Clayton State University celebrated the opening of its new film studio in Lucy Huie Hall on May 12. The studio is Atlanta’s newest small studio space, and is the only space of its kind associated with a higher education institution in the state and one of the few in the nation.
The gathering demonstrated the significance of the day by including a full house of state officials, local government representatives, entertainment industry leaders, Clayton State administrators and faculty, and even the building’s namesake, Clayton County civil rights pioneer Lucy Huie.
Although numerous representatives of the film and entertainment industry were present the occasion was probably best expressed by a pair of academicians, Clayton State President Dr. Thomas Hynes and Clayton State Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Kevin Demmitt.
Accentuating that Clayton State is very much in tune with the current needs of the local and metro workforce, Hynes stated, “From our initial discussions two years ago, we have been articulating a vision,” said Hynes. “How do we support the workforce needs of the State of Georgia in the film and digital media industry?”
Demmitt followed Hynes’ remarks with a little history of Clayton State’s workforce-related efforts on site at 9013 Tara Blvd., in Jonesboro. Demmitt pointed out that Clayton State first opened the building on land donated by Huie in 1987 as an aviation maintenance training facility, in an effort to meet demand for mechanics in what was then a still relatively-newly booming field.
“It is fitting that we are re-purposing this building and we are now meeting another statewide demand for hands-on training. In this case, the demand for people on the set,” he said.
Lee Thomas, the state’s deputy commissioner, Film Music & Digital Entertainment, said she was looking forward to the training of the “next generation of storytellers,” and had some impressive statistics on the state of the film industry in Georgia… there are 28 movies now being filmed in-state, and 77,900 people are working in the industry in Georgia. Altogether, the film industry will generate $5.1 billion in revenue for the state in 2015, she added. It was with good reason that Thomas opened her remarks by stating, “this is great! We’re very excited!”
In addition to Hynes, Demmitt and Thomas, several notables from throughout the state spoke, notably Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler. Also speaking were Film and Digital Media Center Director Barton Bond, and Film and Digital Media Center Community Relations Director Janet Winkler, the retired executive director of the Clayton State Continuing Education program.
Butler, who may be as big a movie aficionado as Thomas and Bond, noted that the 20 percent growth of employment in the movie industry in Georgia over the past eight years beats almost every other sector.
“We’re very excited with what’s happening at Clayton State,” he noted, adding that the film industry wants to hire Georgians. “We want to be able to provide them with what they want. So, thank you, Clayton State.”
Among the other VIPs in attendance were Doug Hooker, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, (“We always appreciate partnering and continue to look forward to doing so,” he said), Asante Bradford, global project manager of Digital Entertainment, Georgia Department of Economic Development; Kathy Tonkin Vazquez, widow of Bob Vazquez, former president of IATSE Local 479, and special effects supervisor for East Coast Films Inc., and Ed Richardson and Brian Livesay, founders and co-CEOs of Atlanta-based 404 Studio Partners, and the creators and designers of the news Atlanta Metro Studios, to be located in Union City.
“There isn’t a better program than this program for below the line workers,” commented Livesay on the Film and Digital Media Center’s efforts.
“This program is a success only as long as we impact the lives of young people,” added Richardson.
Atlanta Metro Studios, the Fulton County School System, Union City and Clayton State are involved in a unique pilot-program collaboration that will start by funding tuition for as many as six 2015 Fulton County high school graduates and enroll them in the Film and Digital Media Center’s Digital Film Crew Training Program. The on-going applicant search targets Fulton County schools surrounding the Atlanta Metro Studios site at the old Shannon Mall in Union City.
The 10,000 square foot film studio will be used to support the University’s non-credit Digital Film Technician Training Program, which in its first year has placed 12 students in the local film union (IATSE 479) with another 20 students who are working in the film industry… most of whom were in attendance at the opening. The film studio will also be used by Atlanta area independent film productions the program partners with (more than 20 since July of 2014) and will be available for rent to productions and production companies.
Still, as Bond noted, the opening was just a beginning. In presenting 20 of his former and current students, Bond said, “you are looking at the future workforce in the State of Georgia. The opportunity is wonderful, but we have to keep after it, because this is just a beginning. The end is way out in the future.”
“We are here to celebrate a dream come true,” said Winkler. “Dreams made real came true today.”
To see the video of the entire ceremony go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luHEysiRvo4. For the short version, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mx81uKoXvds