By Senior Editor, Mollee Harper
Georgia Film News recently spoke with Kris Bagwell, Executive Vice President at EUE/Screen Gems Studios Atlanta. During our time together, Bagwell shared the history of Atlanta’s first full-service “physical” production studio spanning 33 acres with 300,000 square feet of furnished office and production space. Bagwell also offers details about the Georgia Studio & Infrastructure Alliance, an advocacy group working to support and sustain Georgia’s rapid growth and success in the entertainment industry.
About the Film and Television Business in Georgia:
“Georgia has a very pro-business attitude, which I really like. Our governor has kept jobs and business as a focus. Georgia has a lot going for it when we have government and businesses working toward the same goal,” Bagwell offers.
“The incentives drive much of the film business in this state,” Bagwell says. “Ours are structured to support business development. Keeping that tax credit is important to keep all the people working in this industry working. If the incentives go away, production companies won’t choose to shoot here; then the jobs go away,” Bagwell adds.
About EUE/Screen Gems Studios:
EUE/Screen Gems Studios is headquartered in New York City and has more than 50 years of production experience in the entertainment industry, providing film studios, sound stages and infrastructure for television and feature film clients. EUE/Screen Gems Studios offers clients some of the largest sound stages east of Hollywood at two campuses–one located in Atlanta and the other in Wilmington, NC. A third studio complex opened last fall in Miami, FL. This complex features full HD capabilities on stage and post-production facilities. All EUE/Screen Gems Studios offer experienced, well-trained crew; all provide on-site lighting and grip support.
Bagwell explained, “The big difference between us and other studios on the East Coast is that we are owned by the Cooney family. They have been running stages for over 50 years. This is what our company does. We are in the business of providing customer service around stages and content production. We know how to solve problems for our clients.
“The second differentiator we have is that we own our lights. Most other physical studios rent their lights. This is a huge cost and large piece of our business. Technology adds people in our business, it doesn’t replace them.” Bagwell said.
Bagwell helped launch the Atlanta studio complex and has served as Executive Vice President for EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Atlanta, Georgia since 2010.
Bagwell emphasizes, “We love this Atlanta location because it’s close to the airport. Location, location, location. And, we saved a 100-year-old building at the old Lakewood Fairgrounds—now the site of our studios. The fairground property was used to shoot “Smokey and the Bandit” back in the day. Then, it was turned into the largest antiques market in the southeast with 33 acres of antiques. Then, it was abandoned for five years.”
Today, the studio’s production clients include Lionsgate, Sony, BET Networks, USA Networks, Lifetime, 20th Century Fox, Paramount and more. Under Bagwell’s leadership, EUE/Screen Gems Studios has hosted more than 30 productions since its launch, including the “Hunger Games: Mockingjay” Parts 1 and 2, The “Divergent Series,” multiple series for BET Networks, “Necessary Roughness,” “Devious Maids,” “Flight,” “Red Band Society,” “Sully” and Netflix productions.
“I was told by the Cooneys, ‘You have two roles. Book the studio, and help people understand the role of the tax credit.’ EUE/Screen Gems doesn’t receive the tax credit, but our clients do. There is no infrastructure credit here. We think of the studios as the factory where intellectual property is created.” Bagwell explained.
Bagwell added, “I have a small team of 15 employees. When shooting, there may be 700 to 800 people on site. Only 15 of them are mine. We’re like a mall, and I’m the landlord. Instead of an Apple store, you find Netflix. There are little armies of drivers, techs, caterers, and grips. This is an awesome type of business to recruit for the state. I love helping creative people, carpenters, painters, costumers, seamstresses. The range of skills employed by the industry is astounding.”
About The Georgia Studio and Infrastructure Alliance:
In early 2015, Bagwell led the formation of the Georgia Studio and Infrastructure Alliance, an organization providing legislative advocacy and educational guidance to the film and television industry statewide. The Alliance is comprised of six major physical studios in Atlanta including EUE/Screen Gems; he is the group’s first chairman.
Bagwell described, “The Alliance primarily focuses on public policy advocacy and education about tax credit benefits—and the benefits of doing business here.”
Bagwell continued, “We went out and got everyone in the studio business involved. It makes sense for the studios in the state to speak with one voice. We are the folks with sticks in the ground, the ones taking risks. We collaborate with and educate the legislature. It’s easy to talk about jobs and creating jobs. I tell my colleagues at the legislature that we need to support the jobs we have–as well as bring in more. Supporting the film and television industry is a way to do that.
“The Alliance is about to grow. There are eight physical studios in Atlanta that companies can rent right now, and we’ll probably have 10 to 12 within the next couple of weeks. Pinewood is the biggest studio with 18 stages, then EUE/Screen Gems Studios is next in size with 10. Atlanta Metro, Mailing Avenue, Eagle Rocks, Third Rails and Tyler Perry Studios are all part of the Alliance, too. You’re going to see more growth in the next year. I predict Atlanta will have 100 stages in the next couple of years.
“America is a world leader in the entertainment industry. This is an industry where America doesn’t need to lose the lead,” Bagwell concluded.
In the summer of 2015, Governor Nathan Deal appointed Bagwell to the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office Advisory Board. Bagwell also serves on the Advisory Board for the Georgia Film Institute at Southern Crescent Technical College.
Bagwell established himself early in the industry with an 18-year stint at Viacom’s MTV Networks, Inc. where he served as Senior Vice President and General Manager of Nickelodeon MediaWorks, Nickelodeon’s Magazine and Online Groups. He also worked as Vice President of Business Development, and Vice President of Affiliate Sales and Marketing. After Viacom, Bagwell pursued an entrepreneurial media path, founding Pancreations, Inc., a medical documentary production company. He also co-founded Rocking Horse Media, Inc., an Atlanta-based family and parenting media company, and VerticalPortals, LLC, a New York-based online media company.
Bagwell holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Cornell University and is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa society. He also served on the board of directors of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JRDF) Georgia Chapter and JDRF International’s Marketing Committee. He has been featured on Fox News Channel and CNN. He was born in Atlanta and has two sons.
For more information on Kris Bagwell and EUE/Screen Gems Studios visit: http://euescreengems.com/.