How the Film Industry Found a Home in Georgia

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Georgia’s relationship to the motion picture industry is not new. From Gone with the Wind’s sweeping presentation in 1939 to Forrest GumpGloryFried Green Tomatoes, Driving Miss Daisy, and Sweet Home Alabama in later decades, blockbusters have been filmed in the state for years.

Now it looks like an extended warm-up act. Georgia is operating on a higher, faster gear today. The state’s bustling film and television industry has resulted in the second busiest shooting location in the world. Nearly 92,000 people work directly and indirectly on film, television, and commercial productions in the state, paying out $4.6 billion in salaries, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. Furthermore, in 2018, the economic impact from the 455 movie, TV, and commercial projects filmed in the Peach State reached $9.5 billion – nearly double the $5-billion impact just five years ago.

“The film industry creates jobs across almost every profession; in addition to camera, lighting, and audio, film companies hire Georgians with skills in a myriad of support services including construction, catering, transportation, accounting and payroll, and post-production,” Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson said in a release.

How did Georgia move into this position? How did the state’s filmmaking footprint grow so much in the last ten years?

Unpack the box, and two reasons jump out: a tax credit passed by the state legislature in 2008 and the tireless work of Lee Thomas, a former film student, location scout for the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office, a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Thomas, who has worked for the state since 1996, used her passion and knowledge of cinema and television entertainment to draw production companies into the state. Not only have they come back for more, but many have built soundstages for a more permanent presence.

“The film industry really took off here after 2008, when we passed a tax credit for production companies and crews,” Thomas said. “This is an open-ended tax credit – no sunset, which helps us assure long-term growth – and it’s also a credit, not cash. Credit is always a better way to go.” See more at Innovation and Tech.

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