The Georgia film industry needs to spread out from metro Atlanta to sustain the business and reduce impacts on local neighborhoods, said panelists at an Oct. 10 Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce event.
As filming, which can can cause road closures or use loud special effects, begins to bother residents of some neighborhoods, moviemaking should become less concentrated in metro Atlanta, said LaRonda Sutton, a consultant who helps cities attract projects, at the event held at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North hotel.
“Some of the neighborhoods in Atlanta are beginning to feel fatigue. The excitement starts to wear off,” Sutton said.
Chastain Park neighborhood residents in Buckhead recently experienced that as filming for the NBC show “Good Girls” closed two neighborhood streets, Rickenbacker Way and Midvale Drive, for five days.
Jeffrey Stepakoff, the executive director of the Georgia Film Academy, said filming in other areas of the state is needed to help spread the economic benefits.
“We’ve got to spread the economic activity across the state,” Stepakoff said. “We are the Georgia Film Academy, not the Atlanta Film Academy,” he said.
Sutton and Stepakoff, were joined by Susanna Spiccia, founder and executive director of re:imagine ATL, a nonprofit that teaches students skills needed in the film industry, and Craig Miller, a producer and chairman of the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Commission, who moderated the panel.
To make Georgia’s film industry sustainable, Stepakoff said, industry leaders need to train writers and bring post-production and distribution professionals to the state. Schools should encourage talented Georgia writers to stay in the state, he said, rather than send them off to New York and California.
“That is precisely what we need to stop doing,” he said. “We need to keep our talent here.”
To help train middle and high school students in skills needed in the film industry, Spiccia launched re:imagine ATL, which goes into local schools to train students and teachers. They work in schools across the metro area, including North Atlanta High School in Buckhead. The organization helps students get internships and provides connections to help them get jobs in the industry, she said.
“We want to get into as many schools as possible because we are a direct line to the industry,” she said.
The film industry in the U.S. was found in 2015 to be predominately comprised of white men, Spiccia said. Bringing Atlanta students into the industry will make the industry more diverse, which is one of the goals of the nonprofit, she said.
“We’re going to see a more inclusive industry,” she said.
As the film industry continues to grow in Georgia and metro Atlanta, Sandy Springs could make some improvements to attract more projects, Sutton said.
“You have to make sure the permitting process is streamlined and you are promoting what is beautiful about Sandy Springs,” she said.
Sutton established the city of Atlanta’s office that streamlined the permitting process for filming and created a point of contact for residents with questions about projects filming in their neighborhoods.
Companies are currently filming 51 movies and TV shows in the state, excluding reality TV shows, Miller said at the event.
Tax incentives passed in Georgia in 2008 are the driving force behind the industry’s growth in the state, but having an international airport and a wide variety of environments also contributes, panelists said.
To help attract and support the industry, DeKalb County officially launched the DeKalb Entertainment Commission on Oct. 11. In addition to the TV and film industries, the office will provide government support to the music and video game industries in the county.