By Jeffrey Stepakoff – There are so many reasons to be proud of our state. But I’d like to share with you something that Georgia has quietly done which should be not only a point of pride for all of us, but should also give us a sense of optimism about our collective future and the role our state will play in the burgeoning entertainment, technology and creative industries.
To really appreciate this, consider that never in the history of film production had there ever been a need to grow a crew base like this. Indeed, never in the history of film has there been the kind of explosive growth that we have seen in Georgia. From 2007 to 2020, direct spending by productions in Georgia went from about $20 million to $4 billion. What other regional industry has seen well over 4,000 percent growth in just 13 years? About eight years ago, as the film industry in Georgia was picking up momentum – primarily because of simplification of the film tax credit and private sector investment in sound stages and ancillary businesses – there were serious concerns about whether we had enough Georgians to meet the growing film workforce needs.
What has happened with Georgia’s film industry is unprecedented. And what our state did to drive it is similarly unique.
What we didn’t do to address the need for a well-trained film and entertainment industry workforce would have been the old model, create an expensive brick-and-mortar film school and place it on the campus of a single institution.
Rather, what we did was truly an innovation in education and workforce training. Our state decided to use the existing resources of the entire University System of Georgia – all 26 institutions – and the existing resources of the entire Technical College System of Georgia – all 22 institutions – and, in August of 2015, launched a collaborative effort, The Georgia Film Academy, based at the system office of the Board of Regents.
Just a few months later, in January 2016, 193 students enrolled in the inaugural GFA classes through three institutions, two universities and a technical college. Today, there have been over 10,000 class registrations by Georgians through 28 public universities and technical colleges, as well as a growing list of Georgia private institutions, from Dalton to Augusta, from Gainesville to Griffin, all across our state. Over 1,100 students have been in on-set internships, on hundreds of productions, taken under the wings of the hardworking men and women of IATSE Local 479. No longer are there questions about Georgia’s ability to meet our film production workforce needs. And the astonishing economic activity that this workforce and the commensurate $4 billion in direct spending is driving speaks for itself. See more at the Saporta Report.