Growing pool of local talent key to keeping Hollywood in the South
OCTOBER 21, 2016 | MARIETTA DAILY JOURNAL
As Georgia’s film and TV industry continues to grow, those working in the field are looking for ways to make it sustainable, partly through growing and training local talent.
Fiscal year 2016 was the state’s biggest year yet, seeing 245 film and TV projects filmed which generated $7 billion in economic activity, according to Craig Dominey, program manager for the film office of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
By comparison, 2015 saw $6 billion and just several years back in 2007, only $242 million was generated by the industry.
“These days it is not unusual for Georgia to have 30 projects in film and TV at any given time, whereas we used to have five at the most,” Dominey said. “We are now in the top three markets for film and TV production in the US, only behind New York and L.A.”
DeKalb County has recently seen the filming of TV shows like “The Vampire Diaries” and “Drop Dead Diva” and films including “Mother’s Day,” “Solace” and “The Leisure Seeker.”
Dominey spoke at a Dunwoody Perimeter Chamber event along with Georgia Film Academy Executive Director Jeffrey Stepakoff and Dan Rosenfelt, general manager at the recently opened Third Rail Studios on Doraville’s Assembly site.
For Stepakoff, the answer to making the industry in Georgia permanent like those in New York and L.A. is to train content creators like writers, directors and actors and to keep them here.
“Right now, Georgia is essentially not a film and TV industry, but a film and TV production industry,” he said. “The seeds have been planted for a sustainable industry [...] and we are at a tipping point.”
As a former writer for multiple TV shows, including “The Wonder Years,” Stepakoff moved from Georgia to L.A. in order to pursue his career. While there are hundreds of projects in Georgia now, he said there remain zero writer’s rooms.
Even the TV show “Rectify,” created by a Georgia native and set entirely in Georgia, has its writer’s room and editing bay in California.
Rosenfelt said a rewiring of people’s minds about the industry needs to occur.
“We need people to think of this area as a creative hub where content providers right here are generating content and people are coming to them to do projects and not just for a physical production space,” Rosenfelt said. “There are great writers all around the world, and there is no reason they cannot stay home and live in Georgia.”
The Georgia Film Academy’s job-training program launched in January, backed by Gov. Deal and in partnership with nearly a dozen universities and colleges statewide.
“The good problem we were having a year ago was that we did not have enough of a crew base to support all the projects coming into the state,” Stepakoff said.
The program has already been training Georgia residents for high-demand jobs in the industry on the production side, and Stepakoff said their next phase will be offering training for the content creation side.
Rosenfelt said part of his job is to foster the local workforce. Through programs like the one at the Academy, he said people are getting the proper training and being provided with an open road to working on productions.
Instead of it being about hiring on a friend or as a favor, the process is being made much more officials and helping to bring in a brand new workforce, he said.
Studios coming in to the state to film are focused on their bottom line, according to Dominey. So, being able to bring more Georgia residents onboard means spending less on bringing in talent from out-of-state.
“We are starting to fill more-and-more of these positions with people living right here in Georgia,” he said. “Now you can study here and work here instead of relocating. That was not the case ten years ago.”
The more the talent pool grows, the more other aspects of the industry will thrive as well, according to Stepakoff.
This also includes more opportunities for film and TV productions to partner with local businesses.
Rosenfelt said he and other area studios have the opportunity to work with local caterers, restaurants and coffee companies to provide food and beverages for productions; local hotels for lodging; and local companies for car rentals.
“There are a lot of opportunities people have not even figured out yet,” Stepakoff said. “There is a need for a variety of services not popping up yet. If you are entrepreneurial, I would be looking at this business.”
Dominey said residents and business owners can go to the film office’s website and list their business or service in a database for productions to choose from. Property owners can also list their property to be considered as a filming location.