The Film “Boom” In Georgia

by Barton Bond, Director, Clayton State University Film and Digital Media Center

The rapid and large-scale growth of the film industry in Georgia is resulting in some of the same types of classic effects experienced through the history of the U.S. – specifically, the growing pains associated with “Boom Towns.” In this case, rapid influx of a new industry results in a serious need for trained workers and then the corresponding lack of same. This pressure creates an imbalance in supply and demand and the consequences include industry having to import workers and/or pay a premium for qualified workers. We see that in Georgia right now in the film industry.

The Studio Construction Rush
The most visual indicator of the Boom Town Effect is not exactly a land rush, but more of a studio construction rush.  Films have to be able to anchor productions in studios because it is much less expensive to build standing sets than to go on location to shoot scenes in those settings.  Productions do go on location often to shoot exteriors.

Since Pinewood Studios broke ground in Peachtree City in the winter of 2104, at least six companies have announced plans to construct new studios, expand existing spaces or remodel buildings in pursuit of rental business from Hollywood productions. Add to that list a second studio at Pinewood, locations include Norcross, on the edge of the downtown perimeter, Union City and Savannah.
As more studio square footage is made available, more films will shoot here and that activity will generate an economic energy that causes support industries to start-up or move here - thereby creating yet more jobs and economic activity.  The existence of these support services (and eventually a sufficiently large trained crew base) further encourages film to shoot in the state and the cycle then continues.

The Boom is Here to Stay – At Least for a While
How long this cycle will perpetuate cannot be precisely known, but Georgia is not likely to see the rapid decline of this new industry, for three fundamental reasons:

  • The film/entertainment industry in this county is more than 100 years old and still very robust.
  • There has never been a busier time with more production in more different venues, platforms and distribution streams than right now.
  • The film and digital media industries are so well established in the state, that barring some very large scale changes or crises, this industry is here to stay.

Historically, traditional economic model busts usually happen when a natural resource is depleted or the market price drops dramatically.  Film does not operate with those constrictions. 

Workforce Development and Education
Back to the issue related to a trained labor force – not an easy problem to solve. Skill sets for film workers are quite unlike any other job or industry. Learning on the job is difficult, and productions are by nature not very excited about having to pay trainees, particularly because they are “on-the-ground” for only a month or two – barely time for someone in a “normal” job to get up to speed.

Thus, it is easy to see that a potential negative situation could develop is that productions may find that the difficulty and expense in finding those workers could outweigh the advantages of the state’s financial incentives and even the availability of support services. As a state, we are not there yet, but within the industry there are horror stories about productions in other states. Needless to say, most of these problem states are not hosting many shoots any more.

The process of training, like so much of the activity around any growth industry, will most likely be organic; training can also be a growth sub-industry, where in the level of need will create a number of players; formal higher education (both academic for-credit and non-credit), industry-sponsored training, proprietary/private trade schools, organizations like the film union or film festivals and private individuals.

Of these, the higher education non-credit component offers the quickest and arguably the best training path. Under the umbrella of the Governor’s High Demand Career Initiative, the Georgia higher education system has developed and is putting in place the Georgia Film Academy.  This virtual project will coordinate and facilitate film –related academic and technical training in the state’s higher education institutions.

About Film Training at Clayton State University

Clayton State University offers the only dedicated film crew training program in the state and one of only two in the nation. The six-month program has a track record of putting students into the film union as well as helping others establish themselves as independent business persons in film-related businesses.  For information about the program, go to www.clayton.edu/film-and-digital-media or call (678) 466-5085.

In August 2015, Clayton State will roll out its newest academic program, the B.A. in Film Production, which emphasizes post-production. The program will also include content relating to pre-production and production, and the post-production focus will help students attain skills in; storytelling, compositing, editing, special effects, motion graphics, and sound effects. For more information, complete the form below.

On the graduate program level, the Clayton State MBA program offers a Sports and Entertainment Management concentration that includes classes on entertainment marketing, the economics of entertainment industry, and the legal issues surrounding entertainment. For more information, complete the form below or visit http://www.clayton.edu/mba.

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