Have you caught a glimpse of movie stars such as Reese Witherspoon or Owen Wilson at your favorite restaurant? No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. In fact, the state of Georgia is becoming known as the “Hollywood of the South” thanks to the incentives our government provides to the film industry.
Blockbuster Year for Films in Georgia
The Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) announced today that the film industry recorded a blockbuster year in Georgia. During fiscal year 2021, the film and television industry set a new record with $4 billion in direct spending on productions in the state. The Georgia Film Office, a division of GDEcD, reported that these numbers are due to a variety of factors in addition to the state’s overall attractiveness to the film industry, including an earlier safe return to production, pent-up demand from the COVID-19 hiatus, and the associated expenses to mitigate risk. New safety protocols also added to production costs and timelines.
Film Safety During COVID
“Because Georgia was the first state in the country to re-open our economy and worked with film productions across the state to ensure they could safely continue operations, the Peach State’s film industry is leading the nation,” said Governor Brian P. Kemp. “As the top state for business for an unprecedented eighth year in a row, the jobs, economic development, and investment in film and other supporting industries are a key part of Georgia’s success story. This record-breaking announcement also highlights Georgia’s incredible momentum in economic recovery as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Georgia was the first state to provide a “best practices” guide for film and television during COVID-19, which assisted the rapid return to filming in the state. The “COVID-19: Georgia Best Practices for Film and Television” production guide for studios was provided by the Georgia Film Office, a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD). The Guide complemented the safety protocols released by the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force to help ensure a safe workplace environment and reduce the spread of the virus.
Georgia Goes Hollywood
For more than a decade, Georgia’s film industry has posted exponential growth to become an epicenter of film, with new record spending regularly set by productions. Today, in addition to a wide range of natural and physical settings from the mountains to the coast that are ideal for production, Georgia also offers 2.1 million square feet in purpose-built stage space and 3.2 million in retrofitted stage and dedicated warehouse space. New support service company announcements are a regular occurrence. In fiscal year 2021, 366 productions filmed in the state, represented by 21 feature films, 45 independent films, 222 television and episodic productions, 57 commercials, and 21 music videos.
“This year’s record-breaking spending by the film industry demonstrates that our efforts to grow jobs for Georgians continue to pay dividends,” said Georgia House of Representatives Speaker David Ralston. “With an industry-leading film tax credit, a ready workforce and a business-friendly attitude, Georgia is perfectly positioned to continue attracting more productions and the jobs they will support. Our continuing success is a testament to what can happen when the public and private sector work together to expand economic opportunity in every corner of our great state.”
In June 2020, the major motion picture, television, and streaming companies committed to bringing back and hiring an estimated 40,000 production workers to work on 75 production projects in the state that would invest over $2 billion into the Georgia economy over the following 18 months.
“The growth of Georgia’s film industry is truly exciting, impacting every corner of our state from communities to small businesses to individual Georgians,” said GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson. “Seeing our beautiful state on-screen along with our iconic Georgia peach logo is good for tourism and other marketing efforts, ultimately making an even bigger impact on our economy. The Georgia Film Office has been working with our Camera Ready communities, productions, education partners, and so many more to make sure we are responsive and continuing to capitalize on the benefits for small and large communities across Georgia.”
Last week, Georgia-lensed productions earned 62 Emmy® Award nominations from the Television Academy. Top-nominated shows include “WandaVision” (23 nominations) from Disney+ and Marvel Studios, HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” (18), “The Underground Railroad” (7) from Amazon, and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (5) from Disney+ and Marvel Studios.
“Georgia allowed productions to return before other markets, so we not only had returning shows that shut down due to the pandemic, but we were also able to attract new shows that were slated to shoot in other, locked-down markets,” said Lee Thomas, Director of the Georgia Film Office. “This additional slate of projects, combined with increased budgets due to the need for additional crew and space, plus stringent safety measures, led Georgia to have an even higher than projected record year.”
Additional Georgia-lensed film and television programs are set to be released in the weeks and months ahead. Stars of Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt were interviewed from Atlanta on Good Morning America last week ahead of the film’s premiere later this month. DC Films production “The Suicide Squad” and a movie adaptation of the hit Broadway show “Dear Evan Hansen” from Universal Pictures are set for release later in the year.
Georgia Based Productions
In fiscal year 2020, despite film production shutdowns in Georgia and around the world during COVID-19, Georgia-lensed productions spent $2.2 billion in the state, a record-setting pace before the COVID-19 response required a pause. In 2019, the direct spend by Georgia productions was $2.9 billion.
For a list of Georgia-lensed productions currently in theaters, streaming online, or set to premiere, visit “Release Dates for Georgia-Lensed Productions.”
For some of the more than 50 productions currently filming in Georgia, visit “Now Filming in Georgia.”
So, don your sunglasses because the future of Georgia as a leading role in your favorite shows and movies, and as a result, a top market for job and housing growth, is bright.
Entertainment Industry Investment Act
Through the Entertainment Industry Investment Act, originally signed by Gov. Sonny Purdue in May 2005 and updated in May 2008, companies that spend a certain amount of money on production or post-production here are eligible for a 20 percent tax break. Considered one of the best incentive programs in the country, if not the best in the country, the law also allows for an additional 10 percent tax break if there is promotional material that was provided by the state in the finished product.
By providing these tax incentives to people involved in the film industry, the state has effectively found a huge source of revenue that is relatively easy to draw in. Georgia is now considered one of the top five production destinations in the country, thanks in large part to the mild climate and varied landscapes our state possesses on top of the tax benefits. The revenue created by the film industry not only boosts our state’s economy, but it helps create job growth in multiple industries. Currently, the entertainment industry provides more than 25,000 jobs, and we all know more jobs equals greater demand for new homes in Atlanta. And, in 2012 alone, the direct economic benefits of film production in Georgia came to nearly $3.1 billion.