Film is big business and when I say big, I mean – big! It is no longer confined to studios concentrated in southern California. Film is everywhere – and literally in Georgia we will soon be walking out of our doors right into a whole lot of action. Speaking of action, I have teamed up with Lance Robertson, one of the founders of the Georgia Latino film festival, to tell us more about the action he is igniting with his new organization right here in metro Atlanta.
Thank you Lance for this opportunity. It’s great to see much more diversity in our great town with the infusion of your film festival. Tell our readers how the Georgia Latino Film Festival in Atlanta began.
I along with co-founder Jose Marquez created the Georgia Latino Film Festival in 2012. Our festival has been successful for two consecutive years and this year will be our third year – which we are really excited about. One of my roles in this industry is producing documentaries. I developed my first one straight out of college in 1994 which showcased the election of President Nelson Mandela. I also did another documentary which was one of the last documentaries on the late Reverend Hosea Williams entitled “Un-bought and Un-bossed: A Conversation with Hosea Williams.” My co-founder’s claim to fame was his creation of OVN Latino Network. Jose Marquez, of Cuban descent, and myself, of African American descent, put our minds together to create a platform for African Americans and Latinos to come together in the name of Film and Television; hence, the festival was born.
How do you feel about the inclusion (or exclusion) of Latino Americans from mainstream Hollywood?
First, let me say nobody can stop a movement whose time has come. The empirical data shows Hispanic are the single-most dedicated moviegoer. With the consistent growth of the Hispanic consumer market, if Hollywood doesn’t start catering to the Latino market share, it will be losing – and losing big. I trust that the independent Latino filmmakers in front and behind the scenes will breakthrough and probably be more successful at catering to this general market.
What do you and Jose hope to accomplish with this festival?
Melisha, I can sum that up by providing you with three key things about our organization: our purpose, our mission, and our vision.
The purpose of this non-profit organization is to conduct an annual film festival in the state of Georgia that features Latino produced films among other national and international entries.
The mission of the Georgia Latino Film Festival is to build awareness of independent films and film as an art form; provide educational opportunities for students and Georgia Latino filmmakers; and create opportunities for the Georgia communities to experience high-quality Latino films.
To make sure that our stories are being told in Hollywood and around the world and that our community has a place in Georgia where Latino film executives, directors, and artists at the forefront of the Latino Film and animation industry can come together to discuss the future of our industry and create a vehicle to develop the next generation of Georgia Latino film-makers.
As we approach our third year we expect to continue on our diverse growth trajectory of inclusion with all different cultures inside or under the Hispanic/Latino umbrella. We also would like to use our platform to expand our inclusion within mainstream film and movie production companies. Our goal this year is to unite the best and the brightest and most ambitious young and seasoned Hispanic and Latinos in the film industry in Atlanta under this dynamic form of expression that we love. Our long-term goal is constant growth and we invite everyone to be a part of this mission.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
Prepared by Melisha “Mel” Childs, Senior Blog Contributor
Many know Hill Harper – the former actor on CSI: NY now actor on Covert Affairs – or Hill Harper – the writer of phenomenal books such as Letters to a Young Brother: Manifest Your Destiny, The Conversation, The Wealth Cure and Letters to an Incarcerated Brother. However, many may not know Hill Harper – the founder of Manifest Your Destiny Foundation. With this blog, I would like our audiences to get to know this side of Hill Harper. I have teamed up with the Executive Director of his foundation – Akello J. Stone – to discuss how this organization is giving back to the community.
Before I begin, I want to tell our readers a little bit about Akello – who also is no stranger to film and television. Akello is a freelance content development producer who has spearheaded many digital technology integration projects on various college campuses and also has worked on promotional video production projects, including EPK (Electronic Press Kit) videos for musical artists and actor reels. He has also created promotional videos for various personalities and entities. Aside from his involvement with film and television, he has been involved in many youth development programs including some right here in Atlanta such as Hands on Atlanta, the NFL Youth Education Town, College Park Elementary Saturday School and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Atlanta.
MC: Akello thank you for this outstanding opportunity to showcase Manifest Your Destiny Foundation in this blog. It is an honor to showcase this celebrity non-profit organization that is making a difference in the community. One of our chief aims with Women in Film and Television Atlanta (WIFTA) is to also make a difference in the community, particularly with women in this industry – so I’m very honored to have you. It’s also a bonus to hear that you have had involvement in local Atlanta youth organizations but can you tell us more about the Manifest Your Destiny Foundation and its purpose? Transcript – So, as you said, my name is Akello Stone and I am the Executive Director of the Foundation. I actually started working with the organization back in 2008. I came on as a board member and me and several other members of the board developed the Summer Empowerment Academy (SEA) which is our flagship program and this was an outgrowth and evolution of the books Letters to a Young Brother and Letters to a Young Sister. So it aligns itself with core values and the purpose of those books.
The organization itself – Manifest Your Destiny Foundation – really is all about how we find our purpose and how we develop the potential for reaching that purpose. We are focusing a lot on youth, specifically with the SEA program – we’re focusing on youth making that huge transition from the 8th grade into the 9th grade and instilling in them attributes of empowerment. I also want to share with you how we define empowerment because it can be defined differently depending on who you are asking! We define empowerment as “observable, multi-dimensional, behavioral and attitudinal characteristics that influence the achievement of success; capitalize on the development of self-esteem, self-advocacy and self-awareness; enhance critical problem-solving skills; demonstrate the adoption of an optimistic future for perspective; and reveal the significance of personal value to both the immediate community and the larger collective.” (chuckle) That’s a lot, huh?
So, you can tell there are a lot of things going on and we are not just motivating but we’re creating a lifelong trajectory of self-advocacy and empowerment that can take them throughout their entire [school] year and future years. Ideally, I consider the program to be a way in which we can dismantle the ‘cradle to prison’ pipeline. We want to fill college classrooms, not prison cells and we are strong believers in the things that we do in order to accomplish that.
MC: Is there any chance that you plan on expanding this organization to other states, namely Atlanta, Georgia?
Our organization operates solely in Los Angeles right now; however, we had been putting extreme efforts into packaging our curriculum and content – the modules, the operational strategies, the core values – into something that we can provide to other organizations who would like to operate their own summer empowerment academies. This has been a project that is very close to my heart and very much close to Hill’s as well. Working for Hill, I can say that we’re definitely aligned in terms of what we think needs to happen and the delivery systems necessary in order to carry that out. But before we release the curriculum [to other organizations, elsewhere], in order to maintain the integrity of the program model, we want to make sure that everything is really good – really solid before we put it out there because we don’t want to put something out there that is not effective.
We have a great evaluation team and I would just like to mention that there is a number of people over the last six years who have helped tremendously and there is voluntary contributions and efforts towards developing and involving the foundation and we definitely see ourselves expanding. In addition [to expansion efforts], we have an annual toy drive at “Supper Club. It’s a night club venue for adults and in order to get admission, you would have to bring a toy – that’s how we collect our toys; also partnering with Toys for Tots and the Westwood Transitional Village. We collect about 1400 toys that way (chuckle) which is huge – it’s the largest toy drive in southern California. So, we definitely want to expand, we want to grow, and we want to reach more young people than ever before.
MC: Tell our readers how they can donate to your organization or get involved with Manifest Your Destiny Foundation.
You can go to our website at www.mydf.org. Keep in mind that we do accept individual donations of every size imaginable. We also partner with other organizations that are doing similar work. Our biggest funders are large corporations that work with us through their community development/corporate giving divisions. We have a multi-tiered sponsorship program with a wide range of opportunities for exposure and participation in MYD-planned events. We always invite our sponsors to come and see, firsthand, the transformative work we are doing with the youth who participate.
It is a great honor to be able to share with WIFTA – Reel Focus readers another interesting jewel in Atlanta. It gladdens my heart to know that there are a lot of interesting things taking place in film right in our own backyard that many may not know about. For this blog, I have collaborated with Li Wong – Executive Director for the Asian American Film Festival – to tell us more about this amazing event taking place annually in Atlanta, Georgia.
Thank you Li for participating in this blog. I read on your website that your goal is to bring awareness to Atlantans about Asian Pacific culture and this is also what I aim to do with this blog. I wasn’t aware that this event has been taking place annually for 10 years now and I’m sure there are others who are also unaware of this event. Tell our readers more about the origins of this event and what has been taking place for the past 10 years.
[Atlanta’s Asian Film Festival originated when] a group of local Asian film enthusiasts and volunteers decided to launch a festival to create awareness of Asian films. The goal of this organization is to promote Asian heritage and understanding through films. Over the past ten years, the festival has become a platform for Asian film makers to showcase their works. The festival also provides an opportunity to young film makers to gain exposure for their work.
How do you feel about the current representation of Asian Americans in film and television in mainstream media?
Asian American representation in mainstream media are not balanced and objective. It does not truly reflect the actual shifting of changes in the American social landscapes. However, the internet does provide an outlet or platform for Asian Americans; there are several successful web series, web videos, and shorts produced by Asian Americans. It is a true reflection of the changing landscape and the future of entertainment to come.
Usually film festivals are only films to be viewed at various public venues. Does this event incorporate other cultural events during the festival such as Asian cuisines?
Yes it does. The festival incorporates the AAFF Premiere Night , which is the opening night of the Film Festival and features a screening and “Taste of Asia” – a banquet of Asian cuisines representing food from all over Asia. “Taste of Asia” cuisines are made possible with food prepared by Asian restaurants in metro Atlanta area.
Are the films that are included in the festival produced by local filmmakers or does the festival showcase films by Asians from around the world?
Films featured at AAFF range from independent local film makers to films from Asian producers. AAFF encourage and support local film makers to showcase their work.
Atlanta is an emerging film town, so, naturally any news – big or small – that I find out about film around town thrills me. So, let me tell you about the next big thing that I found: Atlanta Movie Tours! Yes, this is one of those things that you can add to your bucket list hall of fame because it is indeed a great way to learn about film production in Atlanta. For this blog, I have teamed up with Patti Davis, one of the founders of Atlanta Film Tours, to tell us more about this exciting opportunity for film enthusiasts.
So obviously Atlanta is becoming a film town – well at least it is obvious to some us who live here. For our readers who don’t reside in Atlanta and for those who do reside in Atlanta but are still in the dark about this fact, tell us why you developed your company and how it relates to this booming film business.
Carrie Sagel Burns and I started Atlanta Movie Tours out of our mutual ‘fandom’ for The Walking Dead. Carrie was already taking friends from out of town to The Walking Dead filming locations and I thought that this would make a terrific business. Two years later, seeing how our business is bringing guests from all over the world to Atlanta, we are still learning how we can contribute to Georgia filming tourism and continuing to add to the economic development of the city we both love.
Tell our readers about the experience. Is this a tour of a single place or is it a combination of places to go? Or better still; whet our appetite for what a tour is like.
While all four of our tours follow a similar format, they vary quite a bit. They are as follows:
For Zombie Lovers. . .
enough of the Zombies? Then our Big Zombie Tours Part 1 & 2 are just the thing for you. Board our luxury coach and enter the apocalypse with our Walker guides straight from the show. You will trace the footsteps of your favorite characters from The Walking Dead and Zombieland, while learning about being on set with the stars.
For Antebellum South Lovers. . .
Do you love the old South and Gone With The Wind? Then you will love Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind Tour. Miss Mitchell herself guides you through her Atlanta as you visit the important spots in her life. This tour feels like a one-woman Broadway show as Miss Mitchell regales you with stories from her past and takes you to the apartment where she wrote her only published novel and other exciting locations. Vouchers for this tour also allow you to visit the Road To Tara Museum in Jonesboro and the MariettaGone With The Wind Museum, as well as gaining you re-entry to the Margaret Mitchell House.
For All the Rest. . .Lovers. . .
Are you a big movie buff? If so, you will want to take our Atlanta Film Sites Tour. See locations where hundreds of movies and television shows have filmed, from “Driving Miss Daisy” to “The Blind Side” and so many more. This is a great way to see the city and don’t worry if you can’t recall the scenes for the films, we show you clips to refresh your memory!
All tours are 3-hours in length, with trivia played for prizes, free bottled water on our coaches and a complimentary souvenir group photo.
Does your tour include visiting places that are currently filming on location and those that have already been filmed; and, what is the extent of your territory that the tour covers?
It is our policy to never intrude on live filming, although sometimes it happens by accident since there are so many productions around the city. When this occurs, we think of it as a happy surprise and of course, our guests love it. Our tours go as far north as the Cobb Energy Center and as far south as Senoia, GA, depending on which tour you choose.
Do you see film as a thing that is here to stay and if so, how do you anticipate your company will grow along with the growth of film?
We definitely see the growth of film here in Atlanta, and Georgia in general, continuing for quite some time and really spiking over the next few years. Pinewood Studios joining us from the U.K. will make its facility the largest film studio in the U.S. and their presence in the state will continue to draw productions and television shows to the area for many years.
We saw a 450% growth in our second year in business and our company will continue to grow as film producers continue to utilize Atlanta and the surrounding area. We have a few projects in the works that should really delight future guests and we look forward to making those announcements shortly. We’re always coming up with new and exciting things for our guests to do!
Lights. Camera. Action. JESUS! Yes, I said Jesus. There is a talent development company in Atlanta that is changing the game when it comes to entertainment. It is a faith-based organization that helps develop the careers of local entertainers with a little bit of skill, a little bit of hope and a little bit of faith. I am teaming up with Carey Lewis Arban, owner and founder of this organization, to discuss how Actors, Models, and Talent for Christ is bringing a positive vibration into television and film straight from Atlanta.
Carey, I appreciate the time you have taken out of your busy schedule to assist me with this blog. I really am intrigued by the work that you do and I feel that your organization is one of those unique gems in metro Atlanta that deserves to shine. Many people leave faith out of their public lives, especially in business but your company places it at the forefront. Tell us more about Actors, Models, and Talent for Christ and your mission within the world of film and television.
For AMTC’s first 24 years (1982-2006), we were not a Christian company. During that period, we launched thousands of performers and hundreds who achieved noteworthy success… like Megan Fox. Our transformation to a Christian company followed my own late-in-life conversion at the age of 51. Today AMTC’s mission is to educate and launch not just stars, but positive role models in film, fashion, music and theater–because the world needs them.
Have you experienced controversy while promoting your mission?
Most people do a double-take when they see AMTC’s billboards, or just our name, ‘Actors, Models and Talent for Christ.’ Both Christians and non-Christians are intrigued. They wonder not only if it’s real, but also if it’s possible. Yes and yes! It’s not hard to see that people of faith are rising in entertainment. Sports stars and film stars are ‘coming out’ about their love for God. Matthew McConnaughey’s Best Actor acceptance speech at 2014 Academy Awards shocked the world and it gladdened my heart. That being said, there is a ‘good guy (girl)’ movement in media now. I believe we will see an increasing number of faith-based films and performers.
Are people of any faiths welcome to be involved with this organization?
People of all faiths are welcomed to AMTC with open arms. We believe in prayer, laughter, truth, hard work and encouragement. It’s also important that AMTC performers be conscious of the examples they set–both on camera and off. Every star should be aware of that responsibility and consider the effects of their actions, especially on children.
Is talent hired only for Christian networks or is your talent hired by a variety of agencies and networks in film and television?
The SHINE Conference,which is held twice yearly by AMTC to launch its performers, hosts an extraordinary combination of agents, managers and casting directors–from both mainstream and Christian media. Therein, AMTC grads are everywhere: major reality TV shows, film, fashion, television, and music. It’s quite extraordinary. Not everyone is looking for Christians, but almost everyone is looking for excellence and truth. That’s what today’s top Christian performers embody – inside and out.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Remember this from the Bill of Rights of the Constitution that we learned back in school. This is one of those things that we take for granted because we in the U.S. are such a free thinking, democratic society. Many countries around the world don’t have freedom of speech, let alone freedom of press; but we do and we are a remarkable country because of it.
Ok, enough of my philosophical rambling. The purpose of this blog is to reintroduce readers to a very important form of free speech that I feel is underutilized in this day and age. It was developed in the 1970s – a time in America in which people were roaring with passion for the right to demonstrate their Constitutional Rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. This development in television is known as Public Access Television.
For this blog, I am collaborating with Adrian Coleman-Tyler, who serves on the board of directors for People TV, to tell us more about this resource that many often forget about as an alternative way to “break in” to television.
Thank you Adrian for taking the opportunity to talk with us about Public Access Television – known in Atlanta as People TV. Adrian, for starters, tell us more about Public Access Television in Atlanta and how it can help those of us who want to begin a career in television.
People TV, Inc. (PTV) is an Atlanta based non-profit organization that manages the public access television channel for the City of Atlanta, Comcast Channel 24. Founded in 1986, PTV operates a media production center in Midtown Atlanta that houses two television studios, video and post production facilities. Our mission is to empower and encourage Atlanta residents and non-profit organizations to exercise their First Amendment rights and facilitate public engagement through the medium of television. In addition to managing the public access channel, PTV is an educational center offering low cost workshops in television and video production including non-linear editing and digital camera.
People TV is home to a diverse community of media makers. Many come to us with little or no video or television experience; still others are award winning filmmakers or working television professionals in search of a creative platform. Our producers reflect a diversity of backgrounds – cab drivers, broadcast journalists, graduate students, teenagers and grandmothers; but, they share the common goal to express their story, their way.
Tell us why People TV has been and is still such a big deal to the local Atlanta community.
People TV, like public access centers around the country, is where aspiring musicians, comedians, journalists, actresses, and video producers/directors come to get their start or develop their ‘reel’. In our 28 year history, Atlanta’s notables in every field (civil rights, politics, banking, education, religion, arts and more) have connected with People TV, Inc. in some way – taken a workshop, produced a TV program, appeared as a guest or host, served on the Board of Directors or volunteered to teach a workshop. As proud as we are of the who’s who, we’re equally proud of our volunteer producers who aspire simply to create programming to express their views, faith, art or culture and engage with Atlanta audiences.
What is the cost of producing programming on public access television or other services offered by People TV?
People TV, Inc. makes every effort to keep our fees affordable to keep our services accessible, most under $100. Atlanta residents are given priority access to the channel and our programs including workshops. Non-Atlanta residents may apply but availability may be limited and fees may be higher. Persons interested in our programs should visit our website for calendar of events.
How do viewers watch programming on People TV and how can those interested in being on People TV get involved?
Before I proceed with answering that question Melisha, I just want to say thanks to People TV viewers who have supported us for 28 years! Our goal in 2014 is to get Atlanta talking, spark dialogue and connect communities. Now to answer the first part of this question, in order to watch People TV, Comcast subscribers in the City of Atlanta may watch on Channel 24; or, viewers can opt to watch it online at our website www.peopletv.org.
To answer the second part of your question, People TV will be accepting programming applications for next channel season in May. Those who want to be considered can visit our website for upcoming workshops and events or check our programming guide. Viewers may also connect with People TV on Facebook at www.facebook.com/peopletvAtlanta
How is television like this sustained, i.e. through community support, sponsorship, etc.?
The City of Atlanta is fortunate to have had a history of progressive leadership who have supported public access television since the 1980’s for Atlanta residents. People TV, Inc. is supported primarily through a contract with the City of Atlanta, supplemented with community support, sponsorships and grants.
Thanks Melisha and WIFTA for your interest in People TV, Inc. In closing, I’d believe George Stoney, often referred as the “Father of Public Access Television” words best describe the value in public access television.
“We look on cable as a way of encouraging public action, not just access. Social change comes with a combination of use of media and people getting out on the streets or getting involved. And we find that if people make programs together and put them on the local channel, that gets them involved.”
Follow Women in Film and Television Atlanta on Twitter @wiftAtlanta
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.
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Any conversation about film in Georgia has to begin with Margaret Mitchell. Before there were tax incentives and before there were all the great films and television shows being shot on location here in Georgia, there was one very powerful and riveting film that took the world by storm: Gone With The Wind. Just as the book had a profound effect in the world of novels, the film had just as a profound effect. From Atlanta to Hollywood, this story emanates power from a small town lady in the South at a time when very few women had the opportunity to dominate Hollywood, let alone any other industry. In this blog, I have teamed up with the local director of the Marietta Gone With The Wind Museum – Connie Sutherland – to talk about why this movie and this museum still draws many crowds to Atlanta, even in its 75th year since the book’s inception.
Hi, Connie. I’m glad that you could work with me on this project. I am humbled by the things that I have learned about Margaret Mitchell in my research. Who would have thought that she would have had such a phenomenal effect on the world of film, especially at a time when women were expected to be taking care of home, rather than pursuing careers? This blog pays homage to one of the great, fascinating women of Atlanta but specifically, for this blog, I want us to focus on the great things about this museum. First question: What made you want be the director of this museum of all the museums on earth that you could direct?
For the long answer, I am one of the rare individuals in Atlanta known as a “native.” Born and raised in Atlanta, I grew up hearing about Gone With The Wind and Margaret Mitchell. As a child, while my friends were outdoors playing, I was indoors writing. I wrote my first poem at age 10 and began writing short stories and songs as well. When I was a teenager I saw the movie for the first time in Atlanta at the Loew’s Grand Theatre (home of the 1939 premiere) on Thanksgiving night. As soon as the giant letters spelling Gone With The Wind swept across the screen and the haunting melody of Tara’s Theme began to play, I knew something special was about to happen. Just under four hours later I knew it had.
The wonderful movie prompted me to read Margaret Mitchell’s book. I fell in love with her, the story, the characters; all of it. The love affair continued as I began to collect memorabilia, watch the film when it aired on Turner Classic Movies and read the book – just to feel close to my friends the O’Hara’s.
One day I read in the newspaper that a group had formed to try and save the house where Margaret Mitchell had written my favorite book. Next thing I knew, I was a volunteer helping with the effort. By the time the house opened in 1997, I had been hired as group sales manager. I was there for three years and loved every minute of it, but did not love the commute. I was working for a local CPA firm when I read about a museum opening on the Marietta square (I read a lot) and I lived only two miles away from the museum. I had a full-time obligation at the time but fate was on my side when my boss decided to sell his CPA practice which coincided with the City of Marietta’s need for a director. So, in 2004 I was hired and ten years later, here I am still in love.
What can a visitor expect from visiting this museum?
I like to say that you don’t have to be a die-hard fan of Gone With The Wind to appreciate the history in our museum; but, it is a Gone With The Wind fan’s dream. The collection belongs to a retired doctor in Ohio, Chris Sullivan, who read the book, fell in love as I did and began collecting memorabilia. His first purchase was a first edition copy of the book signed by Margaret Mitchell. The collection now has hundreds of artifacts and all of them original to the book or movie.
Visitors may expect to be surprised by items in the museum that they would never have expected to see. One of my favorite pieces is a copy of GWTW that belonged to actress Lana Turner. It was gifted to her by Louis B. Mayer when she was under contract with his studio. She was going to test for the role of Scarlett and Mr. Mayor gave her the book to read. She had it rebound in black leather and her name imprinted on the front in gold. It’s also signed by her.
The most anticipated item in the museum is the bengaline honeymoon gown. It’s the original dress worn by Vivien Leigh in her role as Scarlett during the scene in New Orleans when she marries Rhett Butler. Turner Classic Movies borrowed the gown in 2005 for their Lights, Camera, Classics Exhibition and it became the focal point of the exhibit. They even had a special crate built so the costume would not have to be taken off the form causing additional stress to the fabric. It was gone three months and I can tell you it was truly missed. I told Chris Sullivan that it could never leave us again and he agreed.
Another wonderful feature about the museum is that the collection is housed in a building erected in 1875. It was at one time a cotton warehouse and a carriage house and still has the original hewn beams and weathered brick from that time. It’s so conducive to a collection such as this one and it’s as though the visitors step back in time when they view the memorabilia. There is truly something in this museum that captures the interest of everyone.
Why was Marietta chosen as the place for this museum, considering that the museum for the book itself is down on Peachtree Street?
I get this question a lot. I can be technical about it and answer that Marietta is mentioned in the book several times and that Margaret Mitchell visited friends in a home in Marietta with some history that may be part of her story. But, it isn’t really about the connection between Atlanta and Gone With The Wind because it is loved worldwide. The City of Marietta believed a museum of this type would attract visitors.
The museum actually opened with a different collection in 2002. That one did not work out but the museum still had an existing lease. So, when Chris contacted them to let them know about his collection, they were thrilled to invite him in. It was a smart decision on the city’s part as the museum is thriving and has been here for eleven years.
What do you think is the lure of this museum? What keeps people coming back?
To answer question number one I would say the subject matter. People love Gone With The Wind. The book has touched so many people’s lives in its 75+ years. I don’t believe another novel has impacted and influenced its readers the way that Margaret Mitchell’s book has done. Even in 1936 with the original release the book sold a million copies within six months at $3 per copy. That was a great deal of money at the time to spend on reading material. The movie was also one of the most anticipated films in history. In fact, it’s still the number one box office film of all time when allowing for inflation. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.
The museum offers the daily visitor an opportunity to connect with the exciting romance between Rhett and Scarlett. It allows them to stand before the bengaline gown and imagine Vivien Leigh wearing it or to picture Olivia de Havilland being fitted with the mourning bonnet that’s on display. Reading about history is exciting and seeing it on the big screen is fun. But, there’s nothing like viewing history up close and personal and that is what these artifacts do for visitors. We have several wonderful museums on the historic Marietta square. But, someone once called us the “hook” that brings the cars off the interstate and they’re right. People have traveled to our museum from all 50 states and more than 80 countries. Gone With The Wind is universally known and loved. There are so many stories I could provide as testimony to my statement. But, that would be a book itself.
We see so many senior group tours which are one of our major sources of visitation. And, we rent the facility for receptions, parties, rehearsal dinners and that sort of thing. Because guests are seated throughout the museum itself, they might be enjoying a meal next to Vivien Leigh’s contract to play Scarlett or an award given to David O. Selznick. But, I would say our annual events are the number one attraction for the museum.
So, here we go on question number two: In 2005 we began hosting events whereby the cast members would attend and talk about their roles in the movie and sign autographs. The events grew larger every year and in 2009 for the 70th anniversary, we outdid ourselves. We had visitors attend from 26 different states and 2 countries (Germany and Poland). Warner Bros and TCM were both involved that year which enhanced the event greatly. I had long dreamed of re-creating the 1939 premiere and with the City of Marietta’s support we did just that. Ann Rutherford who played Carreen O’Hara in the film was again one of our special guests along with 3 of the 4 Beaus (all played the same character at different ages). In 1939, Ann was given the key to the City of Atlanta so our mayor [here in Marietta] gave her the key to our city.
We tried to do everything that took place in 1939. The stars arrived to a red carpet showing of the movie at the Loew’s Grand that year and arrived to a red carpet showing of the movie at our Strand Theatre in 2005. And, it was in the same style of the original premiere thanks to a wonderful car collector named Mike Coggins who recruited enough beautiful 1930’s vehicles in which to take all of the celebrities to the theater. A Belles and Beaus Ball was held and everyone dressed in period costumes. Miss Olivia de Havilland suggested in lieu of a visit (which was not possible at the time) that she make an audio recording introducing the movie. She did and it was a glorious night and event, one well-remembered by all who attended.
Now, five years later we are preparing to celebrate our 75th anniversary event the weekend of June 6-8. We have lost our Bonnie Blue and our Carreen and even some of the fans who attended religiously. But, as they would wish for us to do, we will continue carrying the torch for Gone With The Wind with some new faces and many familiar ones. We have some wonderful plans for the event including the following
• an 11 person author’s forum • a re-creation of the Bazaar Ball • Vivien, a one-woman play starring Judith Chapman of The Young and the Restless • a parody of GWTW entitled “The Wind Has Left” in the form of an old-time radio program • a guided tour of the Wilbur Kurtz Exhibit by his grandson • the author of a book about Kurtz and the collector whose painting are in the exhibit • experts who will discuss the fashions of GWTW • and of course and autograph signing, auction and more
We are even holding out on what is tentatively going to be a surprise guest at the dinner. The particulars are on our website at www.gwtwmarietta.com and tickets are on sale now. A weekend ticket is $200 and includes everything. Single activity tickets are also available. There is less and less an opportunity to meet the wonderful individuals who had a part in the greatest movie of all time. I am so blessed to have known the ones who are now gone and to continue my friendship with those who remain.
To digress to my very first answer, you could say that the love affair with Gone With The Wind that began for me as a teenager was not just a passing thing. It was real and I know that I am destined to grow old with my devoted companions beside me. The fact that they happen to be in the form of a book and DVD is just fine with me. A word to future visitors to our museum—prepare for the Gone With The Wind arrow of Cupid too!
Interior photo from museum taken by Melisha Childs
Written by Melisha “Mel” Childs, Senior Blog Contributor
“Need I remind you, 007, that you have a license to kill, not to break the traffic rules.” Goldeneye
“Well, you see, I uh, I sort of have a problem seeing through lead.” Superman
“. . . Bruce Wayne why are you dressed up like Batman. . .Because he is Batman you moron.” Batman Returns
See a common pattern yet? Well if the quotes aren’t ringing a bell and the large sign above isn’t stimulating your mental energy then I will tell you. These are quotes from some of our all-time favorite films and Pinewood Studios is the production company that brought them to us. So what’s the big deal about me blogging about them? I will tell you what the big deal is. . .they have a new location here in Fayetteville, Georgia! Can’t you feel the excitement pulsating from me to you through cyberspace?
I have been in Georgia for approximately 18 years now and I’ve seen trends ebb and flow but one thing that seems to be here to stay is the growth of film in this state. This is exciting news for those of us who are involved in the film industry because we are witnessing the birth of a new trend – very powerful, top-billing production studios springing up all over metro Atlanta. Pinewood Studios is indeed a sight to see; however, I could only capture this picture for your viewing while I was out on one of my urban escapades because it is a heavily secured area. Nonetheless, every time I look at this photo, I breathe a sigh of relief that after traveling 30 miles to my destination, I was at least able to capture this image for all to see.
What does this mean for Atlanta? Well it is hard to tell; but, it certainly seems to me that the tax incentives in this state seem to be increasing the interest of film producers across the nation and around the world. Please share with us your thoughts on this trend? Do you think that this trend will go boom or bust?
________ Campbell, M. (1995). Goldeneye [Motion Picture]. United Kingdom: MGM/UA. Retrieved from www.imdb.com on April 2, 2014.
Donner, R. (1978). Superman [Motion Picture]. United Kingdom: Warner Brothers. Retrieved from www.imdb.com on April 2, 2014.
Burton, T. (1992). Batman Returns [Motion Picture]. United Kingdom: Warner Brothers. Retrieved from www.imdb.com on April 2, 2014.