Ric Reitz On Strengthening Georgia’s Positioning in the Film Industry

Ric Reitz

 

In 2008, Ric Reitz said this in response to the new film legislation:

“House Bill 1100 is a key piece to the puzzle in sustaining Georgia’s entertainment industry for the long haul. It will provide many new jobs for Georgians, improve the state’s entertainment infrastructure, and grow Georgia’s indigenous companies.”  

Reading these words should send chills through all of Georgia’s film professionals considering how far the film industry has come since 2008. His prediction rings true because as a result of this bill, Georgia has surpassed all of its competition outside of New York and California.

Georgia is on top now but many skeptics are waiting for the moment when this trend will pass, leaving the dreams of local film professionals dashed and the economy of Georgia broken. Some skeptics believe that just like North Carolina, film production in the South will not last. They believe that all of the film production taking place here will eventually come to a halt and the only thing that will remain will be the popular film tour companies.

Of course, not everyone is as pessimistic.  There certainly is an aura of pride and hope uniting many film professionals in the state of Georgia.  There is also a deep passion for making the film industry more than just a short-term anomaly. Continued success will take more than just the passion of local film talent and wishful thinking, however.

HB 1100 was a step in the right direction several years ago but just a little more effort is necessary to stabilize this industry enough to compete effectively with the bigwigs of the industry and even woo them to support the efforts taking place here.

Everyone within the industry who is keeping a very close eye on the developments here, know that California and Georgia have more in common than just the wildfires that were blazing here a few months ago.   Film is becoming a large chunk of Georgia’s economy as it has been in California for many decades.  Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is definitely watching Georgia’s progress and wants California to recover its losses due to runaway production; but, in a recent interview with NPR he insists that “It’s not necessarily us declaring war on Georgia, but it’s us fighting back.” 

Nine years after its inception, Georgia’s film production incentives are facing some fierce competition from outsiders which begs the question “Is it strong enough to compete with and sustain a fair share of the market as it stands?” Or, “Can it be strengthened to make the tax credits even sweeter than those recently introduced in California. 

Georgia presently holds a strong place in the overall entertainment industry. Not to mention, it has recently held down the number one spot in America for business development for several years now.  Most astonishing of all is the recent ranking as one of National Geographic Traveler magazine’s 21 “Best of the World” destinations for 2017.  Evidently, Georgia has a lot of hype supporting it being a great place to be but just what could strengthen its position in the film industry?

This week on Reel Focus, Ric Reitz will answer questions on how Georgia can continue its successful run and how the current incentives can be strengthened to give Georgia the competitive edge it needs to stay on top. 

Ric it is a great honor to have you on our blog and I want to thank you for not only your wonderful achievements in Hollywood but also for your magnificent work in helping to grow the film industry here in Georgia.  I want to begin by asking why do you think Georgia toppled all of its competition and became the number one state for film production outside of California and New York?

Thank you, it is my pleasure to respond.

Georgia’s recent success with entertainment production was the result of a “perfect storm.” When the cost basis of the industry shifted and opportunity space opened, we were able to move quickly and professionally with a focused grassroots effort, which was already organized.  Whereas other U.S. states outside of California and New York have their pluses and minuses when it comes to fostering growth and employment within the entertainment industry vis-à-vis tax incentives, Georgia had and has many extra advantages.  Georgia had a pre-existing production base.  Few remember that prior to tax incentives Georgia had a great deal of production, right up to the Olympics; from Film/TV projects to commercials to corporate films, and therefore, post-incentives, we did not have to start from scratch on a cast, crew or infrastructure basis.  We have a temperate climate with four distinct weather seasons and diverse topography, which is ideal for broad storytelling and doubling locations.  We have the world’s busiest airport, which allows direct and inexpensive access to the world, which can’t be underestimated.  When it came to politically expediency, much of our production was and is generated around the state capitol of Atlanta, so it was easier to tell our story.  

Thankfully, we have received great political support from both sides of the aisle right up to the Governor’s office since Day One.  We are not geographically close to the other major centers of production, which means we have not suffered from what I call the “black hole effect” of having resources being drawn into the top pre-existing markets by proximity.  The cost of living is favorable.  Our incentive currently has no sunset clauses, no maximum budget thresholds or residency requirements.  And, Southern Hospitality does go a long way.  Simply, Georgia has created a great opportunity to save money for producers and provided a friendly place for production people to live and work.  It can be argued that other markets offer higher incentives, but I believe Georgia’s overall value is the best. 

 

Clearly, your prediction 9 years ago was prophetic.  Do you still think that your prediction is relevant in Georgia’s current film market?

Absolutely.  Soundstage, studio, vendor, talent and crew infrastructure has skyrocketed.  You’ll find that most other states outside of California and New York have not dug their roots deep enough to sustain large-scale production long-term.  Georgia has, and a lot of that is not even directly incentivized.  A quick chat with the Georgia Film Office and you will discover that the number of permanent industry residents, fixed location vendors and suppliers has jumped over 500% in less than ten years.  Criticism of all new and evolving markets has been largely based on not having a deep enough bench of experienced professionals for the volume of new production.  That is changing rapidly in Georgia, but it still takes time.  So, we encourage a measure of patience.  Keep in mind, it was never our goal to topple LA or NYC, but to become partners in the industry and ground as much international production in the states as possible. We are not about heavy-handed competition with other U.S. markets.  We’ve simply created great options and an open mind.  And I believe this environment has benefited not only the studios and indie producers, but national talent and crew as well.

 

When film was booming throughout the entire South a few years ago, there were critics who wondered how long this fad would last, particularly in Louisiana, because critics see the film incentives as a means for outsiders to come in and take advantage of the incentive; however, this doesn’t benefit the economy over the long-term.  In some ways, these critiques were right and we do see that some production throughout the South has fizzled.  In order for Georgia’s production to avoid becoming a part of this fizzle, tell us what ways do you think that the current incentive can be improved to not only grow the industry but sustain it within Georgia.

Whenever and wherever new industries are developed you will find criticism.  Outside competition needs to criticize and, internally, people in unrelated industries want the same type of attention for their own agendas, so beware of the source. 

New industries take time to develop, and this is an important new industry.  One only needs to read a Georgia study on key industries of the future to know that Media is one of those industries upon which economies of the future are built.  Of course, we need outside resources to kick-start the next phase of our development, because the process of training people to the level of professional ability required to pull off great entertainment production is slow.  Yes, we have imported people, at first on a temporary basis, but many have stayed, which was always one of our goals. Get ‘em in.  Get ‘em to stay.  Believe it or not, competition improves our indigenous talent, which eventually gets them more work.

As for the long-term, the migration of experienced talent and crew will continue.  The Georgia University and Technical College System, and the Georgia Film Academy will churn out our own next generation professionals, and we want them to stay.  We want to attract and retain great young minds that may eventually start their own businesses, or develop new technologies that will generate new economies.  When a creative vacuum is filled, you never know what you’re going to get, but history has shown that jobs in the creative industries create their own special synergy.  Action leads to more action.  This is not wishful thinking.  It is already happening.  Further, large, in-state investments have already begun with associated businesses that are not directly incentivized.  Hardscrabble communities are being reborn, and new brick-and-mortar developments are springing up, including a 350-home residential and mixed-use community near Pinewood Studios Georgia.  All predicted.  And all within the scope of our business plan.

Beyond the occasional incentive tweak to streamline the efficiency of the Georgia program, it is neither time to restrict the migration of outside talent, nor place quotas on production for the hire of inexperienced local talent.  The organic growth of our local industry and free market competition will handle the rest.  You will also find that LA and NYC are not restrictive in this sense, which is how their talent pools have grown so deep over time.  There is a lesson to be learned there.  I understand some locals feel they are being left out, but this is more about developing reliable and bankable skill sets than entitlement.  One can’t say that the opportunities aren’t here, so we have to up our game.

To sum things up, Georgia is on track.  Elements are in place to sustain the Georgia business model into the future.  Still, but we can’t take anything for granted. That is the nature of all things.  If anything, let’s find ways for this market to develop its own signature, its own stories, and its own technologies.   If anything, that is where new strategies need to be targeted.

 


 

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Writer’s Guild of America-East on Developing Signatories in Georgia

 

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If you are an avid Georgia film supporter, then you already know that there is a lot of growth taking place in Georgia with regard to film production.  So much growth is taking place that Georgia is often referred to as the ‘Hollywood of the South.’  The spotlight has been on us for several years but critics challenge that  Georgia is no more than the latest fly by night sensation in film that will most likely meet with the same fate as states like North Carolina or Louisiana.  This could become a reality if local film supporters don’t come up with out-of-the-box ideas that could strengthen the film community in Georgia.

A game changer for Georgia to remain relevant and to effectively compete with California and New York in the film industry would be to create strong, stable writing communities in Georgia that support the local film industry.  One way to begin to laying the foundation for strong writing communities is to begin to grow local writing talent and to attract more writing professionals to Georgia.  This week, Jason Gordon, Director of Communications at the Writer’s Guild of America-East, shares with Reel Focus readers what it means to be a part of the Writer’s Guild and how to start establishing and sustaining professional writing communities in Georgia through developing signatories.

First tell our readers what the Writer’s Guild is and how important it is in the world of film and television.

The Writers Guild of America, East is a labor union representing writers in motion pictures, television, cable, digital media and broadcast news. The Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members; conducts programs, seminars and events on issues of interest to writers; and presents writers’ views to various bodies of government.

Tell us what a signatory is and how important it is for a company to be an authorized WGA signatory as opposed to not being a signatory.

A signatory company is an employer that has signed a collective bargaining agreement with WGA. Any company intending to employ a Guild member or option, or purchase literary material from a Guild member must become signatory to the Guild’s Minimum Basic Agreement, the collective bargaining agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) that covers screen, television, and new media writers.

Signatory companies range from the industry’s biggest film studios to independent production companies, and broadcast networks to webisode production companies.

Becoming a signatory means that you can hire professional writers. WGAE members can only work for companies that are signatory to Guild contracts.

I’m sure you have heard of the growth of film in Georgia. Would the presence of more professional writing signatories improve the local film production market?

More signatories in Georgia means more opportunities for Georgia’s film production community to work with Writers Guild members, who are the gold standard in writing for the screen and television.

Can you conclude with a step-by-step process on who should consider becoming a signatory and how to become a signatory.

The process to becoming a signatory is extremely easy. Simply fill out the WGAE’s 2014 MBA signatory application by clicking the link below:

WGAE’s 2014 MBA Signatory Application

 


 

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A Salute to Georgia Film Vendors – iZotope

izotope-logo-url-white

As I said before and I can’t say it enough, we love our growing film industry here in Georgia and to show how much we love it, Reel Focus has dedicated the month of May to Georgia film vendors who help make film possible here in Georgia.  As we round out the month of May, we pay homage to another great household name in film production – iZotope.

Tell Reel Focus readers what iZotope does for its clients both for film production and non-film production.

iZotope is an audio technology company. We develop professional audio software solutions for every stage of the audio post production workflow. RX Audio Editor is our most well-known product within post production. It’s the industry standard for repairing and enhancing your production audio. RX actually won an Emmy Award in 2013 for its technical achievements. It’s important for us at iZotope to deliver solutions throughout our entire product line that enable our users to ultimately produce higher-quality productions.

iZotope-RX5-Audio-Editor-box

What sets iZotope apart from other industry leading sound editors?

At iZotope we put a lot of value in keeping connected with the end users of the industry. We spend a lot of time learning and understanding what tools can improve the type of work they are doing, whether they are individual contributors such as freelancers or folks working on the top films of the year. Establishing these kinds of partnerships keeps us focused on solving their top challenges and problems they deal with on a day-to-day basis.

We focus our solutions for post production in two major categories. The first is improving the speed of their audio workflows. We want to free up time to spend on creative tasks or simply starting your next project sooner. Our other focus is developing innovative, groundbreaking technologies to improve audio quality quickly and easily, in a way that no other products provide. For example, being able to remove/reduce noises, distortions, plosives, reverb…or match the ambience or EQ from some production audio to another recording.   

We also put a lot of effort into educating folks at all levels of experience on how to get the best results at any stage of their audio productions using different techniques and approaches. We provide a lot of free resources online for folks to learn about these techniques at  https://www.izotope.com/en/learning/post-production/.

Tell us some of the big names that you have worked with in film and entertainment.

Some of the more well-known facilities we’ve worked includes ESPN, NFL Network, Warner Brothers, Disney, Skywalker Sound, and NBC Universal. Our products have been used in feature films like The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit as well as Captain America and Ant-Man. In television, some of the bigger names include Game of Thrones, Entourage, Deadliest Catch, House of Cards, Orange is The New Black, Daredevil, Dexter, The Good Wife, Glee, Lost…the list goes on and on!

For those who are in sound engineering or want to become sound engineers, can you provide pointers on how they can develop their talent and their portfolio?

It’s important to have reference mixes to compare your mixes to. If you find a mix you think sounds great, keep it somewhere you can easily access. Reference mixes can provide great guidance on where to take your own mix. They’re also good reality checks for the times you get too involved in the minutia and lose sight of the mix as a whole.

Another pointer is to learn your tools inside out. Time is money in post production, and every second counts. Key commands and other shortcuts are great for speeding up your workflow—learn and use them!

Develop your critical listening skills with ear-training tools. The more familiar your ears are with the frequency spectrum, the quicker you’ll be able prescribe solutions for mix issues. There are many free ear-training tools online, including iZotope’s Pro Audio Essentials course.

Participating in user groups and other industry organizations is a great way to network and build connections. Finally, get paid for your work! We’ve all done the free job for “exposure” at some point, but the pay you accept can reflect on your confidence and pride in your own work. Charge what you believe your time is worth.

izotope-rx-5-audio-editor

 

 


 

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A Salute to Georgia Film Vendors – Craig Miller Productions

Craig Miller founder of Craig Miller Productions in Atlanta, Georgia

This week we continue our salute to Georgia Film vendors with Craig Miller of Craig Miller productions.  His company has been an integral part of the Atlanta film community for over 30 years and with the outstanding growth of the industry, we hope to continue to see his film production company thrive.

Thank you for joining Reel Focus this week, Craig.  Your company has been in the local Atlanta area for many years.  Let’s take a walk through memory lane and have you tell our readers what it was like to establish and run your company, especially at a time when film production wasn’t as popular as it is now in Atlanta.

Craig Miller Productions was founded in 1985.  We specialize in commercials, high end corporate communications and entertainment.   We started out in tourism with Callaway Gardens 31 years ago and this year we  released the new Georgia Tourism Campaign.  Tourism is a part of what we do.  We have had The Coca-Cola Company as a client for 28 years.  From that relationship we developed connections with UPS, The Weather Channel, Novelis, AGCO, Acuity Lighting, Delta and others.  In the commercial world we worked with Fitzgerald and Company, Austin Kelly, McCann-Erickson and Vitro.  Work in these arenas and the occasional film kept production companies in the 80’s and 90’s busy.  It also maintained our crew base.

Who are some of the big names in the industry or big film projects that your company has worked on?

Charlton Heston – Regan Documentary, Tim Burton –Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Johnny Cash – Tourism Featured Presentation, Grant Hill – Coca-Cola Commercial, Masters Golf Tournament – Seven Years, Sylvester Stallone and Richard Dreyfus – Coca-Cola movie trailer,  Atlanta Summer Olympics, Vancouver Winter Olympics, Zac  Efron, Mike and Nick, Survivor’s Remorse, 

What are your specialties and why should individuals or companies choose you for their production needs?

We see the big picture.  Companies come to us with a challenge, we study it and provide a resolution.

What’s in store for the next 30 years for Craig Miler productions?

We will be producing features, growing home grown creative and educating the next generation of great filmmakers.

 


 

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ChooseATL Movement

ChooseATL Logo

 

 

 

Georgia is winning big in the film industry and as a result local businesses, organizations and entrepreneurs across the state are feverishly racing to take advantage of the opportunities that have resulted, especially in metro Atlanta.  One such organization that is poising itself to meet the growing demands of this industry is ChooseATL.

Kate Atwood is the Vice President of this local organization which is taking advantage of the film growth in the metro Atlanta area.  Not only is ChooseATL concerned with film growth but it also aims to encourage growth in a variety of local business sectors in order to encourage job growth, economic growth, entrepreneurship, technology advancement — essentially, a total way of life in metro Atlanta.  Kate Atwood is an entrepreneur and a community leader who has built her career on heading up social impact initiatives in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors.  Two successful organizations that she has led are her own not-for-profit, Kate’s Club and Arby’s Foundation, in which she served as Executive Director.Kate Atwood - ChooseATL

In September, Kate joined the Metro Atlanta Chamber, as Vice President to lead the recently launched ChooseATL campaign. In this newly created role, Kate is responsible for focusing the region’s narrative to showcase all that metro Atlanta has to offer with the purpose to attract and retain top emerging talent. Undoubtedly, her organization will also attract film talent both locally and nationally that will continue to fuel the skyrocketing growth taking place in film and help to sustain the industry.  This week on Reel Focus, Kate will share with us more about this new campaign and how it relates to the film industry.

Kate thank you for your contribution to Reel Focus this week.  I’m sure our readers are dying to know what ChooseATL is so, tell us its purpose and how it relates to film?

ChooseATL is focused on telling a comprehensive story about Atlanta to attract and retain top talent and intentionally grow the region’s prosperity in the global economy. ChooseATL highlights the abundant opportunity for career growth across the 29-county region, as well as the unique culture and highly ranked livability.

Atlanta’s film industry has continued to flourish thanks to an abundance of talent and generous tax credits, which make Georgia one of the top states for movie and television production, behind California and New York. ChooseATL will continue to highlight the top productions filmed in Georgia, like ‘The Walking Dead,’ and all the reasons why our region is ideal for the entertainment sector.

Simply put, we want to tell folks in the film and TV industry why they should choose Atlanta. I’m proud to say we’re already making great strides. In fact, recently MovieMaker Magazine designated Atlanta as #1 on the list of Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in 2016.

What are some major benchmarks or how will you know that your campaign is successful?

First, I want to clarify that ChooseATL isn’t simply a campaign with a finite time period. This brand is a movement – one you’ll be seeing for months and years to come.

Startup investors, corporate executives and public sector institutions alike are realizing that the new age of economic development is attracting talent. As Millennials begin to flood the workplace (FACT: they will comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025), attracting and retaining talent is the next big thing for any city. ChooseATL is ensuring Atlanta is poised to win this rush for talent. At a high level, the health of our region and the vibrancy of our diverse and beautiful communities will demonstrate ChooseATL’s success.

Tell us about the next film related event or events that you have planned?

Many of your readers probably attended our January SXSW 2016 pre-party at Spitfire Studios. Our next and final event before ChooseATL takes over SXSW is a music reception at Sweet Water Brewery on Feb 17. The event will highlight Atlanta’s vibrant music industry but we encourage anyone interested in learning more about the ChooseATL initiative to attend.

In March, ChooseATL will head to Austin to showcase our region’s vibrant creative culture wrapped around our evolving tech and entertainment industries. The initiatives and programs we will activate in the ChooseATL House at SXSW will reflect the city and culture we love, and show people why they too should ChooseATL.

In a few words, tell our readers, particularly our readers who may be considering moving her for film, why they should ‘Choose ATL?’

The film and television industry in Georgia generated more than $6 billion in fiscal year 2015, directly employing 22,400 workers in Georgia and 77,900 people indirectly, (Georgia Department of Economic Development).

Atlanta’s diverse economy, global access, workforce, low costs of business and living, and vibrant quality of life are reasons to choose Atlanta. I’d also encourage them to check out ChooseATL.com to learn more about the people culture and opportunities Atlanta has to offer.

 

Photos courtesy of ChooseATL

 


 

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Lorielle Broussard On the State of Film in Atlanta

Lorielle Broussard

Revenue for film began to grow here in Georgia as early as 1972. As film began to generate a substantial amount of revenue – former Governor Sonny Purdue – revised the House Bill 610 (originally passed by Governor Roy Barnes) incorporating the revised Entertainment Industry Investment Act that we now have today. After that act was passed, Georgia began to change the game in the world of film. From being one of several top contenders vying for a number one spot outside of California and New York for film, it has outpaced the competition and is leading the way amassing over 5.1 billion in the last fiscal year alone.

Film is big Georgia business but as of 2013, it has become big Atlanta business. In order to step up efforts for film in the City of Atlanta, Mayor Kasim Reed called upon the expertise of LaRhonda Sutton, Director of the City of Atlanta Office of Entertainment, “to support the city’s rapidly expanding film industry.” This week, one of her dynamic team members, Lorielle Broussard – Marketing & Communications Manager – will share with Reel Focus readers what is going on in film with the City of Atlanta and how this office will help usher in developments in this industry.

Lorielle, it is an honor to have you on Reel Focus blog speaking to readers about the exciting things taking place in film in Atlanta. Tell our readers about how the office was started and what its vision is.

The Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Film & Entertainment was started in July 2013 to provide a one-stop-shop for productions interested in filming in Atlanta. Our office acts as a facilitator for productions to usher them through the city of Atlanta offices that they need to go through in order to make their projects happen. In doing this, it was created to streamline the permitting system for film and TV productions, assist with facilitating employment of local talent, create production-related educational and training opportunities, and work with community leaders to safeguard the interests of residents and businesses affected by film productions.

Georgia has several cities within it, vying to be the film capital within Georgia. Does Atlanta plan to become the premier place for film in Georgia and if so, what initiative is it taking to become as popular for filming as Fayetteville, or Senoia, or Covington.

As of right now, 75 – 80% of filming already happens in the city of Atlanta but part of the vision for this office is for Atlanta to be the cultural, economic and entertainment center of the Southeast, the nation and then the world. I think several of the new developments that are creating connectivity and walkability within the city of Atlanta like the new streetcar, the beltline, redevelopment of the Underground, the new stadium, the National Center for Civil & Human Rights, Buckhead Atlanta, etc. are really making Atlanta the place to film in Georgia. I think one of the major attractions to film in Atlanta is that there are several locations within the city that can look like any other city in the world, which is a huge draw for productions and producers.

As we all know, Georgia is growing rapidly in film. According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development website, television, film, music, and gaming and digital media are attracting many to Georgia, generating 5.1 billion dollars in FY 2014. Tell us how much of this can be attributed to the city of Atlanta and how the Atlanta Office of Entertainment plans to become an even more substantial part of Georgia’s earnings in this fiscal year.

I know that we had a hand in the increase in the revenue generated for the city and the state. We do provide all of the permits for every production that films on public property in the City of Atlanta. In FY14, the revenue generated from permitting was at about $494,070.00 and since filming is tripling this year in Georgia, I know that there will be a significant increase in the amount generated from permitting for FY15.

 

 


 

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Film Boxing Match: California Assembly Bill 1839 May Give Other Film Tax Incentives a Run for the Money

A few blogs ago, I wrote about a phenomenon sweeping the California film industry called runaway production.  This phenomenon is causing states like our own to be successful in film.  On the flip side, it is causing California to lose a large chunk of revenue and is eroding the film legacy of that state.  In response to this economic loss, California has increased its incentives to an almost whopping $400 million per year over the next 5 years for anyone filming in their state. I’m a huge Georgia film enthusiast so I must admit that when I saw this news, I thought “uh-oh.”  This could affect Georgia’s and the South’s film boom in so many ways.  Here are some tidbits from the new bill that were contained on the California Film Commission website:

Round 1

Bill proposes a new five-year film and TV tax credit program beginning in fiscal year 2015/16 with expanded eligibility to include big budget feature films, 1-hr TV series for any distribution outlet and TV pilots

Round 2

Bill would also provide an added incentive for productions that film outside of the 30-mile zone and for visual effects and music scoring/recording performed in-state

Round 3/KO (knock-out)

Funding for the new program would be $330 million per fiscal year Yes, my fellow Georgians, this is scary.  California is definitely in it to win it in regaining its film heritage and this means that Georgia is going to have to really get ready to bring it’s “A” game to compete with this new bill if it wants to stay in the game.  Film and film production is just as fleeting and temporary as the wind so all of the efforts made in this state can be gone in the blink of an eye if we are not careful.  How will Georgia fare in light of this new legislation? I don’t know but I am certainly biting my nails.  What are your thoughts?

For more information on California’s developments in film, visit http://www.film.ca.gov/.

 


 

 

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The New Gold Rush – Georgia’s Rise as the Next Film Capital

There was a huge event that took place in the United States a few centuries ago that changed the pace of westward expansion.  It is known to us as the gold rush of 1849.  Hundreds of thousands of people from within the U.S. and worldwide, raced to northern California in hot pursuit of gold.  No – gold hasn’t been recently discovered in Georgia so everyone, please don’t start racing here for that.  However, we do have something equally as enticing as the gold rush of 1849 that just may pique your interest.

According to Film Production Capital’s website, Georgia is number two among the states for film making.  There is only one other state that surpasses it in rank in film production.  This blog places the top two states for film production side by side and compares each one’s eligibility and incentives in order to discover how Georgia can aim for the number one spot – and remain there.

 

Georgia

  • 20 percent base transferable tax credit
  • 10 percent Georgia Entertainment Promotion (GEP) uplift can be earned by including an embedded Georgia logo on approved projects and a link to http://www.tourgeorgiafilm.com on the promotional website
  • $500,000 minimum spend to qualify
  • No limits or caps on Georgia spend, no sunset clause
  • Both resident and non-resident workers’ payrolls and FICA, SUI, FUI qualify
  • No salary cap on individuals paid by 1099, personal service contract or loan out. Payments made to a loan out company will require six percent Georgia income tax withheld
  • Production expenditures must be made in Georgia to qualify from a Georgia vendor
  • Travel and insurance qualify if purchased through a Georgia agency or company
  • Original music scoring eligible for projects produced in Georgia qualify
  • Post production of Georgia filmed movies and television projects qualify
  • Development costs, promotion, marketing, license fees and story right fees do not qualify

 

Louisiana

  • Open to all motion picture production companies for the purpose of producing nationally or internationally distributed motion pictures.
  • Production company must be headquartered and domiciled in the State of Louisiana.
  • $300,000 minimum-spend required
  • Only work physically performed by residents and non-residents in the State of Louisiana and only tangible goods acquired from a source within the state qualify for the program.
  • 30% tax credit on qualified direct production Louisiana expenditures
  • Additional 5% tax credit for payroll expenditures to Louisiana residents
  • No annual cap
  • Tax credits may be used to offset income tax liability in Louisiana (corporate or personal), sold back to the State for 85% face value, or brokered on the open market.

 COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS

Well, looking at these side by side, we can see that they both seem to be within the range of 30% for the tax credit but looking closer at Georgia and Louisiana’s minimum spend, this is a distinctive difference.  The biggest thing that stands out to me for Louisiana is that it seems to be all about protecting its residents by ensuring production is headquartered and domiciled in the state.  I’m not an economist but it seems to me that this could very well keep “robber baron” activity down.  Georgia is not too far behind with its protections by ensuring certain expenses occur within the state in order to qualify.  I also like that travel and insurance can qualify as long as you do business with a Georgia company.

 

WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR GEORGIA TO BE NUMBER 1, AND REMAIN THERE?

Convergence

The number one thing that I believe will increase our positioning will be for film professionals to bring business here.  It is not enough to simply come here, film, and leave as it only weakens the economy.  There needs to be a commitment to living and doing business in Georgia in order to gain strong positioning – not fly by night wins for the sake of improving rank.

 

Drivers

Peripheral businesses must arise and help grow the industry.  The impact of industry growth can’t be felt if production studios come and film while the rest of us sit idly by.  Entrepreneurs and established businesses have to discover ways to drive business here that is associated with the growing industry in order to keep the interest of investors.

 

Research

More research will need to be done by the commission office and entertainment office in order to create a basis for analysis of industry trends as the industry grows.  This research should encompass Georgia trends and should also include other competitor markets and trends.

 

Reach

Film incentives should extend to those businesses which are not production companies but at least 80% of its business clientele and mission serves the industry.

So, can Georgia do it – can it get on top and remain there?  I certainly hope so.  What are your thoughts?

 


 

 

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Savannah Film Commission – The Gateway to Filmmaking in Georgia

 

During the colonial period, a gentleman by the name of James Oglethorpe came to the United States with a small group of settlers and developed a colony near present-day Savannah, Georgia; thus beginning the history and heritage of this great state.  He is often referred to as the founder of Georgia and his work in this state revolved around providing settlers from Britain a place to rebuild and re-establish themselves after being devastated financially by Britain’s harsh rules surrounding debt and taxes, especially before the Declaration of Independence was signed and officiated in 1776.  He was a social reformer who grew Georgia from the shores of Savannah and became an emblem of growth and development in this state.

Aside from Oglethorpe’s legacy which can be seen across the state through architectural edifices, statues, and other things remaining in his namesake, there is another legacy that is being created as we speak that represents potential for growth and development in Georgia.  It is a film legacy that has been laid by the Savannah Film Commission, which I believe, will play an integral role in film production in this state.  Savannah has been a key player in the film industry here in Georgia for many years, dating as far back as 1962.

Key films that we have seen played out on Hollywood’s big screen that have been filmed on location in Savannah are as follows:

The SpongeBob Movie 2
Paramount Pictures

Cap Fear (The Original – 1962)
Universal

Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies
The Asylum

American Idol
FOX/Fremantle Media

The Fugitive
Warner Bros. Television

The Legend of Bagger Vance
Dreamworks

Forest Gump
Paramount Pictures

Glory
Tri-Star Pictures

In order to tell us more about this film commission and its important role it will play in the future of film here in Georgia, I have teamed up with William Hammargren, Film Services Director at the Savannah Film Commission.

William, I really appreciate this opportunity to showcase you and the Savannah Film Commission in this blog.  Many great things are unfolding in the world of film in this state and this is great news for us who are developing careers in this industry.  First, tell us what the Savannah Film Commission is and its purpose.

The Savannah Film Commission is a 19 member board charged with advising and assisting the Savannah Film Office and Savannah City Council on media production related issues and activities. Most people are referring to the Film Office when the reference the Commission and they can be used somewhat interchangeably but it is good to note that they are technically two separate things. The Savannah Film Office is a department of the Savannah City Government and its mission is to weave the film and television industry into the fabric of Savannah’s social, economic and professional profile. This involves a number of activities, including marketing, and outreach, production recruitment, permitting, project management, and connecting producers with local resources and locations. Thus we serve both Savannah’s citizens and media production clients.

As film continues to grow around the state, do you anticipate that Savannah’s Film Commission will be the leading commission for any film making within the state?

The Savannah Film Commission and Film Office serve (and are funded by) the citizens of the City of Savannah and thus this is our primary area of focus; however, we work to promote and enable media production throughout southeast Georgia. We also work very closely with the Georgia State Film Office and Department of Economic Development whom I would consider to be the leaders in this area. We obviously have a keen interest in the statewide health of this industry and any policies or developments pertaining to it. Members of the Savannah Film Commission and a number of other local Savannahians have been critical in establishing the states successful programs to date and continue their involvement at many levels, locally, throughout the state, and beyond.

As you may know, the South is rising in importance in film production with Louisiana being the top location for film making, outranking California and our neighboring state of Florida.  What do you think it will take for us to get to the number one spot that Louisiana now holds?

Our current rate of growth is aggressive. In selecting where to film, producers look for a number of things. Key among these is a strong, stable and accessible incentive program, and the availability of skilled local crew, diverse locations, and infrastructure such as stages and equipment. We have all of these things and are continuing to develop them. Taking the top spot will require and ongoing commitment to all of those things and the support of a broad range of Georgia citizens and stakeholders.

There are criticisms about how film tax incentives are only disrupting economies by simply taking from them and not helping in the development of the local economies of places outside of California and New York.  Do you think that Georgia will be a victim of this trend of new “robber barons” who simply profit from this industry without developing it; or is this an important economic development within the state that is here to stay?

This is an extremely complicated issue but if you look at how much this industry has grown in Georgia since the incentive was enacted I think it is clear development is happening at that it has a positive economic impact. There have been multiple independent studies of the state’s entertainment tax incentive program and at worst they found the program to be revenue neutral, however the large majority of them found it to be revenue positive. This means that for every dollar of tax money spent funding the states entertainment tax credit, the state is making that dollar back plus some, in tax revenue.

So I would ask: what do we lose by continuing this successful program? All industries receive sizable tax incentives from states in order to attract their business. There are any number of recent stories of states offering generous incentives to attract major manufactures and the jobs they bring to their area. The film incentive in Georgia is no different. Many naysayers make the argument that manufactures provide long-term employment opportunities and that movie production companies come and go quickly. It’s true, an individual production only spends a limited amount of time in the state but that doesn’t mean the film incentive isn’t creating long-term employment. Productions are coming in record numbers and bringing more and more jobs with them. They are also supporting thousands of businesses which cater to not just the movies themselves but their employees as well. One of the biggest names in movie studios, Pinewood, is building its first studio in the US here in Georgia. Many major production studios already have facilities here.

The development is happening. The incentive is important and we are benefiting from it. Georgia has shown a strong commitment to the incentive and that is a big part of its success. In fact Georgia is even looking at ways to expand it now. Going back to the previous question, the reason Louisiana currently has the number one spot is because they were among the first to implement an incentive program and they have stuck with it through the years. Other states, such as South Carolina, which have reduced or eliminated their film incentives, have seen the industry there suffer because of it. If Georgia continues its commitment to the tax credit the film business will continue to grow here and become more and more instrumental to our economy. I believe that we are on track to do that and that the entertainment industry will be one of Georgia’s largest and most important sectors in the years to come.

Image courtesy of VisitSavannah.com


 

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