2014 fiscal year. In addition to the credits, the state is home to the world’s busiest airport — Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — and a solid and still growing infrastructure. Georgia boasts more than 5,000 crew members, 300-plus recording studios and more than 1,000 production suppliers and support vendors, many of whom are included on the state’s free online directory — a useful tool for filmmakers.
And then there’s the production studios, which include such behemoths as Fayetteville’s Pinewood Atlanta Studios — 11 sound stages on 700 acres — and the 5 million square feet comprising Atlanta Media Campus and Studios.
Just like in Louisiana, production studios are continuing to open. This past April, Eagle Rock Studios Atlanta opened the largest TV production studio under one roof in the U.S. Formerly a beer distribution center, the space now hold four 30,000 square-foot sound stages.
Another adaptive reuse, the former General Motors Doraville Assembly Plant (located about 15 miles northeast of Atlanta) is expected to complete phase 1 of a new production complex called Third Rail Studios this summer. Phase 1 will include 60,000 square feet of sound stages and 20,000 square feet of production. At full buildout, Third Rail will span 270,000 square feet, making it the largest production facilities north of Atlanta.
Since 2008, prolific writer, director and producer Tyler Perry has run his own 200,000 square-foot studio space in southwest Atlanta. This past fall he officially announced plans to expand his efforts with the opening of a $30 million studio on the 488 acres that formerly served as Fort McPherson Army Base.
Georgia is also home to a project that holds the title (at least as late as last summer) of the single largest film studio development project happening today; Moon River Studios, located in Effingham County, about 20 miles west of Savannah.
Spread across 1,560 acres, the studio complex is planned to include anywhere between 20 and 30 sound stages, a 70-acre concert facility, stores, restaurants, bars and museums. Designed to be as open to the public as possible, plans also include running paths, baseball diamonds and tennis courts. Buildout is expected over the next five years.
Along with rapid growth comes the same growing pains Louisiana is experiencing in terms of a shortage in qualified workforce. To help with this, the Georgia Film Academy just launched their pilot certification program on January 11. The two-course program is aimed at providing hands-on industry experience with equipment and production crews. Classes will be offered at three different college campuses. The Academy is also partnering with Pinewood studios, which will be the site of a 10-room training facility and 15,000 square-foot sound stage.
Currently ranked third in the U.S. (behind Hollywood and New York) in terms of film and TV production, Georgia is a fierce competitor.
Here’s hoping that Louisiana will continue to be as well.
Kimberley Singletary is the managing editor of Biz New Orleans magazine. A 20-year Southern California veteran, she has been surrounded by the film industry for most of her life and is thrilled to be covering its emersion in her newly adopted home.