WIFTA Starts Off the New Year With Everyone’s Favorite Discussion Topic – Taxes

Greg Hammonds, Kristy Clabaugh, and John Thomas of Whaley, Hammonds, Tomasello, P.C discuss Georgia Film Credits


OK, OK.  Maybe I did go overboard with the title.  I’m sure that taxes are not your favorite topic and just the thought of doing taxes causes you a bit of uneasiness.  I admit that it certainly scares me a bit.  Luckily, we have local professionals in Atlanta who are trained in the art of easing our fears and have the skill to perform a job that gives most of us the heebie-jeebies.

Representatives from Whaley, Hammonds, Tomasello, P.C. – Greg Hammonds, Kristy Clabaugh, and John Thomas – recently hosted an information session with Women in Film and Television Atlanta (WIFTA) on the topic of taxes.  Scary, right? Well, believe it or not, they made taxes seem like one of the most intriguing topics imaginable.  This is because they paired it with a much more exciting topic – our Georgia film incentive program.  

A small crowd gathered for refreshments and free tax information at the Georgia Public Broadcasting building in downtown Atlanta on Tuesday, January 24 at 7:00. Despite Atlanta’s usual traffic, many showed up, eager to learn about Georgia incentives and how their creative work in production can save some money this tax year.  The room was jam-packed with people taking notes and asking questions relevant to their tax situation.  

 Audit manager, John Thomas, took center stage most of the night sharing his expertise.  One of the most significant pointsAudience at Georgia Film Tax Credit forum with WIFTA and Whaley, Hammonds, Tomasello, P.C  that he made was that not every film made in Georgia is going to be big budget like “Fast and the Furious;” however, there are still those who can benefit from the Georgia film incentive.  He also mentioned that Georgia’s film incentive is one of the best film incentives in the nation right now because it has no caps.  This is a great opportunity for many film professionals because the film incentive is very relaxed about what can be included as a deduction for both above the line and below the line production expenses.  

Kristy added to the discussion by informing the audience about the types of deductions that can be included and also provided audience members with a handout of these deductions.  [If you weren’t able to get a copy of the production deductions, click here to contact Kristy for a copy].

The night continued with a question and answer session in which the audience was able to ask a variety of questions related to acquiring a movie certification letter, hiring 1099s for productions and ways to reach the $500,000 limit to qualify for the incentive.  

The meeting ended with breakout sessions in which audience members who wanted more focused assistance could meet with one of the CPAs to attain a little more advice and possibly arrange to work with their accounting firm.  

If you missed out on this year’s tax meeting and still want to get assistance, it’s not too late.  Whaley Hammonds Tomasello, P.C CPA firm will be glad to assist you with your Georgia tax needs.  Click the logo below to obtain more information on how to get tax help for your production, large or small.






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Women in Film and Television Atlanta and Whisky at Gallery 874 in Atlanta

The summer is almost over but the fun and excitement that Women in Film and Television Atlanta has to offer is still going full steam.  This year has been aimage game-changing year for WIFTA as we have stepped it up a notch with plenty of activities and workshops to keep members engaged.  To keep up with this momentum, WIFTA is putting on its first ever Whisky Party at Gallery 874.


What’s a Whiskey Party?


The main purpose of a whisky party is to loosen up and mingle with new people in order to network and share ideas.  In our case, it is an industry mixer in which people who love the growing imagefilm industry here in Georgia are able to get out and meet like-minded people who are all striving to make it big.  A party like this could represent an opportunity for you to toast to a new partnership with a great actor or great screenwriter who could help you take your production to another level.  Are you interested in coming yet?  Well let’s discover more about the venue and perhaps this will get you a little more inspired.


More about the Venue. . .


On August 6, WIFTA along with Gallery 874 will be hosting one of the most exciting industry mixers of the year.  In order to enjoy this exciting experience you have to be there and if you are not convinced of how important it is for you to be at this event, Nabil Mousa, is here to tell you more about this unique venue in order to pique your interest.

Nabil, thank you for sharing this information with our readers and most importantly thank you for hosting this event.  I really want our readers to get a feel for how fabulous this event will be and I think that one way to do this is to describe this beautiful venue.  Tell us about what guest will be able to see when they arrive.


Gallery 874 is a unique space that has been transformed from a large, open warehouse into a state of the art, modern and contemporary gallery.  We offer two distinct spaces that can accommodate large to small events and intimate settings such as corporate events, party venues, wedding receptions, bar mitzvah’s and of course art sculptures and exhibits.

The main gallery is 8500 square feet of open space with 16-foot ceilings, a VIP area, and a prep kitchen.  The walls are adorned with the artwork of Mousa.  This space can be masterfully transformed through lighting, sound, and draping with easy access to rigging points and power throughout the space.

The artist studio consists of 5000 square feet that house the artist’s current work as well as works in progress.  This space is ideal for anyone who is looking for something unique.  You and your guests will have the rare opportunity to view the artist’s work in its most vulnerable state.  This is the kind of setting that opens up dialogue for guests.  The artist may even be available to be present at the event for a limited time to talk to your guests and engage them in the process of his artwork.  Mousa loves the opportunity to talk about his work with others.

This event will be one of the greatest film and television mixer events of the year. Don’t miss it!

Click here to find out more.






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WIFTA May Meeting Recap

Cheryl Jenkins, Al Dickerson, Christine Leuthold, and Jeffrey Stepakoff - left to right

Last month, Women in Film and Television Atlanta treated members and non-members alike to a meeting providing insight into the world of film production.  The meeting, held at GPB, was arranged as a panel discussion that was led by WIFTA President Cheryl Jenkins and included panel members Al Dickerson, Christine Leuthold, and Jeffrey Stepakoff.

Cheryl began the evening with a powerful statement – “energy follows intention” – followed by an example of how she broke into the film business, which for her happened in a very non-traditional way.  Cheryl obtained a degree in finance at Michigan State University and after she graduated, she began working in finance in the car industry.  Upon transferring with Toyota to LA, she acquired a lucky break that landed her on the set of the hit show “Moesha.”  This example was followed by Al Dickerson’s example of his pathway into the film industry which for him also began in a very non-traditional way.  He was in LA driving shuttle buses and eventually landed a gig as a transportation coordinator for a major production studio.  From there, he worked his way up to a production manager.  Jeffrey Stepakoff took a very traditional route into film.  He grew up in Georgia and attended college at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill majoring in theater and advertising.  He later attended Carnegie Mellon where he acquired an MFA in play writing.  His first job was in motion picture marketing at Universal but this eventually led to an opportunity to showcase his writing skills creating specs for television shows such as Charles in Charge and Simon & Simon.  Christine’s background is in marketing but not within the film industry, however.  She has extensive experience in the fashion industry beginning her career by working for designer Ralph Lauren.

Audience observing WIFTA's May 2016 meeting on film production

After everyone discussed how they entered their respective fields, Christine began a discussion about self-marketing.  She mentioned that one of her pet peeves in the  self-promotion process is the use of the word “networking” because in her opinion this word implies work.  Instead, she mentioned that those who are promoting themselves should begin to use the word “netplay” or “netplaying” because this implies that meeting people is fun, not work.  Another critical point that she made is that those engaged in self-promotion should move away from traditional three-minute elevator speeches and instead work on creating an even shorter speech that highlights key details about one’s core brand identity.  All of these self-promotion tactics are critical in any career situation but it is especially relevant to those in the film industry who have a very short amount of time to make a big impression on very busy film professionals.

Jeffrey took the meeting in a different direction by discussing the latest developments in film taking place in Georgia.  He captivated the audience who was really excited to hear about how the state of Georgia is investing in its film future in order to ensure that our film program won’t dwindle like the one in Louisiana and North Carolina has recently.  Providing education through the Georgia Film Academy, now under Jeffrey’s leadership,  is a major way that the state of Georgia is investing in homegrown talent that can fill many of the positions on local production sets.

The panel discussion lasted approximately an hour and was followed by a question and answer session which included an enthusiastic audience eager to ask the panel members lots of interesting questions. Many of these questions centered around film developments in Georgia which were primarily answered by Jeffrey.  After the panel discussion was complete, the crowds dispersed to enjoy light snacks and a brief meet and greet with panel members.



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Recap: Pop-Up Event with “Devious Maids” Director Mary Lou Belli

On Saturday, February 20, “Devious Maids” director Mary Lou Belli shared her expertise with WIFTA members and guests from the industry. Mary Lou surprised the attendees with a request – to move the chairs from a standard lecture set-up to a more comfortable and intimate circle.

Mary Lou explained her career path and then dove into an acting exercise, advising the participants to say simple lines such as “Go Away” to the person sitting next to her using various intents, tones and inflections. Mary Lou first provided some directing advice to the participants and then allowed others to suggest direction.

Following the acting and direction section of the event, Mary Lou fielded questions from the guests. The event was a great opportunity for people from all backgrounds to gain more insight into the process for directors on set, as well as how to incorporate instructions from a director as an actor.

Member Comments:
“Mary Lou Belli’s directing workshop was as insightful as it was inspiring. I learned REAL techniques to use behind and in front of the camera as well as how to better fit into my local filmmaking community.” -Velissa Robinson

“Mary Lou provides a truly interactive experience tailored for every group. Whether you’re a director, producer, writer, or actor, you’ll benefit from her insights and have a blast.”Read more about the event on the WIFTA Reel Focus Blog here.

Visit her website at: http://www.maryloubelli.com/

Mary Lou Belli Teaches Us How to Master Make-Believe

Mary Lou Workshop with WIFTA Atlanta, Georgia



mary lou belli


Mary Lou's Book


Mary Lou Belli began her career as a stand-in and has risen steadily to the top to become one of the most powerful female directors in television. Her most prominent work includes “The Game,” and “Reed Between the Lines;” but, she has also directed episodes of “Sister, Sister,” “Eve,” “The Hughleys,” “Major Dad,” and “Charles in Charge,” to name a few.  At present, she is the director for a show now filming in Georgia called “Devious Maids.”


On Saturday, February 20, a small group of actors, writers, directors, and producers gathered in downtown Atlanta at Georgia Public Broadcasting’s conference room to listen to Mary Lou share advice on how to master the world of make-believe. The morning began with small-talk and a light breakfast followed by a ’round table’ discussion led by Mary Lou.  She began the discussion with a synopsis of her film career which spans 20 years.  She then ‘cut’ right to an actor activity in which everyone who was gathered in the circle ‘passed lines’ to one another the first line being ‘Go Away.’ Not one person could hide or feign shyness because Mary Lou’s ’round table’ session was highly interactive.  In this activity one person would say the phrase ‘Go Away’ – acted according to the subtext given by Mary Lou or one of the directors present – and the person to their left would say the same line to the next person to their left.

Devious MaidsThroughout this exercise, Mary Lou would have us take it up or down a notch to perform to the level that was necessary to fulfill the subtext goal.  There was a lot of passion and a whole lot of laughter that ensued as we all took turns saying our lines.  Who would have ever thought that the the phrase ‘Go Away’ could change meaning by simply changing the subtext or the action surrounding the phrase?  This exercise allowed all of us – actors, writers, producers and directors – to get a feel for what she experiences regularly trying to get actors perform their roles to perfection.  As simple as this activity may seem, it had its challenges and if you ever thought that acting was easy, this exercise made you realize rather quickly that it isn’t easy at all.

After about 45 minutes of acting and building layers, there was a Q&A session.  Mary Lou answered a range of questions from “How to get actors to do what you want them to do even when they can’t seem to get it right,’ to ‘How to accept things as they are and when to fight for what you believe is the right way for a script to be acted out on screen.”  The topics in the Q&A were intriguing but two that really sparked a lot of interest from the audience was the discussion about Georgia film and TV production and women and minorities in film.  The discussion briefly veered off into the direction of how to keep Atlanta from becoming a mere fly by night extension of California or New York’s film production.  Mary Lou responded by saying that Atlanta is a viable market and stated that the experiences that actors and producers will have here on set will impact the desire to return and film even more because some of the production studios that have been built here are ‘bar none.’  In response to the discussion about women and minorities in film, Mary Lou has a positive outlook about the future and believes that there will be and explosive amount of growth within the next 5 to 10 years for women and minorities in film.



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