The tremendous growth of the Georgia film industry has generated much coverage in local media for many months. Georgia is now the third busiest state in the nation for film production – behind only California and New York. Economic activity related to film in the state grew from $3.4 billion in 2013 to more than $5 billion last year. At that pace, and given the expansion of Pinewood Studios in Fayette County and the proposed studio complexes in Union City, Norcross, Savannah and elsewhere, Georgia could surpass New York within a few years.
A key component of the growth of the industry is the need for trained workers. Governor Nathan Deal has recognized this need with the establishment of the High Impact Careers Initiative, through which the state higher education system is planning to address the lack of a sufficient labor pool.
Clayton State University in Morrow is already producing trained workers, according to Barton Bond, director of the University’s Film and Digital Media Center.
“It’s not rocket science,” says Bond. “But it is a more complex process that it might appear.
“Even with the high levels of technology employed in the industry, film production is still a very labor-intensive process. An average budget picture requires close to 100 workers and many more if there are sets and props to be made. Ironically, the addition of special effects technology translates to a need for even more specially trained workers. However, working in film is very different than most any other industry. Just a few civilian jobs -- make-up, wardrobe, carpentry, painting and accounting for example -- have some basis that translates to a film set. And even with those skills, a person needs to know how they are applied in film.
Bond also notes that workers in the film industry must have the skills for the industry from the say they start.
“The real difficulty for someone wanting to work in film is that they would be expected to have at least basic skills from the first day they start work,” he says. “Because films shoot on a very compressed time frame, often for just six weeks, the production has to make every minute of shooting time count. Therefore there is really no time for orientation, training, mentoring or job shadowing.
“Too, experienced workers commonly have little time to train or mentor untrained workers, because they themselves have to be focused on their jobs. If a scene doesn’t finish shooting in the time allotted, the entire production backs-up, costing potentially many thousands of dollars.
So, what’s an individual to do, if they want to break into this aspect of the film industry? Bond and Clayton State have the answer.
“A legitimate question for Georgians who want to work in the film industry is ‘How do I get started?’ It is a classic conundrum: a person needs skills and experience to get on a set, but how does one get skills and experience if they can’t get on a set?” is the question he poses. “Clayton State University bridges that gap with our six-month training program that gives students essential basic skills to be able to perform at an entry level on a professional film set.”
Film and Digital Media Center Students train on industry-standard equipment and use a 10,000 square foot sound stage which is unique in Georgia. They learn how a film set works – who does what in what order – so when they get on a set they are able to function immediately. The program partners with area independent productions (also unique in the state), to put students on the crews of real professional films and webisodes. A fourth component gives students the tools they need to network and market themselves.
“The state’s film union, IATSE Local 479, is a training partner and has recognized the value of our program, and in line with the union, we provide film-specific certified OSHA 10 safety training,” adds Bond. “We are also working with feature film shooting on campus to place students as production assistants.”
Since the program started a year ago, it has placed seven students in the union and counts another 20 who are working in some aspect of the film industry
The Film and Digital Media program is non-credit, so there are very few barriers to entry. Students are not required to take an entrance exam or to have a high school diploma or GED.
“I hear all the time from industry professionals in and out of state, studios, and independent producers how well-designed and productive our program is,” says Bond. “We are not only unique in Georgia, but are one of maybe two or three such programs in the nation.
“Our mission is to train as many workers as quickly as possible to meet the labor needs of the fast-growing film industry, so we have made getting into the program very easy and affordable, and oriented it toward giving students skills that will get them jobs.
The next session of classes begin the week of Mar. 16, and the programs are planning a number of information sessions at various locations over the next month. Details can be found at www.clayton.edu/film-and-digital-media. Contact Bond at (678) 466-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org.