Film Industry in Georgia
Once a film or television project has been "greenlit" (industry jargon for a project that is funded and approved for production by a movie studio or production company), it is up to the project's producer to find a location that fits the needs of the screenplay and is most cost-effective. Georgia competes with many other states and countries for film and television projects, and has representatives who promote the state to industry decision makers.
The 1970s: Burt Reynolds and the Car-Chase Craze
Deliverance was locally controversial in its perceived depiction of mountain residents as backwoods hillbillies. But the production was an economic boon to the state, a fact not lost on then-governor Jimmy Carter. He established a state film commission, now known as the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office, in 1973 to market Georgia as a shooting location for future projects. One of the country's first film commissions, the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office had recruited more than 550 major projects to the state by 2007.
CBS was quick to jump on this craze with its hit television series The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-85). Onetime Georgia resident John Schneider and Tom Wopat starred as the Duke boys, rebellious cousins always outrunning the local police in their muscle car, the General Lee. Although Dukes later moved production to California, the first several episodes were shot in and around the city of Covington. The first jumping of the General Lee (seen in the show's opening credits) took place on the campus of nearby Oxford College of Emory University.
The 1980s and 1990s: Covington, Miss Daisy, and Savannah
Visitors still travel to Covington searching for locations used in The Dukes of Hazzard and In the Heat of the Night. In fact, the city became so closely associated with The Dukes of Hazzard that MTV returned to Covington in 2005 to recreate the General Lee's first jump as part of its promotion of Warner Brothers' The Dukes of Hazzard feature film.
Feature-film production boomed in Georgia throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Sharky's Machine (1981), directed by and starring Burt Reynolds, caused a sensation in downtown Atlanta when the film crew shot a 220-foot outdoor free-fall stunt from the top of the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel. (This stunt still holds the record for the longest outdoor free fall in a commercial film.) Later films such as Manhunter (1986), The Mosquito Coast (1986), My Cousin Vinny (1992), RoboCop 3 (1993), Kalifornia (1993), A Simple Twist of Fate (1994), The War (1994), Scream 2 (1997), Wild America (1997), Road Trip (2000), and Remember the Titans (2000) were shot throughout the state.
If Burt Reynolds was the movie star most identifiable with Georgia in the 1970s, Jessica Tandy was arguably Georgia's most representative star of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Driving Miss Daisy (1989), based on Alfred Uhry's play and starring Tandy and Morgan Freeman, was set largely
Tandy starred in another Georgia production, Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), shortly thereafter. Directed by Jon Avnet and based on Fannie Flagg's novel, Fried Green Tomatoes is the story of two women in 1920s Alabama who become friends despite their differences and open a restaurant together called the Whistle Stop Cafe. Film crews transformed a local establishment in the small town of Juliette, in Monroe County, into the cafe, where it remains as a tourist attraction for fans of the film.
During this time, many filmmakers began to discover the unique and mysterious charm of Savannah. Though most of the film was shot in other states, Forrest Gump (1994) became forever linked with
A wide variety of
In 2006 Perry opened Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, where he shot the film Daddy's Little Girls (2007) and films his television situation comedy House of Payne, which began airing on TBS Superstation in 2006. In 2008 the BET network premiered the comedy series Somebodies, written by University of Georgia graduate Henry Cameron "Hadjii" Hand and filmed in Athens. The series is based on Hadjii's independent film of the same name, which was accepted into the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and opened in 2006.
During the first decade of the twenty-first century, both public and private entities across the state worked to create new incentives encouraging filmmakers to bring their projects to Georgia. In 2001 the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation exempting the television and film industry from sales and use taxes on production-related expenses, and in 2005 it passed the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act, which offered income tax credits for filmmakers who worked in Georgia. The legislation resulted in a revenue increase for the state from $124 million in 2004 to $475 million in 2006.
In May 2008 Georgia governor Sonny Perdue signed into law a revised Entertainment Industry Investment Act, which gives production companies a 20 percent tax credit for filming in Georgia. The inclusion of an animated logo promoting the state earns filmmakers an additional 10 percent credit. The ceremony for the signing was held at the studios of Turner Broadcasting System.
In addition to such favorable legislation, more than 800 production companies operating in Georgia offer a variety of necessary equipment, trained personnel, and support services. RiverWood
In addition to major motion picture production, the film industry in Georgia also includes support and venues for smaller independent projects. IMAGE (Independent Media Artists of Georgia, Etc.), a nonprofit media arts center in Atlanta, sponsors two annual film festivals: the Atlanta Film Festival, which presents features, documentaries, and short films from around the world, and Out on Film, which features lesbian- and gay-themed films. IMAGE also offers programs and workshops for film professionals and students throughout the year. In 2006 Georgia Public Broadcasting launched C-47 in conjunction with Georgia State University (GSU), the Georgia Council for the Arts, and the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office. A showcase for short films, C-47 accepts completed projects that were either made by Georgians or filmed in the state, and one submission is selected each quarter for distribution on the organization's Web site and in other venues.
Music and Gaming Industries
While feature films and television programs have attracted the most attention, a robust music-video industry has also emerged in Georgia. Due in part to Georgia's growing recorded-music industry and the large number of popular-music artists who reside in the state, music-video production provides jobs to many local crewmembers. Such renowned local artists as Bow Wow, Ciara, Ludacris, R.E.M., Third Day, T.I., Usher, and Trisha Yearwood often choose Georgia as the backdrop for their music videos. Mariah Carey, Natalie Cole, and Bruce Springsteen lead the long list of artists who have recorded in the state to work with producers Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri, John Keane, Brendan O'Brien, and a host of other talented producers and engineers. Georgia's world-class
During the first decade of the twenty-first century, the production of other multimedia products, particularly video games, began to compete with and at times surpass the traditional movie industry in terms of profits earned. Georgia has became a well-known center for video game development and in 2007 was home to more than fifty private and public development companies, including Blue Heat Games, CCP North America/White Wolf, Hi-Rez Studios, Kaneva Inc., and Turner GameTap. Large media corporations with video game divisions, like Turner Broadcasting System, have tapped into local technical and arts colleges, including SCAD and the Georgia Institute of Technology, for their development teams. In 2006 the state legislature enacted tax code changes allowing digital entertainment producers, including video game companies based outside the state, to gain new savings on products developed in Georgia. Due to the state's increased interest in video game development, industry publications have ranked Georgia among the top five states in compensation levels for game developers, which will undoubtedly lead to continued dramatic growth for Georgia's video game industry.
Craig Dominey, Georgia Department of Economic Development
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.